washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Teixeira: Yes, Democrats Really Do Need the White Working Class

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

As I have repeatedly noted, the primary driver of Biden’s relatively large lead in the polls and in battleground states is Biden’s improved performance relative to Clinton ’16 among white working class voters. If the race tightens–I mean, really tightens, not the modest changes we’re seeing right now–it will likely be because Biden’s relatively good performance among these voters erodes.

If that’s not enough to convince you how important these voters are I commend to you my friend Andy Levison’s terrific new piece on Does The Democratic Coalition Really Need the White Working Class? Read the whole thing. He makes a very compelling case for a Democratic “big tent” strategy that includes these voters. Here’s the conclusion of his essay:

“The political arguments for the urgent need to build a broad or commanding “big tent” Democratic majority are well known:

a. Without winning the Senate and State Legislatures as well as the presidency Democrats will not be able to prevent more attacks on democratic institutions or advance an agenda that can win them enduring popular support.

b. With Trump’s demagogic claims that the election will be stolen, even a very solid Democratic victory in the popular vote and the electoral college will be rejected by many Trump supporters. To gain legitimacy, a Democratic victory will have to be so clear and decisive that it convinces even Trump’s supporters that it is valid.

But beyond this, there is a deeper sociological reason why a big tent coalition is indispensable. At the present time America is deeply divided between educated, diverse people living in urban, metropolitan areas on the one hand and overwhelmingly white working class people, many living in Red States, rural areas and small towns.

This deep separation creates the sociological foundation for political extremism. When people live in the same areas and communities and share schools, sporting events, parks and streets they tend to see each other as neighbors. When a deep social distance divides them, they can easily come to see each other as aliens and strangers.

So long as the Democratic and Republican parties shared a fairly wide degree of consensus, as they did in the post-World War II era, people saw members of the opposite party as “normal” people who were their friends and neighbors and with whom they socialized in daily life—at PTA meetings, Little League games and a host of other shared activities.

As the social and demographic character of Democrats and Republicans began to diverge in the 1970’s and 1980’s, on the other hand, it became easier for right wing demagogues in the GOP to portray Democrats as subversive, sinister and even evil rather than as fellow Americans with whom one just happens to somewhat disagree.

Each successive stage of this evolution has been more grotesque than the last. In the 1990’s Fox News, Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh began the process of demonizing the Democrats, but the resulting militia movement remained a fringe phenomenon, especially after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1998. After Obama’s election new and more extreme demagogues like Glen Beck and Breitbart provided the ideology for the much larger Tea Party movement. Now Trump has legitimized the worst extremism ever seen in America, ranging from the conspiracy theories of Q-anon to the proud and open neo-fascists marching in Charlottesville and his own paranoid fantasies.

In this context, increasing the presence of culturally traditional Democrats in white working class and Red State districts across America is crucial for reducing extremism. Right now in many districts Republicans win 70 or 80% of the vote, making Democrats essentially invisible. Reducing the Republican advantage to 60 or 65% may seem irrelevant in purely electoral terms but in sociological terms the effect would be profound. If your next door neighbor or the captain of the baseball team is a Democrat, it becomes harder to believe conspiracy theories that claim Democrats are secret degenerates running child sex slave rings.

As a result, winning a sector of the more moderate culturally traditional white working class voters to the Democratic Party would profoundly undermine the social foundation of the current GOP extremism. This is the most important reason why a “big tent” and commanding Democratic majority is vital not only for Democrats but for the future of America.”

Amen. The big tent strategy is not just a good idea; it’s a necessity.

2 comments on “Teixeira: Yes, Democrats Really Do Need the White Working Class

  1. Martin Lawford on

    Andrew Levison is right. His key idea is the creation of a caucus in the Democratic Party for the white working class:

    “It could be called the caucus of “Heartland Democrats.” A caucus of this kind could provide a distinct base and political identity within the Democratic Party for culturally traditional white workers as well as small town, rural and Red State voters in the same way that the Progressive Caucus or the Black Congressional Caucus provide distinct group identities for other sectors of the Democratic Coalition.”

  2. Victor on

    The people who are most dismissive of the white working class are white liberals.

    Blacks and Hispanics can’t afford that political mistake.


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.