I’ve been talking with my brother, who’s a Democrat in a deep red state, about our common disaster. One of the topics has been the working class. He sent me this piece on fundamentalism in rural America. Read the whole thing, but the gist of it is that fundamentalist, white America cannot be swayed by reason, by populism or by anything else. I accept that thesis: the White Fundamentalist Working Class (WFWC) is, for the most part, lost to the Democratic party. Nothing we can say to this group will register because the constant diet of bullshit from Fox and the pulpit of their local church drowns out reason about a social safety net and real opportunity. When ~80% of evangelicals vote for Trump, it’s clear that these sheep will vote for Satan if he said he’d punish sluts while quoting a couple of bible verses.
That said, I think we need to separate the White Working Class (WWC) from the WFWC. Obama was elected with a significant number of WWC votes. House districts, and some Senate seats, will swing only if we can swing some of the WWC back to the Democratic column. Erik Loomis is right:
Where the economic anxiety debate legitimately matters is not in long-term Republican counties. It’s in traditionally blue counties in swing states that swung sharply to the right in the last 4 years. Erie County, Pennsylvania went 48-46 for Trump. He won by 2000 votes. In 2012, Obama defeated Romney 57-41 in Erie County, winning by 19,000 votes. Donald Trump won Pennsylvania by about 68,000 votes. It is counties like these–blue-collar union counties with long histories within the Democratic Party, histories that lasted long after LBJ delivered the South to the Republicans in 1964, long after the Reagan era, that voted for Barack Hussein Obama twice. The critical question is why did these people switch their votes at this time. This is where a discussion of economic dislocation and hopelessness plays an important role. It must play an important role. These are voters that Democrats can probably get back without appealing to racism, which it absolutely must never do. That’s the debate we need to be having. Economic issues need to be taken seriously as part of that debate.
Paul Ryan is about to hand us a golden opportunity to talk about economic issues – like how you will die on the street at age 66 of curable cancer after your privatized Medicare vouchers run out. There’s a segment of the WWC that can be swayed if we can package up that issue in a simple, powerful way.