David Byler continues to do excellent data work at the Washington Post and is out with a new column that examines the role of the white working class in the Democratic party. That’s right, the Democratic party not the Republican party. As Byler reminds us, the white working class, despite shrinking as a proportion of voters and leaning strongly Republican these days, is still a very important part of the Democratic coalition (I should note here that the States of Change project will be issuing a major report in June on Democratic and Republican party coalitions, going back to 1980 and projected forward through the 2036 election. Watch for that!)
“Pew recently found that 33 percent of Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters were non-college educated white voters, a figure that eclipses the percentage of Democrats who are college-educated white voters (26 percent), black (19 percent) or Hispanic (12 percent).
Put simply, Democrats aren’t starting from zero with the white working class. They start out with a real base that they should try to maintain (or expand on) if they want to win in 2020.”
True that. Byler goes on to summarize some data on the differences between Democratic and Republican white working class voters, including their relative youth and comparative moderation on issues like immigration and race. This is illuminating. Byler concludes by offering what strikes me as some excellent advice for thinking about this vast and diverse group.
“Neither party’s base is in perfect lockstep on every issue. It’s possible to imagine Trump losing some culturally right, economically left voters if his opponent successfully runs as a populist and hits Trump hard for bills such as tax reform. It’s also possible that if a Democrat neglects the working-class white voters who stuck with the party or intentionally tries to trade them for some other voters, a Republican will take that trade and again surprise the political world by winning on blue-collar white strength.
Some level of stereotyping is inevitable in politics. There’s nothing wrong with statements such as “Democrats win Hispanics by a solid margin” or “Republicans rely heavily on the white working class” — and exceedingly general language such as that can be necessary (or even helpful) for describing a country of more than 300 million people. But parties who turn shorthand into mental shortcuts are in danger of misunderstanding the electorate and losing winnable elections.”
That is very definitely food for thought.