Hey progressives, white folks aren’t demons and matter also

By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America - Donald Trump, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49611601

By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America – Donald Trump, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49611601

Tuesday night was like Election Day 2004 all over again.  The same feeling, the same shock. But this time the takeaway is more stark than it was on the night when George W. Bush was elected properly for the first time by the American people (the history books will say “reelected” but those of us in Florida know the truth on that one) and the Democrats lost four Senate seats. The bottom line is that our party doesn’t speak to white working class voters anymore – many in the progressive sphere demonize white working class folks implying in some ways they are virtually a subhuman ignorant species while playing identity politics and preaching tolerance while practicing intolerance at the very same time. My colleague Brook Hines detected this trend toward elite Clintonian/neoliberal contempt for working class whites in March and both her and I have noticed disturbing strands of it since.

If you think I am being stark and over the top, maybe I need to be to get this message across. We cannot live in our own silos anymore, we cannot demonize those with less education and worldliness than us while claiming we are tolerant. TOLERANCE MEANS TOLERANCE NOT BEING JUDGEMENTAL OR INTOLERANT BECAUSE YOU THINK YOU ARE SMARTER THAN THOSE YOU PUT DOWN.  The left has become more and more intolerant in this country through the last few years toward whites at the same time as the right has created a counter-reaction that pushes racial, ethnic and gender buttons. The book “Chain Reaction” which Bill Clinton read before his 1992 Presidential run described this phenomenon as it pertained to the 1980’s, but this largely faded in the 1990’s and 2000’s.  It’s been conjured back up now by both sides when progressives should be talking about economic inequality and how it impacts people of all races, ethnicities and genders rather than basically saying if you are not a minority or a liberal white millennial we don’t want you. Again this might seem harsh but this appears to be the undertone of much of the left’s push in recent years.

A few geographic places show us the trouble.

Pinellas County, Pasco County, Volusia County

The slide of the Democrats in these three heavily working class and white counties (Volusia being less white than the other two) demonstrates why suddenly huge margins for our party in Broward, Miami-Dade and Orange Counties can be offset even in Presidential years. Pinellas County is the whitest urban county in the southeast United States. Yet it’s consistently given Democrats slight advantages at the top of the ticket in recent memory. But last night that stopped with Donald Trump winning Pinellas and substantially cutting Clinton’s margin across the bay in Hillsborough. Even more telling is Pasco County, which was won by Al Gore in 2000 but now is giving Republicans like Trump huge margins. Over in Volusia, no Democrat had lost the county since Michael Dukakis until Mitt Romney edged President Obama in 2012. Last night, Hillary Clinton got beat by double-digits in Volusia and lost neighboring Flagler by twenty points just eight years after President Obama carried the county.

Iowa & Wisconsin

The only two states in the union where President Obama won a state thanks white largely-rural or small town working class vote in 2012 were Iowa and Wisconsin. That’s because an effort was made by the President’s campaign to connect with these folks and soothe their economic anxiety. These same voters went overwhelmingly for Bernie Sanders  in the 2016 Presidential primaries, but Sanders’ success was poo-pooed by many in establishment left as being somehow illegitimate because he was “only winning white votes.” Meanwhile those white voters felt disrespected, did not appreciate how Sanders was treated by the party establishment and the DNC and many didn’t come home.  Worse yet it seems Clinton didn’t even try and engage them the way Obama and Sanders had. 

David Brock and the Clinton machine created a “straw man” out of that demographic backing Sanders, and guess what? That demographic completely abandoned us in the fall.

Oddly also, the Clinton folks tried to use Sanders outstanding Civil Rights record against him but we’ll save that discussion for another day.

Enough with the identity politics when it comes to white working class folks – sell a progressive economic vision

We all love minority groups if we are on the left – that’s a proven reality. However, we don’t have to bend over backwards and shout racism against white working folks, our natural allies every time we feel like it. We do not have to back candidates simply because of the color of their skin or their ethnicity. We do not need to pretend voters do not have anxiety about terrorism because we interpret those who shout about it as racists. Yes, Republicans like Marco Rubio play the race card and islamic fear factor to ride to reelection as he did against Patrick Murphy. This is truly deplorable and should be condemned as we have here. But we must engage some of these people’s fears which have been created by the likes of Rubio and fill them with hope rather than demonizing them.

Unfortunately, we’ve seen many Indian-Americans (who are dark-skinned by the way) embrace Donald Trump because of the fear factor and hatred of Muslims. I said last month I didn’t want those kinds of voters supporting Clinton or Patrick Murphy and while I still would have a hard time accepting them, listening to them and hearing them out may not be the worst thing. Therefore, I too fell into the echo chamber of calling out religious people simply because I disagreed with them.

