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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

NYT Opinion essayist Thomas B. Edsall addresses a question of overarching consequence for the 2024 presidential election, “Does Biden Have to Cede the White Working Class to Trump?” An excerpt: “A chorus of political analysts on the center left is once again arguing that the Democratic Party must reclaim a significant share of racially and culturally conservative white working-class voters if it is to regain majority status….John B. Judis and Ruy Teixeira have made this case repeatedly in recent years, most exhaustively in their 2023 book, “Where Have All the Democrats Gone?”….They are not alone….“For Victory in 2024, Democrats Must Win Back the Working Class,” Will Marshall, the founder and president of the Progressive Policy Institute, wrote in October 2023. “Can Democrats Win Back the Working Class?Jared Abbott and Fred DeVeaux of the Center for Working-Class Politics asked in June 2023; “Democrats Need Biden to Appeal to Working-Class Voters” is how David Byler, the former Washington Post data columnist, put it the same month.” Edsall quoters a number of academics who have expertise on issues related tot he topic, including Judis, who says: “Democrats have won and could win elections without winning back many of the working-class voters that deserted the party over the last decades. Democrats did so in 2022 by decrying Republican attacks on abortion rights and on gun control and by decrying Donald Trump’s leadership and his threat to democracy. Democrats could win on these issues again in 2024.” However, notes Edsall, “Judis argued, however, that this approach is not adequate to “establish solid majorities capable of upending the balance of power in American politics.” For Democrats to return to their position as the dominant political party, Judis maintained that “they have to win back working-class voters.”

Edsall also quotes William Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, who contends: “1. The lines between the white working class and the nonwhite working class are eroding. Donald Trump received 41 percent of the non-college Hispanic vote in 2020 and may well do better this time around. If this turns out to be the case, then the old Democratic formula — add minorities to college-educated voters to make a majority — becomes obsolete….2. The share of young Americans attending and completing college peaked a decade ago and has been fitfully declining ever since….3. The “stop chasing the working-class vote” approach flunks the most important test — Electoral College math. The stubborn fact is that working-class voters (especially but not only white) form a larger share of the electorate in key battleground states, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, than they do nationally….Galston provided The Times with data showing that while the national share of white working-class voters is 35 percent, it is 45 percent in Pennsylvania, 52 percent in Michigan and 56 percent in Wisconsin, all battleground states Biden won in close contests in 2020 and states that the Democrats are very likely to need again this November.” Edsall also quotes Dartmouth political scientist Sena Westwood, who observes, ““it is foolhardy for Democrats to count on higher education to offset the growth of more conservative minority populations….The number of students entering the nation’s colleges, Westwood wrote, is about to fall off an “enrollment cliff,” while “the nonwhite portion of America is on track to continue surging. The undeniable truth is that the future of America and of both parties rests in the hands of America’s minority population.”

Edsall notes further, “Robert Borosage, a founder of the Campaign for America’s Future and the issue director of Jesse Jackson’s 1988 presidential campaign, argued in an email that white working-class voters are crucial to the ideological coherence of the Democratic Party, You can’t build an enduring majority for progressive change vital to sustaining a democracy without a broad coalition that includes white working-class support. Without the effort to appeal to the white working class, you will watch more and more erosion of working people of all races and genders.…Candidates, Borosage continued, “who lead with a populist economic agenda can, in my view, sustain their social liberalism. Candidates that lead with their social liberalism and eschew a populist economic agenda pay a severe price for that failure — Hillary Rodham Clinton as signature example.”….Politically speaking, in Borosage’s view, Democrats have suffered more because of their economic policies than from cultural liberalism and identity politics: Where Democrats have been losing is that their economics hasn’t worked for working people. It is far more destructive to be the party of Wall Street and multinational corporations (the neoliberalism from Carter to Clinton to Obama, with Clinton the worst offender) than to be the party defending abortion or D.E.I.  Edsall; adds, “While the call coming from Judis, Galston and others for the Democratic Party to do all it can to retain and expand its working-class support has merit, I think [Jacob] Hacker’s case for Democrats’ continued reliance on an upstairs-downstairs coalition will be the party’s de facto strategy.”

At 538, via abcnews, Monica Potts shares some observations about divided GOP state parties in key swing states: “In Michigan, Arizona and Georgia, intense internal battles are tearing through the state Republican parties. The fights largely pivot around divisions that opened up in the wake of the last presidential election. A new cadre of Trump-loyalist party leaders, in many cases propelled into power based on their defense of the Big Lie that former President Donald Trump actually won in 2020, have found themselves at war with more establishment-aligned Republicans … and, increasingly, with each other….These rifts in three potential swing states are one of the many ways that Trump’s hold on the GOP and the rise of election denial in the aftermath of the 2020 election are defining not only the election this fall — when Trump loyalists could be looking at their 2020 playbook for ways to influence the outcome — but also the Republican state party organizations that will shape their states’ politics for years to come….State parties traditionally don’t play a huge formal role in presidential elections, but they can certainly have an impact. While national candidates and party organizations have their own turnout and fundraising machines, state parties filter money from the national parties, recruit local and state candidates, and play a role in driving turnout. Even more directly, in some states, including Arizona, Georgia and Michigan, state parties also choose electors for the Electoral College vote, an issue that has become newly salient in the wake of 2020 election denial. “If there’s a question about who gets on the ballot as electors … [state party leadership] comes into play, because a lot of times the state party rules specify how electors are chosen,” said Douglas Roscoe, a political science professor at UMass-Dartmouth….With election deniers helping to shape state parties, another battle could open up if election results in a state are close and subject to court challenges, in which these organizations traditionally play a role….More broadly, state parties play a major role in selecting candidates for down-ballot races. A dearth of young Republican leaders seems to be an emerging challenge for the GOP, as support for Trump and the Big Lie remain a litmus test for those who would run for office — these younger, Trump-aligned Republicans are often less experienced than their more establishment peers, more focused on grandstanding than policymaking.”

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