May not care much for Those People: Based on last month's election disaster, is it possible that Democrats should pay more attention to the circumstances, needs and experiences of white working class voters?
Would that make sense from a political perspective? Would it make sense as a matter of basic fairness, humanity, decency?
It seems to us that the answers are yes. That said, we're amazed by the hostility that seems to pour forth in some quarters when such bland suggestions are advanced. Consider yesterday's post by the irate Josh Marshall.
In fairness, Josh seems to have scribbled the post in such haste that its meaning isn't entirely clear. That can happen when very smart people decide to become business moguls.
That said, Josh had watched a (very) short segment on CNN; it seemed to leave him disgusted. As he started his post, he gave this basic account of what he had seen:
MARSHALL (12/19/16): I was just watching a brief segment on CNN about, among other things, the future of the Democratic party. The Daily Beast's Patricia Murphy was one of the two panelists. And it was, frankly, embarrassing.Links to the actual CNN transcripts are offered below.
Murphy said in so many words that Democrats aren't able to move forward because they have no theory of why they lost and in many cases think they actually won (because of the popular vote). "So when you have that kind of an attitude going forward there's very little soul searching, very little effort to look inside and say what do we need to say and do differently in order to get more people to win? They're writing off a large portion of the electorate as a group of people they don't even want."
So far, we're not sure why Murphy's statement would be "embarrassing," at least not in the way Marshall meant. Some people have perhaps been a bit cavalier about the import of Clinton's win in the popular vote. Beyond that, we think some liberals and progressives are perhaps a bit inclined to "write off a large portion of the electorate"—that is, the white working class—"as a group of people they don't even want."
We thought that attitude seemed to be present in Professor Dyson's piece in this weekend's Sunday Review. So far, we don't see what's so hideously wrong about what Murphy is said to have said.
That said, Murphy's remarks seemed to have Marshall upset. As he continued, he produced a great deal of thunder, though perhaps not a great deal of light:
MARSHALL (continuing directly): I listen pretty closely to what Democrats say and if anything I hear more "throw the baby out with the bathwater" talk in terms of targeting working class white voters in the industrial Midwest than writing off whole portions of the electorate. This whole riff was, I think, a good example of why Democrats generally should do as much as they possibly can to ignore this kind of gilded DC-centric pablum. It also points our attention to why how the Democrats move forward is actually more complicated than a lot of people really get, a lot more complicated than a lot of commentators want to get.We're still not entirely sure what that means. Would Democrats be "throwing the baby out with the bathwater" if they decide to "target working class white voters in the industrial Midwest?" Is that what Marshall was saying?
The name-calling there is unmistakable; the analysis is still unclear. In fairness, we'll assume Marshall had important balance sheets to return to. But later in his post, his meaning seemed a bit more clear—and to us, a good deal more puzzling:
MARSHALL: The fact that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by almost 3 million votes makes it very hard to see the 2016 election as a referendum on the Democratic party or Democratic governance or a rejection of either. This isn't just a matter of salving hurt feelings or looking on the bright side. The import is more concrete and unforgiving. All politics involves trade-offs. One bundle of issues gets you one coalition of voters. If you toss that bundle overboard you'll probably lose some or possibly a lot of the voters you have. That's difficult when you're still pretty close to winning majorities of votes. It's especially tough when you're actually already winning majorities, at least of the two party vote. (This does not even get into the infinitely consequential issue of the political morality of potentially abandoning your most vulnerable and political loyal supporters.)To us, that's just very strange. It sounds like Marshall is assuming that Democrats will "lose a lot of the voters they have"—will even be tweaking "the political morality of potentially abandoning their most vulnerable and political loyal supporters"—if they decide to care about industrial workers in coal country and the Rust Belt who have seen their jobs and their communities going up in smoke.
By the way, those industrial workers have children. Is there some reason why liberals and progressives shouldn't care about them?
We have no idea why sympathy for some struggling group would represent the abandonment of some other group. Is Marshall perhaps expressing the very attitude Murphy was talking about? If not, we don't know an emerging lefty mogul when we bow to one.
Marshall is making the money now, so let us help him here. There are children all through the Midwest who see their family incomes going away. There is no reason why a progressive party, or a decent person, shouldn't care about that.
What is Marshall talking about here? Is he imagining that black voters will be lost to Democrats if Democrats show concern for these white voters too? It sounds like that may be what he's talking about. If so, we'll suggest he may not understand the moral depth of this country's "black" population.
We have no clear idea what Marshall was saying in this post. By the time he'd finished, he had returned to the name-calling—and he seemed to be throwing those children away again:
MARSHALL: There is a huge amount of work for Democrats to do. But a key part of that work is resisting the demand from the supercilious center that Democrats don sackcloth and ashes and repent of their ideals and even of themselves. Demography and ideology are critical. But require a politics and relentless organizing to give them force. That is where Democrats should be focusing their attention.Marshall has perhaps grown too great to understand these matters. Speaking very slowly, let us try to explain:
Progressives aren't donning sackcloth and ashes, let alone repenting of their ideals, if they look for ways to take the side of children whose families are in trouble.
Josh sounds a bit like the mine owner here, not much like the coal miner's daughter. Or is that too crude a reference for our emerging high tech upper class?
Tomorrow: Professor Dyson tackles race and class
To peruse the CNN transcripts: Murphy's brief segment with Carol Costello starts at the end of this CNN transcript.
Their brief conversation continued from there. For the supercilious remarks which inflamed Marshall so, you can just click here.