At CNN Opinion Will Marshall, president of the Progressive Policy Institute in Washington, explains why “Democrats must resolve economic identity crisis.” Marshall defines the central choice Democrats face;
No doubt Democrats are enjoying the GOP’s agonizing moment of truth, but their party also faces a big strategic choice. Will Democrats wage the fall campaign as pro-growth progressives or as angry populists?
Marshall sees a “huge opening” for Democrats, if they “offer anxious voters a hopeful counterpoint to Trump’s fearful narrative — a positive plan for parlaying our country’s strengths in technological innovation and entrepreneurship into stronger economic growth that works for all Americans. Trump’s “retro vision of what makes America great — namely, low-tech, middling skilled, labor-intensive manufacturing jobs that are highly vulnerable to automation — is a major political liability.”
“Yes, it taps into the gnawing sense of economic and cultural dispossession felt by many blue-collar workers,” adds Marshall. “But it doesn’t speak to the aspirations of middle-class voters who now mostly work in offices, use digital technology to boost their productivity, and understand that their jobs depend both on keeping their skills up to date and on their companies’ ability to succeed in global competition.”
Marshall challenges “the conventional view among party elites” that Clinton must keep blasting “populist bogeymen,” like free trade and Wall Street to energize “white, working-class voters in Midwestern swing states” and to placate Sanders’ voters. But “such calculations” are bettter focused on “primary and caucus voters rather than the national electorate” Further,
Nor does it make much sense for Democrats to compete with Trump in pushing blue-collar America’s hot buttons. In the first place, non-college-educated whites have been voting predominantly Republican for a generation…Instead, Democrats should recalibrate their primary message to appeal to aspirational voters across the middle of the political spectrum — independents, college-educated suburban moderates and a substantial slice of Republicans who can’t abide Trump…A business-bashing populism, on the other hand, would put Democrats on a narrower path to the White House, with a slimmer margin of error…To win in red states and competitive House districts, however, the party’s candidates can’t sound like Sanders.
Marshall cites a Progressive Policy Institute survey, which shows that “the swing voters who hold the balance of power in key battleground states, aren’t particularly angry and don’t see the economy as rigged against them.” He argues further that “they give priority to growth over fairness and are more inclined to help U.S. businesses succeed than punish them” and they believe trade is “good for America” overall and “they don’t have much confidence in the federal government, which they believe fails to reward people who work hard and play by the rules.”
“Democrats need bigger ideas for jolting the economy out of the doldrums,” says Marshall, including:
…Major public and private investments in modern infrastructure; a strong push for advanced materials and 3D printing to keep America in the vanguard of advanced manufacturing; a strategy for digitizing the physical economy and accelerating the “Internet of Things”; pro-growth tax reform (including bringing business taxes down to globally competitive levels); a systematic lowering of regulatory barriers to innovation and startups; and, a robust system of career and technical education to equip workers without college degrees with skills and credentials valued by employers.
“Trump’s economic illiteracy gives Democrats a chance to own economic growth and opportunity,” concludes Marshall. “They’d be fools not to seize it.”