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Last December I wrote about, counter-intuitive as it might sound given what Republicans are going through, why Democrats need to win a bigger share of the white vote. This follow-up is getting into how to win more white votes, but given that a month has passed since the first post, here's the short version of why:

  • Considering presidential elections, Obama won only narrowly, and improving on Obama's 39% of the white vote by even a few percent provides a margin of error in case Republicans have some success reaching out to what we might lump together as Democratic-leaning demographic groups (DLDGs). Succeeding at such an improvement in the popular vote will probably have some effect on the electoral college too.
  • We're losing the majority of congressional and legislative districts despite winning the popular majority (that's the case in the US House, and though I don't know about state legislative races collectively, it's true in enough states that I feel safe saying that). Our huge lead among DLDGs isn't translating into seats. If we can't improve among whites, we can't win the US House, nor most legislative chambers.
  • Why do I feel so sure we can do this, improving on Obama's 39% a few points to, say, 43%? In 2008, Obama's share of the white vote was --- 43%. That would seem to be definitive proof we can do this.

Since figuring out how to win more of the white vote is an overambitious undertaking for a blog post, let's just start with identifying the variables of our task. At least then we can start with some sense of the scope of the problem and where to start actually working on it, and the first variable that comes to mind is the exceptions.

Exceptions: OK, maybe it seems obvious there will be always be exceptions to any trend, problem, guideline, whatever, that we come up with, but sometimes we need to stop and look at exceptions to see if they really are unique, or if they tell us something. For example, in the first post, I included  this graph showing how Obama won heavily in the most densely populated precincts, but Romney won where the population is sparse:

One of the whitest and sparsest states is Vermont --- where Democrats win easily.

Did Vermont Democrats get lucky, or do something pretty smart, or some combination? I don't know nearly enough to speculate, but I do know Vermont proves that areas that are white and sparse can be won, and I know it's worth looking into how it happens there. Maybe some Vermonters can chime in with something on how they did it.

For an example I know better, Northeast Minnesota is also white and sparse, and has long been a Democratic stronghold. The area isn't as agricultural as other rural areas of the state, and the workforce is heavily unionized. Could that be the difference? We know union members vote about two-thirds Democratic. I've never seen union members broken out by demographics, so I'm going to make an educated guess that white union members vote more Democratic than white non-union members. Does that suggest anything to us? A couple things. One, white union members might be a place to start looking for white votes. Two, organizing more workers might lead to more of them voting Democratic.

Union membership: So there's a variable to consider, union membership. I'm sure every good Democrat is thinking organizing more workers is screamingly obvious and not exactly an insight. Sometimes the obvious still needs to be checked in case there's something we overlooked, like just how many white union members are voting Republican? Why are the one-third of union members who vote Republican voting for a party that wants them to stop existing? Organizing is tough and long term, but short-term, is there someplace where we're leaving votes on the metaphorical table?

Density: Next, let's get back to density and see if that graph above tells us anything. Asking whether density causes people to vote a certain way, or people who vote a certain way prefer the attributes of particular densities, or people are self-selecting somehow, got complicated. In fact, this section got so long as I was writing it that I cut it out and started a separate post, hopefully to be completed in the near future.

Even struggling for brevity, it seems worth pointing out that the graph matches the results we see in congressional and legislative elections. Democratic districts look like little blue dots on a red map almost right across the country. That, besides how many pixels it's taking me to say what I have to say, is why I'm going to try to give density its own post. For now, I'll just say that whether population density causes people to hold certain political views, whether choosing political preferences and choosing where to live happen to come from the same personality traits but don't cause each other, or whether some sort of self-selection is going on, makes a huge differences in the next questions we ask and the approaches we take. I hate giving a conclusion with little about how I got there, but nonetheless, I'm inclined to think aspects of living in different densities lead people to certain political tendencies. Whites in urban areas should be the most winnable, but also most likely already won, and they help only to win statewide --- not that winning statewide is pointless. Ask anyone living under a GOP ideologue governor elected in 2010. But we have to crack the problem of winning more sparsely populated areas to win majorities of seats, and that graph might suggest looking at districts around 800 people per square mile.

