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Progressive Strategy for the White Working Class
Tuesday, July 21 2015

Two months ago, a number of progressives who are part of a group called the TDS White Working Class Roundtable gathered under the auspices of The Democratic Strategist and the Washington Monthly to discuss a strategy paper I authored. The group, moderated by Ed Kilgore, included Ruy Teixeira, John Judis, Mark Schmidt, Joan Walsh and Karen Nussbaum, as well as a number of other respected political strategists.

The members of this roundtable group share two central convictions: first, that Democrats urgently need to win more white working class votes if Democrats are going to create a stable Democratic majority in America and second that this goal can be sought without having to compromise a solid progressive agenda or alienate members of the Obama coalition.

And my discussion paper proposed a specific, poll tested strategy for taking a significant step in this direction. Based on Democracy Corps massive database of poll results and focus group research, I have found that a substantial group of white working class people—and white working class women in particular—would be open to an impressive range of progressive policies if the massive suspicion and hostility toward government that many white working class people feel could be overcome.

In the course of its discussions, members of the Roundtable group made the following specific recommendations about how you and other Democratic candidates in 2016 can overcome these obstacles and reach white working class Americans, which the Democratic Strategist has compiled in a new must read strategy memo:

  1. An agenda of government reform has to come before, not after, the presentation of a progressive platform.
  2. A government reform agenda must include not only populist measures to reduce the control of big money and corruption but also improvements in government systems and structures to actually make government more genuinely representative of the average citizen.
  3. Progressive policies must be “Loud and Clear” and not get bogged down in details.
  4. Progressive proposals must show that Democrats understand the complex reality of today’s new economy.
  5. Democrats must recognize the political implications of the changing social values of young workers.
  6. Racial attitudes do present a significant obstacle to Democrats in winning the support of white working class voters—but not enough to prevent Democratic candidates from winning the number of votes that they really need.

Read the full Democratic Strategist memo here.