Democrats Might Never Win Back White Working Class Voters They Lost
I used to be a bit of a class reductionist. I thought class was the big issue that could bring voters to the Democratic Party, and that the party and the left as a whole were focusing too much on identity politics and cultural issues. I bought into the Bernie Sanders line of thinking and vision for the party where we had to tax the rich and hold big banks and big pharma accountable for corporate greed and the harm they caused average citizens.
Since 2017, this, in my opinion, was how Democrats could win back White working-class voters the party lost during the 2016 election and continued to lose in subsequent major elections.
After the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, this vision of the Democratic Party died. It was incredibly naive to deny race as the most salient and important issue in America, and I’ve had to rethink my politics and the way I saw the confluence of class and race in America.
Of course, there is some contention about why political analysts focus so much on the White working class. But historian David Swift, author of Identity Myth, says a big reason for that is because of the massive rightward and conservative shift among White working-class voters in particular. There’s been a similar fixation with working-class Hispanic voters swinging towards Trump. If Black voters in urban areas started voting Republican in droves, there would be a similar fixation.
To be clear, Swift makes sure to clear up a misconception of what “working-class” actually means in terms of Western democracy, and how the shift is happening. While we normally equate class with socioeconomic status, the shift isn’t coming with socioeconomic status as much as it’s being seen with education level. “Working-class” in a lot of cases refers to whether or not someone has a college education or not, as Monica Potts at FiveThirtyEight says a White wealthy business owner who didn’t go to college is just as likely to be “working class” these days as someone with a lower-middle class income.
As urban America and rural America grow further apart, and as I read more into the possibility of Democrats winning back White working-class…