The Democrats have a great chance to win back many of the working class Midwesterners who were pivotal in last year’s election even if some Trump voters are deplorable racists who cannot be reached through rational argument. A study by professors from the University of Minnesota and Boston University concludes that Hillary Clinton’s narrow loss may be attributed to her relative hawkishness. For example, Trump came out in opposition to the Iraq War far earlier than Clinton grudgingly admitted it was a mistake. Likewise, analyses from such disparate and credible sources as Scientific American, CNN, and Fortune Magazine see Trump’s opposition to free trade as an important factor in his victory.
The President, however, has backtracked from the positions that helped him reach the White House. Accordingly, Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi and DNC Chair Tom Perez should issue a joint statement or better yet hold a press conference at which they target Trump’s flip flops. They should acknowledge that the President talked a pretty good populist game in his Presidential campaign. But, they must hasten to add, he has betrayed all working-class Americans in order to focus on dividing them along racial lines.
The Democrats ought to point out that Trump chose to remain in NAFTA - the 1994 trade pact which the Economic Policy Institute estimates has cost our nation over 850,000 jobs and kept a lid on workers’ wages. Moreover, Schumer, Pelosi, and Perez can note, the President will be deploying new troops to Afghanistan. Heretofore, the Democratic Party will reclaim its historic role as the leader in the fight for good middle-class jobs and peace, the leaders need to insist.
A 538 article suggests that Trump is most vulnerable when he acts contrary to his supporters’ expectations. Thus, his inflammatory, but unsurprising, rhetoric blaming counter-protesters for violence instigated by white supremacists hasn’t hurt his approval ratings much. On the other hand, his strong endorsement of the Republican health care bill conflicted with his call for “universal health” care nearly two years ago and has hurt his overall standing with the electorate.
A perhaps decisive number of working-class Trump voters in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania chose the putative billionaire over Hillary Clinton because he 1) promised to undo the trade deals that have harmed them and 2) bad-mouthed the wars that have disproportionately injured or killed them, their friends, and family members. Top Democrats have the ability to appeal directly to these voters by recommitting to their party’s traditional pro-worker pro-peace values. Those of us horrified by the Trump-fanned winds of racism, sexism, and xenophobia threatening our nation can only hope that the minority party recognizes and seizes this opportunity.