As part of the continued effort by leaders in the Democratic Party to malign and marginalize poor white voters, Florida Democratic Party (FDP) President Sally Boynton Brown has waded into this world as Miami New Times reports. The FDP President according to the New Times addressed the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Broward County on Thursday night and the following occurred (quoting from the article):
Later in the meeting, she then said that people who are struggling to make ends meet — and often decline to vote because they say it doesn’t matter — do not vote based on “issues” they care about and instead vote because they are “emotional beings.” She added that people apparently skip voting because they’ve somehow forgotten about the “power of democracy,” whatever that means.
She also said that taking money from large corporations such as Florida Power & Light could somehow be a good thing — and that the “relationship” created when gigantic corporations give thousands of dollars to political candidates can somehow make it easier for politicians to push back against corporations when they are “raping our country.”
I’d never count on principle when it comes to fundraising from the FDP, so the FPL comment while disturbing isn’t surprising. After all this past session, Speaker Richard Corcoran was needed to kill an FPL driven measure to charge Floridians for fracking out of state – the proposal had the backing of several leaders in Senate Democratic Caucus. The new party President (essentially the Executive Director) seems to have already been brought up to speed about the importance FPL alignment for many Democrats in the legislature as well as 2016 US Senate nominee Patrick Murphy.
But the continued maligning of poor voters (presumably poor white voters) as “emotional beings,” and that do not vote based on “issues,” is more of the same condescending and elitist talk from the Democrats. When I was growing up you could count on Republicans to say such insulting and patronizing things, while the Democrats would be the ones to stand tall for working people But not anymore.
We’ve editorialized time and again here at TFS about the importance of white working class voters, those who first came to our party to support William Jennings Bryan in 1896, became the core of the New Deal Coalition in 1932 and even in many cases supported the first major African-American nominee for President, Barack Obama in 2008. But for some reason, 2016 became the year of identity over issues for the Democrats. But in the wake of electoral embarrassment in November, elite Democrats doubled-down. Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas editorialized that we should “be happy for coal miners losing their health insurance. They’re getting exactly what they voted for.” It’s odd from where I sit that Boynton Brown used the term “emotional” to describe poor voters because that in reality is the way Democratic leaders have acted toward those very voters since losing in November 2016. These leaders have emotionally and irrationally used dehumanizing language to ridicule those they see as beneath them or responsible for Donald Trump’s victory.
As a candidate for DNC Chair, Boynton Brown played on some of the worst stereotypes about “white privilege” and based on her rhetoric isn’t fan of a multiracial party of democracy. Watch below and judge for yourself.
No question that Black Lives Matter and general issues of social justice require more attention from establishment Democratic Party officeholders. However, the new tenor of the party to pit race against race and ethnic groups against one another is unhealthy for the country and ultimately as we saw in 2016, a losing electoral strategy. How do you make the battle about issue and economic/social justice? You make racial and ethnic identity less of an issue and instead embrace a progressive ideology and concepts that benefit people of all ethnicities and races. Advocating for one race or ethnicity does not need to mean you malign or marginalize another race or ethnicity.
The net result of an overemphasis on identity politics and maligning of working class white voters has been electoral losses for the Democrats and a Republican Party that has come to power that is far less willing to work with minority voters and groups than they were in the Bush years. As recently as 1996, Democrats carried rural areas of many southern states in a Presidential election and as recently as 2012, rural white voters in Iowa and Wisconsin favored the Democratic nominee.
The Democrats attitude toward white working class voters can be demonstrated by the difficulty the party has had in the Wisconsin 3rd district, represented since 1996 by Democrat Ron Kind, a thoughtful and consciousness member of the House. In 2008, President Obama won Kind’s congressional district by 20 points and in 2012 he won it by 11. In 2016, Hillary Clinton lost the district by five points, a massive reversal from the previous two elections. Kind’s district is 97% white and dotted by small and medium sized towns as well as dairy farms.
Countless examples of districts like Kind’s throughout the nation can be found. Unless Democratic leaders change their tact and act less patronizing and more respectful toward all Americans, we can continue to see the party lose elections and alienate what once were the core of Democratic base.