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Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Teixeira: The Nonwhite Working Class Isn’t Buying What a Lot of Progressives Are Selling

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

The default approach of a lot of self-declared progressives includes not just a lot of reasonably popular left economic stances but also a wide range of views on cultural/social issues that are not popular with the broad working class. The general reaction by said progressives when you point this out is that, oh well, those are white working class voters and they’re hopelessly reactionary.

After all, we still have the nonwhite working class. They are not put off by progressive cultural positions right? Right?

That might be due for a rethink. If nonwhite working class voters start bailing out on progressive cultural politics, the presumed coalition in favor of such politics completely falls apart.

Note well this article by Lisa Lerer in the Times, which appears to be noticing something is going on that previously had escaped their notice:

“Can progressives win broad numbers of the Black and brown voters they say their policies will benefit most?

That provocative question is one that a lot of Democrats find themselves asking after seeing the early results from New York City’s mayoral primary this past week.

In a contest that centered on crime and public safety, Eric Adams, who emerged as the leading Democrat, focused much of his message on denouncing progressive slogans and policies that he said threatened the lives of “Black and brown babies” and were being pushed by “a lot of young, white, affluent people.” A retired police captain and Brooklyn’s borough president, he rejected calls to defund the Police Department and pledged to expand its reach in the city.

Black and brown voters in Brooklyn and the Bronx flocked to his candidacy, awarding Mr. Adams with sizable leading margins in neighborhoods from Eastchester to East New York….

His appeal adds evidence to an emerging trend in Democratic politics: a disconnect between progressive activists and the rank-and-file Black and Latino voters who they say have the most to gain from their agenda. As liberal activists orient their policies to combat white supremacy and call for racial justice, progressives are finding that many voters of color seem to think about the issues quite a bit differently.

“Black people talk about politics in more practical and everyday terms,” said Hakeem Jefferson, an assistant professor of political science at Stanford University who studies the political views of Black people. “What makes more sense for people who are often distrustful of broad political claims is something that’s more in the middle.”

He added: “The median Black voter is not A.O.C. and is actually closer to Eric Adams.”
I believe this is a point I have made a number of times.

Also interesting is another article in the Times pondering the phenomenon of Adams appealing to working class nonwhites.

“As the national Democratic Party navigates debates over identity and ideology, the mayoral primary in the largest city in the United States is highlighting critical questions about which voters make up the party’s base in the Biden era, and who best speaks for them.

Barely a year has passed since President Biden clinched the Democratic nomination, defeating several more progressive rivals on the strength of support from Black voters and older moderate voters across the board, and running as a blue-collar candidate himself. But Democrats are now straining to hold together a coalition that includes college-educated liberals and centrists, young left-wing activists and working-class voters of color.

“America is saying, we want to have justice and safety and end inequalities,” Mr. Adams declared at a news conference on Thursday, offering his take on the party’s direction. “And we don’t want fancy candidates.”

Mr. Adams’s allies and advisers say that from the start, he based his campaign strategy on connecting with working- and middle-class voters of color.

“Over the last few cycles, the winners of the mayor’s race have started with a whiter, wealthier base generally, and then expanded out,” said Evan Thies, an Adams spokesman and adviser. Mr. Adams’s campaign, he said, started “with low-income, middle-income, Black, Latino, immigrant communities, and then reached into middle-income communities.”…..

Interviews on Thursday with voters on either side of Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway illustrated vividly Mr. Adams’s appeal and limitations. In parts of Crown Heights, the parkway was a physical dividing line, early results show, between voters who went for Ms. Wiley and those who preferred Mr. Adams.

Among older, working-class voters of color who live south of the parkway, Mr. Adams held a commanding lead.

“He’ll support the poor people and the Black and brown people,” said one, Janice Brathwaite, 66, who is disabled and said she had voted for Mr. Adams.

Ms. Brathwaite ruled out Ms. Wiley after hearing her plans for overhauling the Police Department, including a reallocation of $1 billion from the police budget to social service programs and anti-violence measures.

“She is someone who is against the policeman who is protecting me, making sure nobody is shooting me,” Ms. Brathwaite said.:

On the other side of the tracks, so to speak, this proletarian fighter and progressive has a different view:

“[Wiley’s] approach appealed to Allison Behringer, 31, an audio journalist and podcast producer who lives north of the parkway, where Mr. Adams’s challenges were on display among some of the young professionals who live in the area.

“She was the best progressive candidate,” Ms. Behringer said of Ms. Wiley, whom she ranked as her first choice. “She talked about reimagining what public safety is, that really resonated with me.”

Audio engineers and podcast producers of the world unite! Meanwhile, perhaps Democrats need to to reimagine this reimagining public safety stuff.

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