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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Teixeira: Trump’s Nightmare, Democrats’ Dream?

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

1. The most important states for the Democrats to carry in 2020 against Trump lie in the upper Midwest and Rustbelt.
2. The Democrats’ best chance to carry these states lies in a candidate with roots and appeal in that area like Sherrod Brown or Amy Klobuchar.
3. Therefore, a candidate like Brown or Klobuchar should be the Democratic nominee.

Discuss. Seriously, this logic seems pretty strong to me. Not to say these candidates are the only ones who could win, just that, by this logic, they’d have the best chance. And it seems very, very important that the Democrats win this election.

More on this argument from David Leonardt in the New York Times:

“[I] Democrats wanted to identify their best hope for beating Trump, what would that candidate look like?

Above all, it would be a candidate good at persuading Americans that he or she was on their side — on their side against the forces causing the stagnation of American living standards. More specifically, this candidate would be someone who could persuade swing voters of this allegiance.

Swing voters still exist. Enough Americans switched from backing Barack Obama in 2012 to Donald Trump in 2016 to House Democrats in 2018 to help decide those elections. I understand why some Democratic activists are instead drawn to the idea of victory through turnout: It offers the promise of avoiding any political compromise. The problem is, there are virtually no examples of Democrats winning close races without emphasizing persuasion. The 2018 attempts, in Florida, Georgia and Texas, all fell short.

Yet progressives shouldn’t despair — because swing voters are quite progressive, especially on economic issues. For years, we’ve been hearing about a kind of fantasy swing voter, conjured by political pundits and corporate chieftains, who is socially liberal and economically conservative (as many pundits and chieftains are). The actual swing voter leans decidedly left on economics, in favor of tax increases on the rich, opposed to Medicare cuts and skeptical of big business.

Still, these swing voters don’t think of themselves as radical. They are typically patriotic and religious. Many think of themselves as moderate and, strange as it may sound, many thought of Trump as moderate in 2016. When Republicans can paint a Democrat as an out-of-touch elitist — like they did Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Al Gore or Michael Dukakis — the Republican candidate often wins these voters. When Democrats can instead come off as middle-class fighters, they tend to win…..

[I]f I were Trump, I would fear Klobuchar and Brown. Either would be well positioned to take back blue-collar states Trump needs, like Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and maybe even Ohio and Iowa. They could also play well in the Sunbelt suburbs of Arizona, Florida and North Carolina.”

A little more detail on this. The formula for success in the upper Midwest/Rustbelt is clear: Carry white college graduates, strongly mobilize nonwhite voters, particularly blacks, and hold deficits among white non-college-educated voters in the range of 10 to 15 points. Unlike Hillary Clinton in 2016 (she was obliterated among white non-college-educated voters in state after state), Democrats in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota (especially Amy Klobuchar!) got all three parts of the formula right in 2018.

Brown in Ohio got it right, too. According to exit polls, he carried white college graduates by five points and lost white non-college-educated voters by a mere 10 points.

Success against Trump in 2020 in the upper Midwest/Rustbelt region will depend on repeating this formula. The necessity to keep down deficits among white non-college-educated voters, especially in rural and small-town areas, will be hard with Trump on the ballot. But the 2018 results from likes of Klobuchar and Brown show Democrats the way in these states.


2 comments on “Teixeira: Trump’s Nightmare, Democrats’ Dream?

  1. Martin Lawford on

    If “the actual swing voter leans decidedly left on economics” then Sherrod Brown’s “Corporate Freeloader Fee Act”, a payroll tax on low-income employment, ought to be popular with these swing voters. Senator Brown introduced this legislation last month. The idea is to tax employers who pay workers wages low enough to qualify them for forms of welfare like food stamps and Section 8 housing. There are defects to this plan, starting with the fact that it refers to a tax as a “fee”. Everyone knows that when you call a tax a “fee” or a “shared responsibility payment”, you’re afraid to call a tax what it is. But, if the swing voters are leftist on economics, Brown’s proposal should be popular and should be included in the Democratic National Platform.


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