There has been discussion of liberals needing to shift focus to an economic message appealing to the white working class. While the white working class might have tipped this election in Trump’s favor, drawing up a decade-long battle plan based upon securing this vote is potentially myopic. Drawing upon this strategic-failure as the source of future victory ignores changing demographics, and also Trump’s slim margin of victory. Projections from the Economic Policy Institute, as cited by the Wall Street Journal, predict a minority-majority working class by the year 2032.
In the post-election frenzy, the minority working class has been forgotten or written off. Building a campaign strategy based upon Trump’s voting coalition will result in the abandonment of Democratic ideals while distracting from the President-elect’s inevitable failures. Democrats should look at the GOP’s success with branding to preserve core beliefs while ensuring this nightmare is capped at one-term.
It is clear that Democrats must craft a more palatable answer to the question of the future. Unlike Trump, clear-thinking Democrats and Republicans understand that globalization cannot truly be reversed. With a continued focus on growth of clean energy and technology manufacturing jobs, Democrats can position themselves once-again as the party of the manufacturing-class. Key to this strategy is shining a spotlight on every failure of Trump.
If Trump continues with his plan of building a border wall at taxpayer expense, threatening corporations with tariffs for importing products built outside the U.S. and threatening nations with the brunt of American economic-clout, it is the middle and working class who will hurt. Democrats and Republicans must work to limit the impact of trade wars and military excursions begun at the behest of Trump. However, when the price of goods begins to rise and young men and women are sent to invade whichever country failed to retweet Donald, Democrats must remind Americans who is to blame.
Republican success has come from branding. Throughout the administration of President Obama, Republicans have put their branding skills to work with remarkable return on investment. Turning the estate tax on wealthy families into the “death tax,” or the Affordable Care Act into “Obamacare” makes for an easy pitch. The GOP has also turned neutral words, or even words of progress into nefarious catch-all terms for evil. Globalization has become a dirty word, along with diversity, change, progress, hope, counseling, educated, intellectual and a bevy of other concepts and phrases. and Democrats must either learn the potency of this tactic, or resign themselves to constant defeat.
Democrats cannot abandon social progressivism or clean energy in the coming years for the sake of winning over the Trump-voter. It should not be the burden of progressives to explain why expanding civil liberties or reversing damage done to our one and only home is positive. However, in order to win elections and limit the power of Trump, it is vital that these things be pitched in an appealing manner.
When Secretary Clinton went to coal-country, she infamously failed in her pitch for moving forward with clean energy. It is not enough to hold ideas for a more harmonious future and a cleaner planet if the sales pitch is a certain-miss. Democrats need to talk about the future and impress upon voters the incompatibility of an isolationist, nationalist worldview and prosperity for future generations.
Democrats did not lose the election because of a failed economic message or oversight of the white working class. Trump’s potent nativism and populism captured enough of a nostalgia for yesteryear, where rosy images of River Rouge churning out cars omit the struggle for Civil Rights, the existential crisis of the Cold War and the mania of the Red Scare, to outlast Secretary Clinton. Democrats would not have won this election with a more tailored economic message. Little can be done to alter the course of a figure like Trump once barreling through the status quo.
If Democrats stick to their beliefs, alter their pitch and highlight every inevitable failure of the new President, we may bail enough water to dismiss the myth that social progressivism, climate protection and other ideas anathema to the Right will provide a more stable, prosperous future than isolationism, division and fear. Democrats must make sure that, like every building he has every purchased, all of Trump’s inevitable failures have his name emblazoned upon them in gilded, gaudy type.
Christopher Sacco is opinion editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.