An essay published in Politico by former Clinton campaign spokesman Jesse Ferguson describes how the Democratic Party plans to win following the 2016 debacle: move rightward toward Romney Democrats.
Ferguson builds his house on a rotten foundation, claiming without irony “the Beltway has a fetish” for “the working-class community.” Really, how much time does your average DC consultant spend burdened with anxiety about low-wage workers? Ferguson would have us believe Beltway parties are peopled with tormented Ivy League politicos fervidly debating the decline of public education, and the desperate need for meaningful healthcare reform over handcrafted pasta and cocktails.
It’s a laughable premise that anyone in Washington gives a flip about working-class folks except to lay blame for electing Trump. In all our post-election navel-gazing, discussion of working America has centered on the racism of the “white working class,” as if the working class consists entirely of white people, and all white people are racist, etc, etc. The mechanics of economic animus are truly byzantine. During the election it was fashionable to turn it around and accuse economic reform advocates of racism because even though all people of color would benefit from economic reform, not all POC are low-wage workers. This, despite the fact that the low-wage economy negatively impacts communities of color in higher percentages than anglo communities. Also, screw that rising tide floating all boats. Democrats of a certain income level enthusiastically abdicate solidarity when it comes to wealth inequality. And that’s exactly what Ferguson wants more of.
In his estimation low-wage voters get far too much attention. Instead we should concentrate on “Romney Democrats” as he calls them, or Woke Republicans as I call them. According to Ferguson these folks “abhor xenophobia, the alt-right, and racists” despite turning their back on Obama in 2012, and casting their ballot for Mitt Romney. They are Clinton’s people he says, “lawyers, doctors and businesspeople…they mostly socialize within their own race and mostly white. They’re socially liberal but not obsessed with a political agenda.”
The breathless 8-page entreaty proposes the mind-blowing strategy of campaigning to rich white people, as if no one ever thought to campaign to rich white people before.
This is not new. These are the voters Chuck Schumer invoked when he said, “For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.” They let Clinton down in 2016, but we’re supposed to believe that moving to the right to satisfy them yet again will improve performance. It’s also the same failed strategy responsible for losing 1,000 Democratic seats nationwide since 2008, but I guess we didn’t believe hard enough the last thousand times, so clap for Tinkerbell, clap.
At some point we have to recognize that the problem here isn’t about incompetence, (like Clinton said of the DNC’s data team). Rather, this is bias that is baked into the cake. We live in a country that has two economies and two political parties, neither of which represent workers. Divisive identity politics now occupy the space where unifying economic reform used to reside.
People who run elections don’t care about policy. They don’t even mind losing elections as long as they raise money. The donor class that sustains them has little interest in policy work intended to improve life for all Americans. Rich white people and special interests get what they want whether Democrats or Republicans are in office. Those following Ferguson’s lead will earn a paycheck, but they won’t bring change.
Rich suburban college-educated Republicans might be “woke” in Ferguson’s view, but they also believe that 47 percent of Americans are freeloaders, as Romney said to his donors in the video leaked by Mother Jones. People who don’t pay income tax—seniors, students, the poor—deserve to be left behind. “Woke” Republicans might not say the n-word or carry guns in public, but they also don’t complain about corporations that don’t pay their fair share.
Democrats are bitterly divided along economic lines. Announcing that “our new strategy” is to court Republicans is tantamount to telling working folks to fuck off.
Since inauguration it’s been taken as gospel that racist white working class folks elected Trump. Let’s at least be honest. We haven’t been the least bit interested in courting their votes. The narrative has been the opposite. I was at a Daily Kos gathering this spring where it was taken for granted that white working class Trump voters “are not worth our time,” and we should “never knock on their doors again.” Another suggested they be taken out of the VAN, because if you don’t see them, I suppose they will cease to exist. Liberal leaders have even described about how white working class folks deserve to die from lack of healthcare.
It’s easy to ascribe racial animus to white working class folks as a reason for losing 2016. Powerless people make the best scapegoats. But let’s remember it’s disgusting and extremely short-sighted to “other” and shame whole demographics. Good liberals wouldn’t do that any other racial or ethnic group. Why is it okay for an economic class, if not for the fact that they indeed lack power to fight back? Liberals seem to think white low-wage workers don’t belong to the same world as the rest of us. Maybe they don’t, and that won’t be a good thing.
Ferguson takes a basic truth and twists it around to suit his career needs. High-education, high-wage earners vote in higher numbers overall. Of course you campaign to that demographic. But that’s not where Clinton dropped the ball in 2016. Clinton was laser-focused on rich white folks in the suburbs. Low-income folks of any race or ethnicity vote in lower numbers than those with more money and education. Trump was in fact elected by affluent, suburban folks. The lion’s share of voters that were “stolen” from us came from professionals in the suburbs.
Our base of lower income folks have been sitting out elections for decades. In the last 60 years we’ve produced Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Bernie Sanders. These leaders provided positive policy reasons for regular folks to come out and vote. In the absence of real policy leadership, Republicans fill the void with neo-fascists like Trump and Reagan.
Ferguson isn’t concerned with policy for regular folks, which doesn’t bode well for 2018. He comforts the comfortable by saying “Winning these voters doesn’t mean that we have to change our agenda.” Woke Republicans have reliable insurance, so Romneycare is a perfect for them. How convenient that your ‘single-payer-will-never-pass’ agenda needs no updating. Woke Republicans don’t care about a living wage or free tuition, so those won’t need to be addressed either. It’s almost as if nothing needs to change.
Economic power is political power. There’s those who live in the best of all possible worlds, and the rest of us who can’t make ends meet. Inequality hasn’t just impacted our economy, it’s transforming our Constitutional government, which was developed under the assumption of relative economic parity. A nation of haves and have-nots will develop two sets of rules, which undercuts the whole concept…of rules.
It’s no accident that the right to vote in the United States was originally tied to owning property, as referred to in the “white, land-owning male” of the Declaration of Independence. It still works that way, even though we don’t speak in these terms. ‘Citizens United’ means political power is more dependent on economic power than ever.
Low-wage workers of any race or ethnicity have no economic power, no organizational power in the form of a union, and no political power. This is how the Democratic Party can declare, for everyone to see, that Republicans will be their target demographic in 2018. The only explanation for doing the same thing repeatedly, despite negative results, is that someone benefits. Clearly we’re not going to win this way, so let’s at least be honest about the reason behind the bad idea.
Spare us the insincere woke-Republicans-to-the-rescue façade. The consultant class loves conservative Democrats because their donors demand conservative economic policy, and we have no political power. It’s really that simple.