As the Democrats fight over the role that Wokeism played in the 2021 election results, the socialists at Jacobin have a new study out called “Commonsense Solidarity” which shows that woke language is a loser with working class voters – especially woke moderate language – who prefer a more class-based, universal populist pitch centered on economic justice. More Huey Long, please.
You would think this would be obvious. The AOCs and Rashida Tlaibs of the world are devastated outside of deep blue urban enclaves. The idea that Joe Biden was FDR with a razor thin congressional majority was always preposterous. The Democrats are panicking over the widening Republican margins with White voters in small towns and rural America. The Republicans are also confident that Wokeism is a winner for them in stoking White backlash politics. Anyway, I just find it funny that even the socialists concede that Wokeism is a loser for the Left while CNN and MSNBC are still in denial about it.
“And yet, for the most part, these progressive triumphs have been concentrated in well-educated, relatively high-income, and heavily Democratic districts. Even when progressives have won primaries in working-class areas, they have generally done so without increasing total turnout or winning over new working-class voters. And in races outside the friendly terrain of the blue-state metropolis, the same progressive candidates have largely struggled. Overall, progressives have not yet made good on one key promise of their campaigns: to transform and expand the electorate itself. …
Progressives do not need to surrender questions of social justice to win working-class voters, but “woke,” activist-inspired rhetoric is a liability. Potentially Democratic working-class voters did not shy away from progressive candidates or candidates who strongly opposed racism. But candidates who framed that opposition in highly specialized, identity focused language fared significantly worse than candidates who embraced either populist or mainstream language. …
Blue-collar workers are especially sensitive to candidate messaging — and respond even more acutely to the differences between populist and “woke” language. Primarily manual blue-collar workers, in comparison with primarily white-collar workers, were even more drawn to candidates who stressed bread-and-butter issues, and who avoided activist rhetoric.
It is no longer controversial to point out that the Democratic Party is losing ground with working-class voters. As many have noted, on different places along the political spectrum— from Thomas Piketty to James Carville— the last several decades have witnessed a major shift in the Democratic electorate, away from its New Deal blue-collar base and toward a new coalition centered on college-educated voters.
In the last decade, as these trends have accelerated, it has also become clear that this class-based shift extends across racial groups. Between 2012 and 2020, the share of college educated whites in the Democratic camp rose from 46 to 54 percent, while the share of whites without a college degree, already at a historic low, fell from 40 to 37 percent. Working-class voters of color, meanwhile, mostly remain Democrats, but their recent shift away from the party has been just as pronounced: Republican support among nonwhite voters without degrees jumped from 16 percent in 2012 to 25 percent in 2020.
Clearly, it is time for Democrats to reassess their approach to winning working-class voters. In the most recent round of intra-party arguments, after the 2020 election, both sides recognized the urgency of the problem, but came to diametrically opposite conclusions. On the one hand, centrists like Abigail Spanberger and James Clyburn slammed left-wingers for their ideological extremism, citing policies like defunding the police and Medicare for All as major electoral liabilities — especially with the working class. On the other side of the divide, progressive leaders like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Rashida Tlaib insist that the lack of a bold economic message has hampered the party’s ability to inspire working-class enthusiasm …
A populist candidate with a central focus on the economy earned 63% support, for example, while moderates and “woke” progressives with a focus on immigration or racial justice won under 50%. …”
Democrat margins are shrinking with non-White working class voters and expanding with White working class voters and rural voters.
Matt Karp of Jacobin has a message for Democrats.
“As he set about disembowelling Joe Biden’s Build Back Better bill last month, Joe Manchin paused to offer some cheerful advice for outraged progressives. “[A]ll they need to do,” said the West Virginia senator, “is elect more liberals.”
There was something slightly perverse about Manchin counseling the leftwingers whose policy agenda he was helping tear apart: he sounded like a burglar recommending a home security system as he made off with his loot. And yet his point is undeniable: if progressives hope to gain more leverage in American politics, they must win more elections. …
Still, as the fate of Biden’s bill shows, leftwing influence on national politics remains limited. That’s because progressive gains have not been not responsible for changing the larger balance of power. By and large, progressives have replaced sitting Democrats in deep-blue districts. They’ve failed to prove themselves in contested seats, and have yet to win a major statewide election. Without expanding the Democratic base, progressive advances reflect a larger trend away from the party’s working-class constituency and toward educated urban professionals.
American progressives aren’t alone facing this problem. Over the last half-century, center-left parties all around the world have suffered massive defections from their once-sturdy working-class electoral base. As labor unions have declined in size and power, and economies have shifted away from high-wage blue-collar jobs, millions of working-class voters have moved toward parties of the right. And though pundits obsess over the “white working class”, the phenomenon now clearly extends across racial lines, with non-white, non-college-educated voters breaking significantly toward Republicans since 2012. …
But in order to win more elections, especially in swing districts, both Democrats and progressives must win more working-class votes. The numbers here are just overwhelming: in 2020, well over 60% of American voters did not have college degrees. In Congress, over four-fifths of House seats – and 96 of 100 Senate seats – are chosen by electorates where 60% of the voters lack college degrees. For progressives to accept an inevitable decline in working-class support is to accept their position as a permanent and punchless minority …”
Back in the spring, Karp was rightly skeptical of Joe Biden as the “new FDR” while cool guy Anand was hailing the dawn of the “new progressive era” which has turned out to be a mirage. Matt Karp and David Shor have both correctly pointed out that the Democratic strategy and coalition is an electoral loser in Congress and the Electoral College which is biased toward rural voters. White working class voters are far more effectively distributed across the country. Winning millions of surplus voters in New York City and Los Angeles doesn’t help Democrats as much as Montana or Wyoming does for the GOP.