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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Teixeira: Biden’s uphill battle with working-class voters

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from The Washington Post,  where he is a new columnist. His forthcoming book with John B. Judis is “Where Have All the Democrats Gone?

Since November’s elections, President Biden has been in Michigan, Arizona, Kentucky and Ohio, touting the job-creating wonders of three big bills he has signed: the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act; the Chips and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act. And he has been at pains to emphasize the blue-collar benefits of these bills: “The vast majority of [the] jobs … that we’re going to create,” he said, “don’t require a college degree.”

There’s a good reason for Biden to try this tack. Despite Democrats’ unexpectedly good performance in the midterms, there were abundant signs of continued weakness in an absolutely vital part of their coalition: working-class (noncollege) voters. Democrats’ weakness among White working-class voters is well known. According to AP/NORC VoteCast data, Democrats lost the White working-class vote by 25 points in 2020 and 33 points in 2022.

Less well-understood is Democrats’ emerging weakness among non-White working-class voters. Between 2012 and 2020, Democrats’ advantage among these voters declined by 18 points, with a particularly sharp shift in 2020 and among Hispanics. VoteCast data indicates that Democrats’ margin among non-White working-class voters declined 14 points between 2020 and 2022.

Democrats lost the overall working-class vote by a solid 13 points in 2022. When Republicans claim they are becoming the party of the multiracial working class, this is less far-fetched than most Democrats think. In fact, by this data, the GOP already is. No wonder Biden is worried — and he’s right to be.

But will Biden’s turn to the working class work?

Maybe. But then again, maybe not. It is an uncomfortable fact that, despite the very tight labor market of the past two years, most workers have lost ground relative to inflation. And, while the administration touts the projected openings of semiconductor, battery and electric-vehicle plants tied to provisions of the administration’s semiconductor and climate bills, manufacturing today employs less than one-tenth of the country’s services-dominated working class. That is unlikely to change.

3 comments on “Teixeira: Biden’s uphill battle with working-class voters

  1. Tom chumley on

    Once again, Democrats are doomed part # 12.
    I’ve been involved in Democratic politics as a strategist and campaigner since 1972. You were a ray of light after the 2000 election. I bought your book and read it twice. What you wrote has come true, yet you seem upset about it.
    During the bad old 1980’s, I remember us getting buried in high growth suburban areas. I case you forgot in the 1984 Presidential election, Ronald Reagan got a higher % of the vote in Connecticut than he did in Alabama. The real story is how Clinton was able to move northern and western suburbanites into the Democratic Party in 1992 & 1996. Then, how Al Gore & John Kerry kept those gains, and how Barrack Obama expanded them to most of the rest of the country and How Hillary Clinton & Joe Biden expanded this into the deep South and Sunbelt. Dobbs, which you rarely mention, hyper accelerated this trend.
    The “populism” of trump is a long-term losing strategy. The republicans are in much the same position as William Jennings Bryan was at the turn of the 20th century. Bryan was the hero of rural voters in the west and plains states and promised what seemed like radical solutions to problems out of what was then the mainstream. Bryan scared the majority in the population centers which caused the Democrats to go to minority status for the next 36 years. Democrats started to take the big cities in 1928 and have never looked back. As you well know change brings some backlash. Democrats may not be able to carry Elliot County Kentucky, or Belmont County Ohio, but they can expand margins in Phoenix, Houston, Atlanta and Charlotte.
    Every policy pushed by Democrats has helped isolated rural white rural populations from Obamacare, to child tax credits and caps on medical costs. All we can do is sell what we have done and push for more things that help rural Americans.
    I would ask you what have the republicans done for rural white people. Please give us specific examples of what Democrats have pushed that are culturally bad for rural voters. We need more of the optimism of a Simon Rosenberg and a Ruy Texiera circa 2006!

    • Martin Lawford on

      Tom Chumley, you seem to have conflated “rural” with “working class.” Teixeira did not use the word “rural” even once in his discussion of the Democrats’ difficulties with working class voters, yet you used it five times. You did not use the term “working class” once, while Teixeira used it nine times. Rural is a location, working class is a social class. They overlap like a Venn diagram but they are not the same thing.

      • Tom chumley on

        You are correct. I was thinking more on a county level than demographic level. The rural counties far from big cities tend to match working class stats rather closely.
        My problem with Texiera is not his accuracy or information. As usual he is well researched and the details he provides are important. Where he departs from this is saying that over and over again is that Democrats are campaigning on issues that MAGA republicans say Democrats are doing without providing any evidence. republicans have been throwing false narratives at Democrats for 50 years. If the message is how to attack the false narratives aggressively, I’m all for that. Teixeira seem to accept these republican stereotypes as true.

        If I didn’t know anything about what has happened in the last three cycles and only read Ruy’s columns, I would think that the Democrats had lost everything and the few victories Democrats had were only due the republican mistakes.

        I could compare his columns this year to someone writing an analysis of the 1972 Presidential election and gushing on and on about how well George McGovern did in university counties which were republican voting only a few years previous. That would be a fine article to write, but you have to mention the fact that McGovern only carried about 120 odd counties and lost 49 states, which was far more important.

        The good things Democrats have done electorally since 2017 have far outweighed the negatives. A little more of the whole picture would be appreciated.


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