washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

William A. Galston explains “What Today’s Working Class Wants from Political Leaders” at Brookings: “A second PPI report, a public opinion survey conducted in partnership with YouGov, investigates working-class sentiments and beliefs.1 While these voters harbor reservations about both political parties, they align more with Republicans than with Democrats on most of the matters that concern them….On the face of it, working-class voters would appear to be evenly divided in their view of the political parties. Thirty-eight percent trust the Democrats more to put the interests of working-class voters first, while 37% trust the Republicans more. Thirty-six percent see the Democratic Party is more committed to governing and problem-solving than in waging partisan warfare, while 34% see the Republican Party in this light….But this apparent even division is inconsistent with the voting behavior of America’s working class. In 2020, Joe Biden outpaced Donald Trump by 24 percentage points among voters with a college degree or more while losing to Trump by 8 points among those with less than a bachelor’s degree.  Among white voters with less than a bachelor’s, Trump prevailed by 32 points, and Trump also did 25 points better among Hispanic voters with less than a college degree than he did among college-educated Hispanics….The PPI poll helps us understand why this is so. Forty-five percent of working-class voters, it found, believe that the Democratic Party has moved “too far to the left,” and 40% see it as heavily influenced by “special interests like public sector unions, environmental activists, and academics.” They trust Republicans over Democrats to manage a growing economy, promote entrepreneurship and keep America ahead in new technologies, control public debt and deficits, handle immigration, reduce crime and protect public safety, and make public schools more responsive to parents. Democrats lead in only three areas: combatting climate change, managing America’s clean air transition, and respecting our democratic institutions and elections (the last by a narrow margin of 39% to 34%).”

Galston notes, “Moving from specific issues to broader themes, working-class voters think Republicans do better in protecting personal freedom, strengthening private enterprise, respecting hard work and individual initiative, and creating economic opportunities for working Americans. On what many Democrats believe is the center economic and social issue—making America fairer—their party only ties the Republicans in the eyes of these voters….To be sure, Republicans still have an affluence problem. By a margin of 41% to 31%, working-class voters believe that the Republican Party represents the interests of the wealthy more than the Democratic Party does, and 38% believe that the Republicans are too influenced by wealthy donors. But to judge from the results at polling booths, these reservations about Republicans are not as weighty for working-class voters as is their long litany of complaints about Democrats….Progressive Democrats may be surprised to learn that working-class voters do not share their understanding of the proper role of government in the economy. Although 65% of working-class voters believe that the economy is controlled by the rich for their own benefit, just 19% of them want a large federal government focused on issues such as inequality and the distribution of wealth, compared to 34% who want a smaller federal government that spends and taxes less. A plurality of these voters—47%—opt for a middle course: a federal government that actively steers the economy, but mainly by promoting and protecting free markets….Twenty-one percent strongly support what Biden has done on the economy, but 35% strongly oppose it. Overall, 46% support the president’s agenda with varying degrees of enthusiasm while 47% oppose it….Asked to name the most significant challenge facing the economy today, 36% said “the high cost of living” while an additional 33% said “inflation is outpacing the economy.” Asked to explain these negative developments, 55% said that “government went overboard with stimulus spending, overheating the economy,” compared to 29% who pointed to the aftereffects of the pandemic and 16% who blamed bottlenecks in the supply chain.”

Galston adds, “Although Democrats have scored solid gains among college-educated Americans in recent electoral cycles, policies to support them find little favor with the working class. Fifty-six percent of these voters oppose debt relief for college student borrowers on the grounds that such action is unfair to the majority of Americans who don’t get college degrees and will increase costs for both students and taxpayers over the long term. Asked about the policies most likely to help working people get ahead, 10% named student loan forgiveness and 15% backed a federal government push for stronger labor unions while 74% opted for public investment in apprenticeships and career pathways to help non-college workers upgrade their skills. When asked for their views about policies that would help them personally to get ahead, their responses formed a similar pattern. Six percent mentioned joining a union and nine percent, getting a four-year college degree. By contrast, 69% mentioned apprenticeships with companies or other forms of short-term training programs that combine learning with work….Overall, the PPI survey documents a pervasive sense of decline among working-class Americans. By a margin of 66% to 21%, they believe that people like them are worse off today than they were 40 years ago. Interestingly, they do not identify a single dominant cause for this decline: roughly equal numbers blame immigration, trade, automation, de-unionization, bad government programs, and cultural change. While they do not express great confidence in either political party to turn around this decline, they lean toward an “America First” stance on issues such as immigration and trade. But they do not accept Republicans’ hardline views on criminal justice and policing, and they are deeply concerned about social conservatives’ efforts to ban books from school libraries and restrict access to reproductive health services for women. Still, when asked which president in recent decades had done the most for average working families, 44% named Donald Trump, compared to just 12% for Joe Biden.”

From “Pollster sees hope for Biden: “Republicans are in far greater trouble than is generally understood: Trump needs 95% of Republicans to have a chance of winning. Simon Rosenberg explains “he’s very far away from that” by Chauncey Devega’s interview of Rosenberg at Salon: “Democratic Party strategist and commentator Simon Rosenberg rejects the consensus view that President Biden is already done for. Rosenberg’s insights merit very careful consideration: He was one of the few experts who predicted that the so-called Republican “red wave” was actually a chimera….In this conversation, Rosenberg explains why President Biden and the Democrats are in a much stronger position than Donald Trump and the Republicans heading into the 2024 election and why he thinks so many of the early 2024 election polls are incorrect….How are you feeling given Trump and the Republican fascists’ escalating threats to democracy?  I’m tired. But I’m also exhilarated by our continued strong electoral performances all across the country going back to 2017. In particular, the Democrats have been winning elections since the [Supreme Court’s] Dobbs decision in Spring 2022. We are winning across the country, in every kind of race — mayoral races, school board races, in governor’s races in red states, and on ballot initiatives. It leaves me deeply optimistic about 2024. In rte4sponse to other questions, Rosenberg notes, “As shown by how the Democrats have been winning in every type of race across the country now for a year and a half, that is a sign of institutional and organizational strength. The Democratic Party is very strong right now. By comparison, the Republican Party is very weak institutionally….there is no way to scrub Trump, to put lipstick on the Trump pig, or to dress him up and make him something other than the most dangerous candidate in the history of American politics. And it just gives me hope that people have been voting against MAGA and the Republicans repeatedly, especially, in the battleground states. If we have a normal election the Democrats should win next year — even with Joe Biden and all of his limitations. But at the end of the day, he’s been a good president. And he’s got a strong case for reelection….This idea that as the electorate gets bigger, it gets more Republican is false. The Democrats have won more votes in the last seven out of eight elections than the Republicans. No political party has done that in American history….Trump is only at 60%. 40% of Republican primary voters are not with him. That’s a huge problem. Trump can’t lose any Republicans. He’s the weak candidate. Trump is struggling to pull his coalition back together….I think the issues around abortion, as we’ve seen, are creating openings with Republican and independent women that are unprecedented. The Republicans have no way now to mitigate the political damage that abortion has done to them or will do to them again in 2024.”

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