Democrats, Blue Collar Whites, And My Washington Post Letter

I have a letter to the editor in today’s Washington Post about the Democrats’ long forgotten but recently rediscovered interest in blue collar white (mainly male) voters.

My letter is, in part, a reply to a November 23 Wash. Post article by Charles Lane, “What will it take for Democrats to woo the white working class?” Lane’s article, which is quite good as far as it goes, begins, accurately enough:

Democrats from President Obama on down are blaming their 2016 debacle in part on too much “identity politics” — messaging aimed not at voters broadly, but at Latinos, women, African Americans and the LGBT community as groups.

The one group Democrats did not target were their old mainstays, non-college-educated whites (especially the males of that species)….

“According to much newly minted conventional wisdom,” Lane continued, “Democrats can and should win back downscale whites by cranking up economic populism, without losing minorities, women and other key components of their coalition.”

This sort of class-based economic appeal, Lane argues, is “easier said than done,” because “Trump tapped unease among working-class whites that is related not to economics but to culture and race: in a word, identity.”

In “The road back for Democrats: Identity politics is not the way,” Charles Krauthammer makes much the same argument. “Identity politics by the Democrats has finally come back to bite them,” he points out.

Trump managed to read, then mobilize, the white working class, and to endow it with political self-consciousness.

What he voiced on their behalf was the unspoken complaint of decades: Why not us? All these other groups, up to and including the relatively tiny population of transgender people, receive benefits, special attention and cultural approbation, yet we are left out in the cold, neglected and condescended to as both our social status and economic conditions decline.

He doesn’t suggest a solution, but Lane does. His recommendation to the Democrats is “to appeal to the public on the basis of our common American identity, and aspirations, rather than our overlapping grievances — cultural, racial, economic or otherwise.”

That recommendation, however, faces an elephant-sized obstacle that Lane neglects to mention. To see what it is, read my letter.


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