Doing popular things will not save the Democratic Party
West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin suffers political defeat thanks to his support for Barack Obama and is therefore uniquely qualified to provide advice on what many believe is the president’s central political problem – his failure with the electorate to get in touch with the white working class.
His advice: go where they live and work. Hear. And don’t talk down to them.
“If I were him, I would start going to places where people don’t like you so much,” said Manchin, who is in a close race to replace Robert Byrd in the Senate and is fighting mightily over his opponents Shake off ‘description of him as Obama’s “stamp”.
“You can’t win if you just go where you’re comfortable,” added Manchin, who spoke to POLITICO in front of a crowd of 35,000 admirers in Ohio the day before Obama’s performance at University.
While Obama did make gains with the white working class in 2008, those gains happened to coincide with an economic crisis that came at the end of the second term of an already deeply unpopular Republican president. Despite his populist rhetoric, Obama lost ground with them in his re-election campaign, and the Democratic Party as a whole was badly beaten during his presidency, losing 11 Senate seats, 62 House seats, 12 governors, and well over 900 state legislative seats.
The Obama years only look like a relative success for the party after 2016: The polarization in education intensified even more sharply when Trump came into play, and 2012 became a natural statistical measure. For example, if Hillary Clinton had maintained the same college-to-non-college ratio as Obama’s campaign, Shor said she would have won. However, it by no means follows from this that mere imitation of Obama will actually reproduce the party’s margins of 2012: if at all, Biden has again more success in positioning himself as a moderator than Obama at this point in his presidency with apparently little influence on his reputation in the polls. The problem for Biden and the party as a whole is that the electorate has changed radically. And it will take a lot more than nifty messaging to change it all over again. “The past decade has had a major impact on the partisan loyalty of the millions of white working-class voters who previously voted for the Democrats,” wrote Nate Cohn earlier this month. “The old loyalty gangs are gone. You no longer rely on Democrats. Many are now only Republicans. “
White racial fear is often given a priority in explaining how this shift happened. But while race is undoubtedly central, one should understand that the Democratic Party’s cultural problems are even bigger than these diagnoses suggest – the pandemic and uproar over masks and mandates have shown how easily a polarized and nationalized media environment can be re-created Material for the culture wars from practically nothing. A few decades ago, voters were able to join. turn around local average after news of the impact of decisions made by its representatives in Washington on local affairs; Ticket splitting flourished at a time when getting the goods home was far more important than the letter at the end of a candidate’s name and what national narratives were being put forward about the two parties. But that’s an era long gone–as Ezra Klein noticed in his article on Shor, about half of the senators in office between 1960 and 1990 belonged to a different party than the election of their state for president, compared with only six today.
The material conditions should not be neglected when analyzing the needs of the Democrats. According to a recent one report by Democratic strategist Richard Martin, roughly half of the Republican Party’s gains in the 10 upper Midwestern states and the Rust Belt between 2012 and 2020 were in counties that lost manufacturing jobs and saw declines in health outcomes. And in several states, the researchers added, the drop in union membership in 2010 alone exceeded Clinton’s loss in 2016.
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