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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Teixeira: Winning ‘Culturally Traditional, but Not Extremist’ Working-Class Voters

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

To Regain the Support of “Culturally Traditional but Not Extremist” Working Class Voters Democrats Need to Understand the Compelling Political Narrative That Leads Them to Vote for the GOP.
Andy Levison is just right about this. I highly recommend you read his excellent memo.

Levison summarizes his argument as follows:

1. As the 2022 elections approach, a critical question for Democratic strategists is why a significant group of working class voters choose to support Republican extremists even though they themselves are more accurately described as “cultural traditionalists” rather than extremists. In opinion surveys and focus groups this group of white (and now also increasingly Latino) working class voters make clear that they do not actually believe MAGA/Q-Anon/Tucker Carlson conspiracy theories or view all Democrats as literal “enemies” but they nonetheless vote for extremist candidates who assert these views on election day.

2. A major reason for this is that working class voters do not make their political choices primarily based on examining specific issues and policies. They evaluate candidates based on their broader outlook and philosophy – a perspective that the candidates frequently present as a basic “story” or “narrative” about America.

3. The basic extremist narrative is actually undergirded by three profoundly important subsidiary narratives that are nested within the larger narrative and which long predate the modern MAGA ideology. These three linked sub-narratives are not inherently extremist. They express a genuine and understandable frustration and sense of abandonment by the Democratic Party.

4. Democratic candidates can identify with these narratives and seek ways to address the legitimate concerns that are a deeply felt part of the working class experience in modern America without endorsing the extremist narrative that has incorporated and exploited them with such marked success.

Read it all here.

6 comments on “Teixeira: Winning ‘Culturally Traditional, but Not Extremist’ Working-Class Voters

  1. spatrick on

    There’s a lot of good points in this study but I will also point out several paradoxes within the party’s make-up which make solutions very difficult to reach.

    1). Yes crime needs to be brought under control but it should be pointed out the U.S. had some of its lowest crime rates under Obama. Many constituencies within the party will not accept crackdowns which disproportionally target their communities or give a blank check for law enforcement to do whatever they want or not do anything at all as we all saw in Uvalde. As for immigration, well, one can make a pretense to “controlling the border” (certainly Obama did) but the bottom line is so long as the U.S. is rich and freeer and the rest of the world poor, immigrants are going to continue to try and get in and all the walls and raids aren’t going to stop them.

    2). Yes inflation needs to be brought under control but are people willing to accept a recession that cost them their jobs to get it? I don’t think so. Given that it’s a world problem and that the U.S. cannot control Chinese supply chains or energy trading markets, Please explain what other solutions are out there, especially when oil companies deliberately sit on leases for oil drilling they already have?

    3). Didn’t the Democrats just pass bills to deal with infrastructure and brining back jobs? What more do you want them to do?

    Here’s the bottom line:
    “people waiting in line felt like they’d worked extremely hard, sacrificed a lot, tried their
    best, and were waiting for something they deserved. They’ve suffered long hours, layoffs,
    and exposure to dangerous chemicals at work and received reduced pensions.
    But this line is increasingly not moving, or moving more slowly [i.e., as the economy
    stalls].Then they see people cutting ahead of them in line. Immigrants, blacks, women,
    refugees, public sector workers. In their view, people are cutting ahead unfairly. And then
    in this narrative, there is Barack Obama, to the side, the line supervisor who seems to be
    waving these people ahead. So the government seemed to be on the side of the people
    who were cutting in line and pushing the people who are in line back.

    I dunno, I guess when some people who have always been in the back of the line start moving up out of simple human decency and fairness I suppose there will be people who resent it. I would think the solution is to make things move faster or not have a line at all. Either way, because some of those people “cutting” happened to vote for the party, what it supposed to do? Ignore them? You can’t please everyone but you can be fair to all of them. I think most people would support that but we have to realize it won’t be all of them and there’s really nothing that can be done to satisfy them.

    • Victor on

      The notion that you can do very little about immigration is weird coming from a party that treats government as a good solution for practically every issue.

      Enforcement and rewards and penalties can be used in all policy areas.

  2. Martin Lawford on

    Levison’s memo is good, but Teixeira’s letter of January 27th, “What Would Working Class Say”, is better at offering solutions. You can find it on The Liberal Patriot website.

  3. Martin Lawford on

    According to Levison’s memo, which analyzes the problem accurately, ” Democratic candidates can identify with these narratives and seek ways to address the legitimate concerns that are a deeply felt part of the working class experience in modern America without endorsing the extremist narrative that has incorporated and exploited them with such marked success.”

    No, we can’t. We burned that bridge long ago. When the working class raised these legitimate concerns, we called them racists. We told them that their concerns over issues like crime and illegal immigration were just “dog whistles” and “code words” for racism. Meanwhile, the Republicans told them that their concerns are legitimate and deserve action. The working class may forgive our inaction on their concerns but they will never forgive being told that they are fools or bigots for having them.

  4. Watcher on

    Andy Levison fails to point out what Democrats *should* say using this three part narrative. Do Dems buckle down on corporations hurting the working class to show they are on their side? Do we need to lie and pretend everything was wonderful for everyone in some golden past? This problem is painfully clear when he compares the rhetoric of Ryan and Vance.

    I am getting a lot of scolding on this site but not a lot of positive solutions.


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