Now More Than Ever, Democrats Need The Working Class

working-class-joesThere’s a feeling that both political parties no longer represent the working class, and to some extent, that is true. As we saw in the disastrous aftermath of the 2014 elections and evidenced in the lowest turnout in over 70 years, Democrats are doing a really piss poor job of connecting with those of us who work for a living.

As a union member and an independent voter registered NPA (No Party Affiliation), I voted mostly for Democrats, but I wasn’t overly thrilled with any of the ones on the ballot. The last time I was really excited about voting for one was Barack Obama in 2008. Yes, it’s been that long.

While there are notable exceptions like Al Franken, Alan Grayson, and Elizabeth Warren, the sentiment that Democrats are the lesser of two corporate-sponsored evils is undeniable. Here in Louisiana, Senator Mary Landrieu is pushing for the Keystone XL pipeline, despite the fact that it benefits a Canadian corporation and does little for the Louisiana oil industry.

The pipeline wouldn’t even go through Louisiana at all, and very likely wouldn’t create any jobs in Louisiana either. Yet, many Democrats – especially the few remaining in red states – happily voted for the pipeline bill, as noted by Jack Holmes over at The Daily Beast:

Support for the pipeline has surged among Democratic legislators in the wake of the midterm elections, when Democratic senators in red states were swept out of office. Those that remain—among them Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Claire McCaskill of Missouri—are eager to boost their pro-energy, pro-business bona fides. (Source)

Trying to be a less insane version of the Republican Party, a lesser of two evils as the cliché phrase goes, is NOT a long-term winning strategy. Saying “we might not be perfect, but they’re nuts” may gather some votes from people like myself who are well aware of just how much worse things are with Republicans in charge, but a lack of a message other than “we aren’t Republicans” creates more apathy than anything else. It’s not that swing voters are excited or even convinced by the Republican message, it’s that the Democrats don’t have any message at all other than repeating the message that the GOP is crazy.

As I noted in my post-election autopsy of the Democratic Party, they’re going to have to make some changes quickly to stay viable outside of major metro areas like New Orleans, Austin, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, etc. Simply repeating “we aren’t Republicans” over and over again while allowing the GOP to control the political narrative just isn’t going to cut it.

So what do Democrats need to do, other than grow a pair and stop running away from President Obama which only further helps Abe Lincoln’s totally misguided party? It’s actually quite simple: go back to the base that they actually represented decades ago, the working class. As money made its way into politics more and more, both parties have become more beholden to corporations and wealthy donors, because that’s where the money is at. In my entire adult life, I have never given a single dollar to any political campaign that I can recall. Why not? Because I feel, and I’m sure many others do as well, that both Democratic and Republican campaigns get enough donations from super PACs. Reluctantly, many of us have voted for them simply because they weren’t the GOP, and that’s been about it.

Years ago, it wasn’t uncommon for white rural folks who now vote for Republicans to vote for Democrats. Here in Louisiana, there are still many, many people who are registered as Democrats but voted for Bill Cassidy instead of Mary Landrieu. In fact, she would be considered a moderate Republican in almost any purple or blue state, but only garnered a mere 18 percent of the white vote here. A lot of people point to the Southern Strategy as the reason why Democrats lost the South, but it’s not just that. The Southern Strategy was based on race and convincing the poorest white person that they were better than the richest black person solely on the level of melanin in their skin, but that’s not the only reason why. That strategy was employed in the late 1960s and into the 1970s, but you have to remember that Bill Clinton carried states in 1992 that are solidly Republican now.

What’s changed since then? Now more than ever, the Democratic Party is seen as the party of elitist Northern or West Coast liberals and little else. Seriously, have you seen the dismissive and condescending attitudes of liberal pundits toward people who live south of the Mason-Dixon line? Not only have they written off the people who propelled Bill Clinton to the White House (with help from Ross Perot) in 1992 and 1996, but they’ve almost completely given up on being competitive in districts that Howard Dean included as part of his 50 state strategy.

If they want to go back to controlling both the House and Senate, they need to make some changes quickly and start appealing to swing voters and even moderate Republicans, without selling out their core values. Republicans have successfully convinced far too many rural and working class people to vote against their self interests. They’ve also convinced these same people that all Democrats despise anyone who isn’t an elitist, urban political hipster – and to some extent, they’re not completely wrong. Isn’t it time they start changing that narrative, and their own attitudes?


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