How the left lost the working class — and how it can win it back
Josh Black

Thank you for your intellectual and rational assessment of the issues that have influenced the erosion of working class support for the Democratic Party, which you more narrowly define as the ideological “left”.

Useful post-election analysis is a difficult endeavor in that it requires intensive research, sound reasoning and humility in the pursuit of political objectivity, which is virtually unattainable due to our natural impulse to defend closely held ideological and moral beliefs. Therefore, from my perspective as a small business owner located in a blood-red state, who voted for President Trump, I view your analysis as remarkably consistent with the opinions and attitudes expressed by local Democrat and Republican working class voters who overwhelmingly supported, and continue to support, President Trump.

For the purpose of clarity, I’m less enthusiastic about several of the socially creative solutions that you have suggested in Section II of your report, but I will reserve judgement which is tainted by my own conservative bias. However, relative to your opinions and conclusions that address working class attitudes on race and immigration, I would offer the following suggestions:

“I believe that, in the US, as some commentators have underlined, a ‘whitelash’ — a backlash of specific groups of white working class voters bearing racist undertones and seeking to re-establish the supremacy of whites in power — also played a certain role.”

In my opinion, the statement above undermines your report in that it legitimizes unverified claims by “some commentators” who were likely supportive of Hillary Clinton and her campaign efforts to drive unenthusiastic minority voters to the polls. I would encourage you to review the dramatic polling shift in Trump’s favor, taken days after Hillary’s August 25, 2016 campaign speech that suggested his political platform was aligned with racist ideology endorsed by the KKK, White Supremacists and the Alt-right. Immediately following her speech, the campaign released a sensationalized and racially charged campaign video ad to support her claims. At that time, very few Americans even knew the Alt-Right existed or understood it. They, along with the KKK and White Supremacy groups, were way out on the fringe and not relevant to the political discourse until the Clinton campaign launched their attack.

For myself and, I suspect, many of the white, working class Democrat and Republican voters who were undecided, this was viewed as an outrageous and deceptive campaign effort to associate Trump and anyone who supported him with these fringe groups and their racist views. I believe that Black and African Americans also recognized the paralogistic campaign trickery and likely viewed it as an insult to their collective intelligence. Certainly, one could conclude that the strategy was ineffective in driving minority voters the polls on election day.

In regards to your comments on immigration, I agree with your general conclusions that the left are perceived as poor managers and have failed to present a persuasive argument to counter right-wing attacks of their immigration policies. However, I believe that you are framing the US immigration issues to broadly. Americans, regardless of their political associations, approve of legal immigration and I think you will find this especially true of working class citizens, who are more likely to encounter immigrants on a regular basis due to their positions in the economic and employment strata. Throughout the campaign, media pundits and pollsters frequently framed their reports and polling questions to conflate President Trump’s policy proposals on “illegal immigration” with legal immigration.

I recommend that you narrow your report to address the specific immigration proposals important to working class voters. Based on election polling, they included increased border security to reduce illegal crossings of drugs and undocumented immigrants (the “wall”) and restrictions on the entry of foreign nationals and refugees who might pose a threat of terrorism. Trump’s supporters widely rejected his early campaign pledge to deport all undocumented immigrants which resulted in a softening of his campaign rhetoric and a reset of his policy proposals that reflected a more principled approach to immigration that aligned with both the working class and GOP views on immigration.

Again, from my perspective, you have presented a thoroughly researched and accurate assessment of the political and socioeconomic heuristics that alienated working class voters from the political left, including many Democrats and Independents who supported President Obama in 2008 and 2012. Your more Progressive peers should follow your example and your recommendations that favor constructive engagement over resistance. If the left intends to restore the trust and support of the once loyal, working class voters that abandoned them on election day, then it is counterproductive to continue to castigate them for their vote and obstruct the political agenda that they voted for.

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