Can Democrats Bring the White Voters Back Without Selling out?

Chamba SanchezBy Chamba SanchezJune 7, 2017
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I still vividly remember the analyses in the last year’s presidential elections. Pundits and editorial writers were writing obituaries on the Republican Party for heavily relying on old poor white voters. Now, the conversation about these very same “poor white voters” has radically made a 360-degree change. Yes, these pundits are now saying that Democrats are doomed and that they don’t have a chance to win the House of Representatives next year if they don’t bring these white voters back to the party. Latinos and African Americans are voting blocks that Democrats can not always count on. These two constituents don’t constantly vote and that has empowered the poor white working-class voters who support the Republicans. There are 24 seats that Democrats need to win next year if they want to control the House of Representatives in Congress. Seven of these seats are here in California and one has a lot of potentials to be flipped. That one is Darrell Issa’s seat, he was almost beaten in 2016. Congressman Issa and other six Republican Congressional Representatives from California who voted for the repeal of Obamacare have become a target in next year Congressional’s elections.

The fact that almost 4 million people in California gained coverage through this act was not a factor in these seven  California Congressional Representatives’ decision when they cast their votes.  Good representatives, they first see what is for the best interest of the state they represent.  Then, they look for the best interest of the district.  These seven representatives might have done neither.  Their decisions were ideologically driven.

That recent close vote in the House of Representatives, that repealed the Affordable Care Act, has pundits now taken a closer look at California for next year’s congressional elections.  They all think California can actually lead the effort for Democrats to win back the House of Representatives.  These experts are also making the case for the Democratic leadership to reach out to white voters in “a major way.”

Since Bill Clinton became President and Governor Wilson ruthlessly went after immigrants in the 1990s,  for good or ill California became the most progressive and democratic state in the nation.  Both political parties have utterly ignored California in presidential elections ever since.  They don’t spend a dime campaigning here.  They see California as an ATM machine. Hence most candidates running for federal government’s offices just come to California to get some cash and get the hell out.

Experts have sliced and diced the presidential election last year and they are still puzzled as to how Trump was able to replace the coalition used by Obama when he won the last two presidential elections.  Poor white voters enthusiastically embraced Trump’s nationalistic message of “American First.”  It might be true that Democrats need to somehow reach out to poor white working-class voters if they want to be part of the process of governing.  But leaders within the Democratic leadership might be misreading these voters.  These leaders see this as a problem with messaging.  These white voters want more than just changing the substance of the messages.  They want the party to re-adjust their positions in the political landscape.

It truly begs the question as to why these poor whites voters have abandoned the democratic party and have to support a man who has enriched himself exploiting them. Granted, the Democrats have failed to address their issues and have been mired in the cultural wars that at times scapegoated them. Supporting Trump in protest for rejecting what they call  ‘left-wing politics’ might be counterproductive.  Yes, how can these billionaires who have taken over Washington could ease the pain that these non-educated white voters might be feeling?  These white voters are clearly victims of this thing known as the “winner takes all” capitalism. Trump and the Republicans leading Congress in no way could help these poor white voters.

Whites working class and poor voters have been abruptly abandoning Democrats in the last two decades.  Even when they are consciously aware that embracing the Republican Party’s platform might mean to sacrifice their own economic interests. All those Democratic so-called “firewalls” in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania were all blown up by Trump. These working-class white voters badly wanted to give the finger to the Democrats and voted for Trump.

Regaining the support from uneducated poor whites voters might, for the Democrats, mean to engage in some sort of soul searching as to what positions they will be re-adjusting. That is, their long-standing positions on abortion, guns and support the LGBT community are some of the issues that they might have to modify. Interesting enough, Bernie Sander not long ago supported a pro-life Democrat. Yes, Bernie Sander, the former presidential candidate who is hardly viewed as a centrist. Hey, if Bernie could do it then there is no reason why Democratic leaders can’t, right?

It is important to highlight that Democrats don’t appear to be strategizing to seize the future.  For starters, they elected Nanci Pelosi to lead them in the House and Senator Schumer to lead them in the Senate.  Both leaders have been major players in the Democratic party that has handed all branches of government to the Republicans. New voices and new visions are not emerging to take this party into a path for success.

The problems of vision and strategies are compounded by internal destructive in-fights between very destructive factions.  Bernie Sander’s supporters want more purity and want true progressive policies and while centrist Democrats are calling for more time and more conversations.  There is nothing that Democrats can do if there is no compromise between these fractions.  Also, the progressive wing wants to have a more clearly defined direction other than just pushing back to Trump.  Indeed, at this point, there hasn’t been a major change in strategy.  There is still no message for those who are not motivated by a distaste for him.  Although those who dislike Trump with a passion are unified.

Last presidential elections elicited profound dissatisfactions of constituents for both political parties.  It is being said that both parties have abandoned their ideological roots. Most people thought the Republicans were doomed. But it turned out to be that Democrats were the ones who appeared to have felt this dissatisfaction in a more profound way. They are no longer part of the process of governing. All branches of government are being controlled by the GOP.

One thing is crystal clear here, Democrats have their work cut out in getting back in the game and at the very least they should try to win the House of Representatives next year.  And they should do it by sticking to the politics of convictions not the politics of convenience.  Yes, bring those working-class white voters but without destroying the progressive foundation.

Thank you for reading.

Chamba Sanchez

Sources consulted.

Brownstein, Ronald. “Democrats Need These California Seats to Win Back, the House.”  Atlantic 25 May 2017. Web. 2 June 20217

Griffin, Robert, John Halpin and Rui Texieira.  “Democrats Need to Be the Party of and for Working People of All Races: And  they can’t take Congress unless they win over more white workers.” American Prospect 1, June 2017. Web. 6 June 2017.

Scanlon, Kate.  “Sanders Responds to Backlash for Campaigning with Democratic Candidate who once backed pro-life bills.”  the 21 April 2017. Web. 3 June 2017.

The Editors. “The White Working Class:  An American, and a Democratic, dillemma.”  American Prospect 1, June 2017.  Web. 4 June 2017.
Photos credit: Photos used in this piece was purchased from iStock website.

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