The Democratic Party is losing the working class

This article was published in The Stand January 2017.

(Jan. 10, 2017) — In 2008, Barack Obama was elected along with large Democratic majorities in Congress. Eight years later we have Donald Trump and Republican control of Congress. The Democrats have lost 935 state legislative seats since 2008, and 26 states are under complete control of the Republicans. It is hard putting a happy face on this disaster for Democrats.

Understanding this multi-year catastrophe is critical to our movement’s organizing an effective long-term strategy anchored in a positive vision to reclaim our country and build a more just, equitable and sustainable future. We must be self-critical and not merely blame the Kochs, Trump and the Republicans. There are many factors for this disaster and I want to focus on three critical factors centered on the

Democratic Party:

  1. The enormous loss of support for Democrats among households making less than $50,000 per year;
  2. Major loss of support among union members particularly in the Rust Belt; and
  3. The long-term support of both Clintons and Obama for “free trade” and largely ignoring its impacts and the long-term crisis of deindustrialization in the Rust Belt.

Over the past four years, I have presented my economic justice and labor education work 16 times in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and upstate New York, as well as campaigning in western Pennsylvania for 16 days before the election. (See “Doorbelling at the scene of corporate crimes” — The Stand, Nov. 4, 2016.)

I have visited many cities, large, medium and small, that have been devastated by plant closures, massive permanent job losses and jobs moving to foreign countries. The intergenerational character of many tight-knit communities has been severely weakened as their younger people leave and permanent hard times remain in many of these hard-hit communities.

The white working class was hit hard, but the black working class was hit even harder. If you doubt this, visit the many devastated black neighborhoods in Detroit, Flint, Cleveland, Toledo, and Pittsburgh. There is a deep anger about this long-term decline and it erupted last month.

On Nov. 8, the American people were stunned by the election results. Questions of what happened abound. A Reuters exit poll offers important insights into voters’ attitudes:

  • 75% agree “America needs a strong leader to take the country back from the rich and powerful.”
  • 72% agree: “The American economy is rigged to the advantage of the rich and powerful.”
  • 68% agree: “Traditional parties and politicians don’t care about people like me.”

Read the full article at The Stand.

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