Can Democrats love the voters Hillary hated? – Washington Examiner
Hillary Clinton rolled out new excuses for her loss, disenfranchisement in particular, but also promised not to run again. If Democrats are smart, they’ll ignore her excuses and take to heart the real lessons of 2016.
The most important lesson from Hillary’s loss is this: Don’t hate the swing voters.
Donald Trump won the White House by swinging tens of thousands or hundred of thousands of voters from Obama, and by bringing many other prior nonvoters out of the woodwork. Also, millions of Obama voters stayed home — a group that included hundreds thousands of working-class whites.
With all these swings, Trump swung working-class counties in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin, enough to win all four states and the White House.
Trump, at the same time, underperformed earlier Republicans in the wealthier parts of America.
Hillary showed her true colors when she declared this result some sort of a victory. “If you look at the map of the United States,” she explained to an overseas audience, “there’s all that red in the middle where Trump won. I win the coast, I win, you know, Illinois and Minnesota, places like that.”
What are the “places like that”?
“I won the places that represent two-thirds of America’s gross domestic product,” she explained. “So I won the places that are optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving forward. And his whole campaign, ‘Make America Great Again,’ was looking backwards.”
The 2018 election furthered this division. Democrats took over the House of Representatives in part by picking up dozens of seats in upper-middle-class suburban districts. The new bragging point for Democrats is that they are the party of the highly educated and the successful. It allows for the self-serving explanation that people who know the real deal vote Democratic, and only the clueless bitter clingers vote Republican.
The choice for 2020 is: Do Democrats prefer the pride of being the party of the elites, or are they willing to sully themselves by trying to win over the “backwards” places full of deplorable bitter clingers?
If they want to win, they need to tune out Hillary and the commentators who insist that Trump’s base was purely racists —the folks who declare “ There’s no such thing as a good Trump voter.”
This will involve accepting that working-class suffering is real — even for white people.
The data tell the story clearly. Life expectancy in the U.S. is falling, driven by a sharp decline among working-class whites. Labor-force participation remains low, and the rates of men on disability remains high. Working-class marriage rates are falling, and out-of-wedlock births are rising among the working class.
Behind all of this are decades of stagnating wages. But there’s something more important at play here: the collapse of community cohesion and local institutions of civil society.
Too many liberal critics wave away the nostalgic-sounding laments about how America used to be great. To them, this is just the revanchist griping of old, straight, white dudes who are upset that their privilege is eroding. But when the population of your town is shrinking, when the churches and coffee shops are closing down, when the Memorial Day Parade has disappeared, there’s a real loss.
Trump exploited that loss by promising he could bring back what used to be. Of course he can’t — in fact, turning to a strongman just exacerbates the problem of community erosion by drawing power and attention away from the human level. But Hillary played into Trump’s hands by trying to deny that the suffering was real, and by portraying all the changes as progress.
Can any 2020 Democrats do better? Maybe. But right now it appears doubtful. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio is reaching out for the working class, and willing to talk about the “dignity of work” — a concept many on the Left like to mock. But even he demeans the importance of community connections. He penned a snarky retort to an insightful David Brooks column recently.
“Brooks, in ‘ It’s Not the Economy, Stupid’, writes: ‘It’s not jobs, jobs, jobs anymore. It’s relationships, relationships, relationships,’” Brown wrote. “Actually it’s wages, wages, wages.”
This denial that social dissolution is a problem is the same sort of coldness that sunk Hillary.
The suffering is real. The condescension is both heartless and politically destructive. Can the Democrats have enough heart to have a chance at beating Trump?