The Path To Victory Goes Through ‘Progressive Deplorables’

Before I get to a superb article by Briahna Joy Gray, it’s worth noting some inconvenient truths (to use a phrase) about the Democratic voting population:

The most optimistic reading of this is that at least one out of five Democrats are racist–and that estimate includes black people (I’m assuming most don’t believe these things; i.e., the denominator should be smaller). I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that one in four Democrats is racist–which admittedly is better than Republicans, especially once the Trumpists are factored in. We, too, have our deplorables.

As Kweku notes, however, these racists are still willing to vote for Democrats in spite of and in opposition to their racism. Figure out why they do so, and then do more of that.

More from some asshole with a blog:

Turns out new data support this finding (boldface mine):

The biggest yawning gap between Democrats and Republicans is on the issue of motivation and will power. The GSS asks whether African Americans are worse off economically “because most just don’t have the motivation or will power to pull themselves up out of poverty?”

A majority — 55 percent — of white Republicans agreed with this statement, compared to 26 percent of white Democrats. That’s the biggest gap since the question was first asked in 1977 — though the gap was similar (60-32) in 2010.

This isn’t some sort of hidden bias, it’s just pretty fucking racist. And then:

The survey also asks people to rate the races on how hard-working or lazy they are, which allows us to compare whether people rate some higher than others.

In this case, 42 percent of white Republicans rated African Americans as being lazier than whites, versus 24 percent of white Democrats.

Pretty racist. Finally:

In this case, 26 percent of white Republicans rated African Americans as less intelligent, compared to 18 percent of white Democrats.

Pretty much defines racist.

If you haven’t already blown a gasket, I’m not going Full Metal Ron Fournier and claiming ‘both sides do it’: clearly, one side does it much more than the other. Moreover, the Republican Party is dog whistling, not to mention air-raid sirening, to racists, while the Democratic Party openly espouses anti-racist policies (always could do more, but there is a difference in kind here).

If the Democratic racists stayed home, Democrats would be hard pressed to win 100 House seats (out of 435), and maybe control governorships in five states (no way Democrats reach ten). Of course, if all racists stayed home, Democrats would run the table on Republicans. The point is not to pander to the racists, but figure out why they are voting Democratic in spite of their racism….

To win back states and thereby help Democratic strongholds, Democrats have no choice but to convince these voters to show up (or at least not vote Republican).

Finally, one more point: often the argument is phrased as ‘appealing to racists’, as if this doesn’t happen. Democrats already do appeal to some racists, in spite of their racism. Yes, I would like the scourge of racism to be eradicated, but that’s kind of a long-term project–think pulpits, not politics, for that. In the meantime, the question is do we want racists to vote for or against their racism?

The question pretty much answers itself.

Anyway, let’s outsource this to Briahna Joy Gray (boldface mine):

One particularly revealing study, by the political scientists Edward Carmines and Geoffrey Layman, suggests that, regardless of their racial attitudes, Republican voters are unlikely to support government programs. But while Democrats in general view such programs more favorably, those who express antagonistic attitudes toward blacks are much less likely to support government programs if they are framed in racial terms.

In other words, racial signaling isn’t likely to have much of an effect on the Republican base — they are already ideologically predisposed to reject government help for the problems of minorities. But it does have an effect on those voters who would support progressive policies if not for their racial animus. It’s the “progressive deplorables” in our midst who are the real problem — at least from an electoral perspective.

And there are a significant number of progressive deplorables, as evidenced by the 25 percent of Hillary voters who believe that black Americans are more lazy than whites. Although the Reuters/Ipsos poll, which showed that an even greater percentage of Trump voters held racist attitudes, was used as proof that Trump voters were beneath political notice, no one has suggested that the Democratic “deplorables” be purged from the party, and with good reason: Democrats can’t afford to leave those votes on the table. Of course, some people are forever beyond the party’s reach, but that’s no reason to abandon all efforts to secure those swing voters whose support helped win elections in 2008 and 2012, but who, in 2016, gave the presidency to Trump. (I suspect this is what Steve Bannon had in mind when he claimed: “[T]he longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”)

Given the progressive deplorables, we have to be smarter about how we approach race in the context of electoral politics:

But given this political reality, progressives should think hard about whether it’s good strategy to make black faces the singular mascot of a broader and more inclusive movement. Race is an important factor in this narrative, but centering it exclusively risks shifting focus away from those voter concerns that politicians can actually control. Personal prejudice, unfortunately, is not one of them.

And yet the tacit prescription offered by some Democrats to remedy the ills of white identity politics is, inexplicably, to double down on identity-based messaging. Some Democrats even take this so far as to argue that the party should not reach out to Trump voters at all because they are racist —- advocating by implication that we cede those voters completely to the right. This is where identity politics, despite its benefits, has the potential to be most dangerous….

Economic justice isn’t a panacea. Criminal-justice reform, immigration, and voting rights, for example, are all crucial progressive issues rooted in identity which would become less visible if we didn’t “see race.” But without a strong class-based argument, Democrats will be left to rely on the twin engines of demographic change and racial solidarity to win in the future. Unfortunately, neither is reliable

And as depressed voter turnout among African-Americans and Latinx voting trends suggest, all Americans, regardless of color, need a principle to vote for, not just an enemy to resist [Mad Biologist: Yup]. For those living on the margins, incremental change is a life sentence to inhumane conditions, and Democratic candidates whose biggest selling point is being not as-racist-as-the-next-guy are unlikely to secure the voter investment Democrats need in 2018 and 2020. Simply put, relying on identity alone is a bad bet.

It is naive, not to mention plain wrong, to think that Democrats ‘don’t appeal to racists’: we already do. But we do so in spite of and in opposition to their racism. Figure out how to do that better and we can take back not just the White House but state and local governments too.

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1 Response to The Path To Victory Goes Through ‘Progressive Deplorables’

  1. Thornton Hall says:

    Where is the empirical evidence that connects self-reported survey data and voting behavior?

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