Is the Democrats identity politics paradigm helping or hurting in the age of Trump?

A party wants everyone to vote for them. Republicans would be thrilled if millennials voted for them en masse. They’re just not willing to do anything that would make that happen.

Thomas Frank, author of What’s the Matter with Kansas, wrote a book called Listen, Liberal that traces how the Dems became the party of the professional class, going back to the early '70s. An obvious example is how Bill Clinton signed NAFTA, and bragged about it, and Hillary wanted to support TPP. Trump killed her on that issue.

There are a couple options you missed.

#3. Clinton is less likely to follow through on her policies than Trump. The policies that she would push would not help the white working class.

#4. Trump is less likely to follow through with his policies than Clinton. The policies that Trump would push would be the ‘bring back the jobs’ policies.

Since Clinton had huge trust issues, taking her policies as stated is a mistake because a ton of people did not trust her.

Trump spoke with so much hyperbole that his actual policy positions didn’t matter while the general ideas (Make America Great! Bring back jobs!) did.

My personal guess is that #3 is what cost her the election.


FlikTheBlue wrote: “Hillary lacks charisma, but was she really worse than Gore, Kerry, and even Dukakis who beat the elder Bush in Wisconsin in 1988?”

No she wasn’t. But she was perceived as worse due mostly to a 24+ year disinformation campaign by the Republicans and their amen corner on AM radio and the internet and, in politics, situations which are perceived as real can have very, very real consequences.

Yes she was “worse”. I’m generally progressive but my God she was a terrible choice for a POTUS candidate. She had a base whom she thrilled but it was a pretty narrow cohort. Her natural emotional communication abilities were very limited.


We are here to fight ignorance, right? Not perpetuate it?

The woman claimed more votes than Sanders & Trump in the primaries, and more than Trump in the general. You can only claim that her base was “pretty narrow” if you’re talking about geographics.

Of course when it comes to the presidency geography is what counts. Ignoring that is like claiming that the team who loses a World Series 4 games to 3 by scores of 15-1, 14-2, 16-0, 1-2, 0-1, 0-1, and 1-2 and had a better regular season record is somehow a better team. By the rules of the game those things don’t matter.

I think claiming that it was just the AM radio talk hosts, the alt-right news, etc. and their attacks against Hillary also misses a big part of the picture. Those things have been going on since at least Willie Horton, but they don’t always work. Somethng else has changed, not in the people putting out the propaganda, but in the intended audience. What I can’t figure out is what it is that has changed in the working class whites that has convinced them they have more interests in common with rich white people than with working class minorities.

The internet and the ability to build information silos, that’s the difference.

That’s not what they think. They think that their traditional party hasn’t done a thing for them so they’re willing to try something else. Since their traditional party didn’t even ask for their votes or offer another empty promise for them it shouldn’t be a surprise.

If you are correct, then I think those working class white people who genuinely believe this analyzed the situation incorrectly. I’ll agree that the Democrats, from 2011-2016, did little to fix the issues of concern to the white working class. Where we disagree is on the underlying reasons for that. It’s not because the Democrats didn’t want to create jobs and revatilze the rust belt, it’s because the Republicans obstructed the entire time and didn’t let the Democrats enact positive changes. Of course it could be that I’m wrong, but if so I ask for some examples. What did the Democrats do or not do that went against the interests of the working class? As the OP asked, are the Democrats actually the ones playing identity politics and I just missed it these last 8 years?

So we’re six months in and we’re already staring several constitutional crises in the face and we have a president who apparently won’t travel to the UK until he’s sure that he will be popular there. Are you still concerned about ‘tone’ or would you agree that maybe we have other more important shit to worry about?

FlikTheBlue wrote: “I think claiming that it was just the AM radio talk hosts, the alt-right news, etc. and their attacks against Hillary also misses a big part of the picture.”

I never claimed it was just that. In a way this was kind of a “perfect storm” scenario. A lot of factors played into it most of which have been gone into in great detail on this board. None of them were particularly decisive by themselves but the cumulative weight of it all was just too much. The divergence of the electoral and popular votes, an historically rare circumstance, was just a part of that. In most elections the electoral vote magnifies the popular will rather than negating it.

It is largely about perception. The Democrats had been using a similar strategy as the Republicans did talking about jobs, wages, and benefits instead of traditional cultural issues, while in the end only helping Wall Street. That’s largely because the catering to the rich is a bi-partisan practice and neither party is that accomplished at achieving much else.

I do agree that the situation was not well analyzed, but it rarely is, the campaigns are run on fantasies not realities and a proper analysis would not result in candidates from either party winning. What the entire working class wants to hear is that the rich will not profit any further until the working class sees some benefit from the system. Since no feasible candidate will say that they have to vote for some compromise and the Republicans at least admit that they are offering a ‘trickle down’ solution even though that’s met with great skepticism by many and/or accepted on a cynical basis. Telling the best lie is the key to winning elections. Trump is a much better liar than Hillary. I don’t personally think there was a significant difference in quantity between them, quality in lying matters never-the-less. I don’t know why the more outrageous lies are more acceptable to people in this circumstance, it somehow is related to the appeal of CT, the entertainment quality of the process, and I don’t know what else, but reasoned analysis is not helpful when given a Hobson’s choice.