We also cannot simply rally around establishment figures who use fear as a motivator rather than some sort of positive progressive vision for the future. The Clinton’s made Trump the issue not what we want our country to be. They lost some who had supported President Obama and Senator Sanders in the process.

The bottom line is we as liberals cannot demonize people because of race or education level. We need to start accepting people for who they are even if we somehow don’t like who they are. We cannot continue to live in silos and listen to our own echo chambers. We must listen to the American people and fight for economic equality. Bernie Sanders began to show us the way. We’d be wise to return to that direction starting as soon as possible. 

9 comments

  1. JOE KREPS · · Reply

    We could have and should have had a President Bernie Sanders. The world will be a much different place with a Republican President, Senate, House, and Supreme Court. President Obama, the Clintons, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Allison Tant, the DNC, the FDP and all their phony Corporate Cronies need to just fade away.

    1. The Trump victory owes itself partly to Sanders and his voters being disrespected by Clintonians. I don’t know why people cannot get their heads around this. Kellyanne Conway has even admitted on CNN (or bragged as she should) that the sophisticated Trump operation in Michigan and Wisconsin went after Bernie voters and even Obama ones not thrilled with Clinton.

  2. Dave Trotter · · Reply

    I look at it a little differently, but do agree. I think that we need to look at the rural voters as well, who happen to be white. Honestly, Democrats has just cast aside rural counties because they are just so small. This means, yes, we need to start working again in North Florida (which is a 180 degree flip from my previous thinking).

    If we look at states that we lost last night: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Wisconsin, it requires us running up the score in certain counties, like Broward. However, we need to rely less on one county and look at the whole state. Hell, even in Illinois, running up the score in Cook County doesn’t assure victory…ask Pat Quinn.

    I think the work that Bruce Borkosky and his fellow Small County Coalition folks have done has been highly underrated. I have worked with other caucuses in the past, but I have never seen a caucus that really tries harder than the Small County Coalition. Yet, because they are not in Hillsborough, Broward or Orange, I think we ignore them.

    Yes, rebuilding requires rethinking. It has required me to rethink statewide strategy. Yes, we are never going to win Union County, but we also need to get more than 17.8% of the vote there as well.

  3. Ruth Ann Eaddy · · Reply

    I agree with this conversation, but we also need to support our newly elected Democrat Congress members when they must go across the isle and work with Republicans to get things running again. The Progressive movement has looked down on compromises that our Democratic legislators in Florida have had to make, not looking at the reasons behind the compromise. If anything gets done in this state or this country, the right wing of the Republican party and the Progressives of the Democratic party need to learn as the Donald would say “The art of the Deal.”

  4. The Observer · · Reply

    As someone who on observance could be seen as White America but all my grandparents were born in Europe see this at a different level. I have lived in five different states over the years and can tell you there are times I felt out of place in my own country. This was most apparent in the mid west rural areas. We should be in reality calling ourselves the 50 States of America and drop the United. Even though we are a mobile society most people tend to remain close to where they were born and don’t encounter people outside their own sphere. The same could be said for our politicians once elected to a high office. This brings us back to Tuesday, Trump said the things these people say only he did it on a national stage. I am not saying that is the way to go but onc and for all we nd to do some house cleaning at the DNC and the Florida State Party.

  5. Obama won with a 50-state strategy, and we need a 67-state strategy. I’m in the Small County Coalition, and live in North FL. I feel ignored and unsupported by both the party and the Coalition itself. The SCC apparently operates well somewhere, but not here. The problems with our FL party are deep and wide, and I despair of ever tackling them.

    I will not be a member of a party that does not support the working class, and I think it is patently obvious now that separating race from class is devastating for us. Most POC are also members of the working class too. The level of lying about Obama and his jobs policies that Trump engaged in is breathtaking. We can’t let either of these things happen again. But I despair that any real changes will be made.

  6. “For starters, many Americans are economically worse off than they were a quarter-century ago. The median income of full-time male employees is lower than it was 42 years ago, and it is increasingly difficult for those with limited education to get a full-time job that pays decent wages. Indeed, real (inflation-adjusted) wages at the bottom of the income distribution are roughly where they were 60 years ago.”

    (ME – These are the voters that were instrumental to the New Deal coalition. And yes, the changes we need are so big we will have to build that kind of a coalition. For many years these voters went with the GOP as they were bamboozled with social issues — God, abortion, guns. However, economic issues appear to be predominating now so these voters should be ours.”)

    https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/trump-candidacy-message-to-political-leaders-by-joseph-e–stiglitz-2016-10

  7. […] editorialized time and again here at TFS about the importance of white working class voters, those who first came to […]

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