“Tell the truth, tell me who has been fooling you? Tell the truth, who has been fooling who?”
~ Eric Clapton
The national Presidential election is a year away, yet the campaigning is in full swing. Actually, for President Trump it has been in full stride since November of 2016, with campaign rally travel paid for via our taxes (despite the “drain the swamp” rhetoric).
Given Trump’s narrow win in the Electoral College (and 3 million voter loss in the popular vote), he has been campaigning hard. An astute and underestimated campaigner, he is emphasizing the Rust Belt states where Biden is strong (and which Hillary ignored in 2016 to her everlasting detriment). Somehow, he has the uncanny, unique ability to make the white working class believe that a draft-dodging, lying, narcistic, immoral, spoiled billionaire truly cares for them as no one else can or does, and believe they do.
Along these lines, I recently received a social media posting from a close friend, a true hard hat from the WV/PA line who comes from a family of coal miners. He stated that he could not understand what happened to the Democratic Party of his father, an Eastern European immigrant coal miner. That the party had changed, and that is why he could no longer support those left-wing Democrats.
Interestingly, Franklin Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were the Presidents that my friend believes were the best. Both were left of center liberals, although my friend doesn’t realize it, as well as hard core Democrats.
Per the left-wing New Republic (6-4-13), Wilson “signed bills that created the Federal Reserve and progressive income tax rates, secured humane working conditions for merchant seamen and railroad workers, restricted child labor, and curbed the power of large corporations. After the U.S. entered the war in Europe, his administration began operating the railroads.”
Roosevelt was undoubtedly the most liberal, leftist President in American history. He was even called a socialist by Republican Congressmen (for good reason given his policies). Per the historian Arthur Schlesinger, “The world we live in today is Franklin Roosevelt’s world.” According to the Nation, a leading liberal publication, Roosevelt wanted a “world based on four fundamental human freedoms: Freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.”
Among his “New Deal” actions, he signed the Securities and Exchange and Glass-Steagall Acts, reforming banking and creating the FDIC and SEC. He was responsible for Congress creating the CCC, directly employing people, and having the Federal Government give cash to states for unemployment benefits. He pushed Congress to regulate agriculture and create the REA and TVA. He pressured Congress to create Social Security. These are only a few of the left-of-center actions pushed by FDR, who also wanted universal health insurance, although he never succeeded in getting enough support to get it passed into law.
Many of these ideas, as well as others of the same ilk, are now promoted by Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and others who are running for President in 2020. So, it is clear that the Democratic Party has not strayed very far from its core principle: By taking a larger role, government can improve our lives.
It is the white, blue-collar workers (especially men) who have changed, buying into the right-wing refrain that somehow the Democratic Party no longer represents them. The key question is why do they feel this way, and can the Democrats do anything to change this attitude?
In the past the Democrats have often taken this vote for granted, a key strategic mistake that helped elect Reagan and Trump, among others. Hillary not campaigning in these states didn’t help her (Podesta, be ashamed). Neither did her talking haughtily about deplorables and speaking condescendingly to out-of-work coal miners.
However, there has also been one major change in the Party since the 1940s. The Democratic Party is now rightly seen as the defender of minorities (Blacks, Hispanics, LBGTs, etc.) and women. Isn’t that also a major reason why alienated white, blue-collar men are leaving the Party?
If Biden (or another “man of the people,” like Bernie) runs against Trump, will these forgotten souls return? Or is the racial issue (i.e. white blue-collar voter bigotry and resentment) too large an obstacle? We will see as the Presidential race progresses, but so far Trump is very popular in the rust belt swing states that are vital for the Democrats.