I think that there’s been some distortion about the relationship between white working class voters and Hillary Clinton / Democrats. A lot of the white “working class” voters who voted for Trump are financially better off than the working class that voted for Clinton. The data I’ve seen suggest that education, not financial status, was the main factor that decided how people voted. Trump’s “working class” voters aren’t necessarily rich, but they’re not poor either. They’re typically law-abiding, resourceful people. They’re more likely to use their muscles than their intellects to earn an income (I honestly don’t mean that as a cheap shot, just an observation). So I think the media overreacts when they talk about how losing Obamacare is going to hurt all of these poor white Trump voters. Indeed some white voters are working poor, as we’ve seen in the media, but a lot of Trump’s supporters aren’t on Obamacare and a lot of them actually despise it as just more wasted government money.

However, with that finding comes another misunderstanding on the part of the left, which is their failure to detect the deep, underlying anxieties that affect a lot of Trump voters. Some of these anxieties are legitimate. Despite being somewhat financially secure they worry about their future. They may have their jobs and their income now but they also are acutely aware that things can change, and because many of these “working class” voters don’t have a degree to fall back on, they might be more vulnerable to economic dislocation. They also look around and see social problems, including a massive drug epidemic that is affecting the white working class at unprecedented levels. People aren’t just getting addicted and going to rehab; they’re dropping dead like flies, sometimes 10 or 20 in one weekend. And yes on top of that, they see an America that is changing demographically. This is not the America they knew.

Some Trump voters are probably hardcore racists but a lot of them are what I’ve previously termed ‘racially insecure’. They’re not inherently racist. They don’t make a point of speaking ill toward people of color. But they look on television and they perceive people of other backgrounds being spoken to. In John Podesta’s infamously leaked email, he spoke of the need to get the ‘needy Latino’ vote. Obviously, Barack Obama brought out the African American vote. Main street working class America saw a Democratic party over the last year that spoke out in favor of LGBT rights, Black Lives Matter, Dreamers, Immigration Reform, and women’s rights. But if they were listening to the Democratic party they didn’t hear them talking about their problems. And when Hillary Clinton went to, say, Nevada instead of Michigan, that reinforced the perception that the Democratic party was not interested in their issues. Trump’s swing voters saw a country that was changing in a way that made them feel uncomfortable. One candidate spoke to those concerns; the other simply reacted to everything he said but said very little to the actual undecided voters themselves.

"And by ‘get along,’ we mean give some of them preferences and set asides based on historical grievances, and denounce as a bigot anyone who objects.

Also, by ‘get along’, we mean continuing to keep immigration at a much higher levels than the historical norm, even if that means depressing wages for low-skill workers, and denounce as a bigot anyone who objects.

Also, by ‘get along’, we mean continuing to support the rapid change in sexual mores, such that anyone who holds the exact positions Barack Obama held in 2008 will, in 2016, be denounced as a bigot if they object.


Thank you, furt, for a rundown of the identity politics of the right, and the lies they use to support the idea that straight white conservative Christian men are the real oppressed class.

And/or in addition, some voters may have held other things more important than their economic interests so they in reality voted for their own interests, but it didn’t align with this binary view.

Apologize if I was unclear. I meant she “thrilled” a narrow cohort of her true believers. There were far more people like myself who held their noses, sighed and chose her as the lesser of two evils. I stand by my assertion that were relatively few voters overall excited by her campaign performance. She was terrible at forging emotional connections with voters.

There ought to be an Internet term for “take downs” that actually prove the petitioner’s case. For the mean time, I will call it “furting,” but it can also be used as in, “did you notice that this guy just furted?”

Suddenly I’m reminded why I lurk much more than post.

I often hear various members of this board lament the fact that it may be turning into an echo chamber, that there are not enough diverse views. So, I thought, perhaps I could contribute something; I believe my views are nothing if not diverse. I was raised in an upper middle class highly educated household but have spent the last 17 years of my life in blue collar, working class jobs. It took about ten years of experiencing what the “working class” (as opposed to the professional class) experience in order to understand why we(I am fully working class by now) think and feel what we think and feel. I think there is a lot of misunderstanding on both sides.

But the line of questioning above is not really where I was looking to go. I was thinking this thread would get into some of the speeches Trump has made concerning the working class recently - it strikes at the heart of the topic of this thread. Unfortunately there seems little interest in that type of discussion.

For purposes of clarification, what it the demarcation line between “working class” and “professional class”? Is it just, as someone once said, one showers before work and the other after? Or is there more to it because lower tier “professional class” types may work harder and make less money that some folks who would be regarded as working class.

At my old job I used to refer to us as “mental laborers”, which could probably cover a lot of folks these days.