washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Teixeira: The math is clear – Democrats need to win more working-class white votes

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from Vox:

Following the noteworthy Democratic successes in the 2017 elections, we’re once again hearing that Democrats can achieve their electoral goals without any greater success among the white working class. Indeed, some on the left seem to feel that Democratic gestures toward the white working class would not only be ineffective but are politically suspect.

“There’s always been something problematic about the Democratic Party’s fixation on white working-class voters,” writes Sally Kohn at the Daily Beast. “After Alabama, it’s clear that obsession isn’t just fraught with bias. It’s also dumb.”

Steve Phillips of Democracy in Color remarked in a New York Times op-ed: “The country is under conservative assault because Democrats mistakenly sought support from conservative white working-class voters susceptible to racially charged appeals. Replicating that strategy would be another catastrophic blunder.”

“The ceiling with the white working class is what it is,” Phillips adds with a shrug in The Nation.

However popular, the view that Democrats can get along without working-class white voters is simply wrong. It reflects wishful thinking and a rigid set of political priors — namely, that Democrats’ political problems always stem from insufficient motivation of base voters — more than a cold, hard look at what the electoral and demographic data say. Consider the following:

There were far more white non-college voters in the 2016 election than shown by the exit polls

The exit polls claimed there were more white college voters (37 percent) than white non-college voters (34 percent). But in a report for the Center for American Progresssynthesizing available public survey data, census data, and actual election returns, Robert Griffin, John Halpin, and I found that 2016 voters were 44 percent white non-college and just 30 percent white college-educated. (The balance were black, Latino, Asian, or “other.”)


2 comments on “Teixeira: The math is clear – Democrats need to win more working-class white votes

  1. Candace on

    I agree with everyone who disagrees with you. 🙂

    Seriously though, I ask you as a white box checking, no money, non college educated woman who voted for Hillary Clinton: why is a massive public works program only a good thing for white working class and no one else?

    I would also like to add that a public works program as described in the oped you linked to in the NYT should minimally include work for Artists and Musicians not only Construction for godsakes.


  2. Lee Johansen on

    As my friend Paul Welstone used to say, “We all do well when we all do well.” The need for democrats to speak to and for the interests of the working class, white and/or non-white is at the backbone of our reason for being. To speak for these interests it is necessary to fashion a message that is sincere while resonating with the with the hopes, dreams and aspirations of the working class. One of our problems is that many of my fellow collage educated friends think that they bought their way out of the working class by investing in education. For the vast majority of collage educated Americans this is not the case. They may be keeping their heads above water a little better than their non-collage educated brothers and sisters but they are in the same leaky boat.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.