How do we change hearts and minds?

In a postmortem shortly after the November elections, Harper’s writer James Marcus wrote:

“… it would be a fatal mistake to assume that every Trump supporter is a closet Klansman….if Democrats clamber up onto the higher ground of moral superiority, from which vantage point their opponents are bound to appear very small, and no more worth addressing than an ant colony, they will keep losing elections for a long time.”

Nearly two months after the election, I’m weary of the “how could this happen?” posts and the tendency to point out how out of touch with reality many voters are.

Such angst will not change anything. It’s clear we can’t shame them into supporting a progressive economic agenda. We need to urge the Democratic Party to reach out to those Trump voters who may have voted for Obama in the past or who voted for Trump out of frustration with the establishment. After all, their frustrations over the unavailability of living wage jobs, which play out not only in their vote for Trump but their increasing addiction to opiates, are similar though not identical to other disenfranchised groups Democrats usually support.

Progressives have failed to communicate how their policies would help rural and unskilled voters who no longer can find gainful employment. Not only the party needs to reach out to them, we voters need to reach out to them, and certainly that includes through social media. Whether personally or online, we’ll find plenty of Trump voters whose feet are cemented in an alternate reality. Once we see that nothing can come of engagement, we can move on. But there will be those who will engage constructively. If we (and the party) can convince them that we “feel their pain” and want to help, maybe they will not be Trump voters next time. We needn’t change the minds of all Trump voters, just a few thousands that made the difference.

I’m trying to figure out how I can make difference. There’s got to be more that posting on Facebook. Is it joining the local Democratic Party? Are there progressive groups that focus on reaching out to rural voters and dissatisfied unskilled workers? Are there Congressional members who we need to support and promote as willing to reach out to rural voters?

What can we do?

Trump’s legions

It’s very quiet at our house. Karla and I don’t know what to say to one another. We are devastated and depressed.

There is more than Trump’s victory to be depressed about. It is widely assumed that time and demographics are on the Democrats’ side. The thought is that the shrinking proportions of white voters bodes well for the assembled minorities with somewhat liberal tendencies. But this election proved the impotence of the white voter is still in the future. And it may be a distant future.

After all, our voting turnout is still embarrassingly low. The white working class may be a shrinking subset of voters, but there are a lot them that don’t vote. Trump proved what can happen when they are energized to vote.

And there are still more of them who didn’t vote this year. Over the past three presidential elections a little less than 60% of working class whites voted, 40% did not. That means if a candidate can propel even a small percentage of those non-voter to the polls and win them handily, the rainbow coalition is in danger, even if the Democrat hits his or her numbers..

Which is exactly what Trump may have done. Early estimates are that voter turnout was near a record, up 4.7% over the last presidential race, according to USA Today or was lower than expected, according to unreliable exit polls. So even as that white working class demographic, which is also older, dies off, there are still more non-voters to attract to the polls.

And those angry working class white voters will be with us for a while. As the old ones die off, there will be new ones to take their place, as the underemployed working class continues to grow.