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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

GOP Plan to Win Working-Class Voters Unveiled

It’s not exactly a hot flash that the GOP hopes to secure a permanent majority of white working-class voters, who are about 45 percent of America’s electorate, and that they have done well with this key constituency since 2016. But for Democratic oppo researchers who like details, Susan Davis has them in her article, “Top Republicans Work To Rebrand GOP As Party Of Working Class” at npr.org. As Davis writes,

A growing number of working-class voters were drawn to Donald Trump’s Republican Party, and now top Republicans are searching for ways to keep those voters in the fold without Trump on the ballot.

“All of the statistics and polling coming out of the 2020 election show that Donald Trump did better with those voters across the board than any Republican has in my lifetime since Ronald Reagan,” Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., told NPR. “And if Republicans want to be successful as a party, win the majority in 2022, win back the White House in 2024, I think we have to learn lessons that Donald Trump taught us and how to appeal to these voters.”

Since 2010, the most significant growth in the Republican coalition has been white voters without a college degree — an imperfect but widely used metric to quantify the working-class voting bloc — along with some marginal growth among similarly educated Black and Hispanic voters. Banks believes the only winning path forward for the GOP is to reimagine itself permanently as the party of working-class America.

Banks is the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a conservative faction in the House long rooted in small government, low taxes and social conservatism, and he recently sent a six-page memo to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., making his case. For Banks, it means tougher immigration laws and cracking down on China, Big Tech and, perhaps most provocatively for the GOP, corporate America.

“For too long, the Republican Party fed into the narrative and the perception that the Republican Party was the party of big business or the party of Wall Street,” Banks said.

Davis shares the entire, 6-page GOP memo from Jim Banks, chairman of the Republican Study Comittee to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. In the memo, entitled “Cementing the GOP as the Working-Class Party.” Davis quotes John Russo, who has contributed to The Democratic Strategist:

“I think the claim that says the Republican Party is the party of the working class is at best, insincere, and more likely, political misdirection and rebranding exercises,” said John Russo, a visiting scholar at the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University and a co-editor of the publication Working-Class Perspectives.

The working-class vote is complicated and too often confused with whiteness when about 40% of the working-class vote is people of color, Russo said. Their support also didn’t cut overwhelmingly toward Republicans in 2020. Biden still won a majority of voters who earn less than $50,000 year, while Trump won a majority of voters who earn over $100,000 a year.

Russo said about one-third of working-class voters are considered persuadable in elections, and it’s never reliable whether cultural or economic forces will drive their vote. “The working class, like all of us, carry multiple identities, race, class, gender, religious, geographic, and people may vote different parts of their identity as situations and moments change in their lives.”

Davis concludes, “The battle for the working class is even more urgent for the two parties because it’s a growing bloc of voters. Since the 2008 financial crisis, Russo said, more middle-class people have slid economically backward and are experiencing what he calls “the fragility of working-class life.”

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