Region: By "region" I mean states, not urban, suburban, and rural differences. Obama's 39% of the white vote was just 10% in some states, but he won the white vote in other states, and even the white male vote in a few. So the problem is not uniform across the country, and the course of action is not obvious. Does getting only 10% in some states mean that's where we have to go for more votes? Are the states where we're doing the best also the states where potential voters are most persuadable and that's the opportunity? It strikes me when looking at the whole country that we need a balance of both where the opportunity is greatest, and where the strategic need is greatest. On the one hand, referring again to Vermont, Democrats already win districts, so maybe that's the best place to find persuadable white voters, but the impact is low. On the other hand, there's Texas.

Texas isn't just the second biggest prize of electoral college votes and it isn't just safely Republican; it's a must-win for Republicans. Without it, they have no realistic path to the presidency (barring finding some way to muck around with the electoral college --- not to give them ideas, but I'm amazed they haven't suggested just letting the Republican state legislatures assign their states' votes to the Republican candidate regardless of popular vote, which would be perfectly constitutional). They also get two safe US Senate seats without which their hopes of taking the Senate grow dim, and the gerrymandering of congressional districts is much of their House majority. The latter absolutely requires they hold the governor and state legislature. If Democrats could make Texas competitive, that would be a national gamechanger. Republicans would be forced to pour resources into Texas instead of using it as a piggy bank even if Democrats merely gave them a good scare. Forget about waiting for demographic changes to just happen, taking the risk a big enough percentage of DLDGs will vote Republican to keep the state red. Trying to win over enough current voters might make Texas purple an election or two sooner. It's an uphill climb certainly, but strategically, it has the biggest payoff.

But should more winnable situations with much less payoff be ignored if we're in an either/or situation? Well, good thing we're supposed to be the ones who cope better with nuance.

Religion: The takeover of the Republican Party by Christian conservatives has set up something of a feedback loop. Being Republican became identified as part of being Christian, and being Christian is part of being Republican. Liberal Christians might not agree with the need to be Republican and conservative to be Christian, but conservative Christians and Republicans seem to think those things go together, and they get to decide who joins the GOP. Non-Christians and liberal Christians are among the DLDGs, even if by virtue of being pushed out of the Republican Party rather than choosing to join the Democrats. Well, so be it. The fact Christians are still a majority of all Americans, and a majority of whites, suggests that we have to win over more white Christians, even if they're shrinking as a portion of the population. People with no religious affiliation vote Democratic already, but they're the fastest growing group, so there might still be plenty of opportunity there. If it turns out they're concentrated in heavily Democratic districts already, then we still have no alternative to trying to win more Christian votes, but one thing needs to be made explicitly clear: I do not mean to imply Democrats have to start making religious appeals for votes, but rather, trying to win the votes of voters who happen to be Christians. I wouldn't for a moment suggest that non-Christians pretend to be Christians, but I am suggesting the non-Christian vote isn't enough in most districts, and where it is enough, those are usually safely blue districts already.

Gender: Since white women are more likely to vote Democratic than white men, maybe the place to look for votes is obvious. Keep in mind though that the gender gap doesn't just mean women lean Democratic. It means men lean Republican. Sometimes, the gender gap has helped Republicans. So do we go for women's votes since that's been a better place to look so far, or should we seek a way to close up the gap on the male side?

Occupations: People in some occupations are among the DLDGs even when they're mostly white, like scientists, government workers, teachers, and artists, and I presume readers have already noticed something they all have in common: conservatives hate them. I suggest they're Democrats more because Republicans pushed them away than because they suddenly turned liberal, though I suppose being hated by conservatives would lead you to consider whether liberals are really so bad. Blue collar whites used to be a strongly Democratic group, and the fact they aren't is still hard for Democrats to wrap our heads around. If we could figure out how to win back blue collar whites, that's a lot of the GOP base gone. Doing so is clearly a big topic, so for now I'll just admit that what we're doing isn't working well enough.

Age:The Democratic lead among younger voters is partly due to younger voters being less white than older voters. Among younger whites, we're still losing, just by less than among older whites. Then again, we need just a bigger minority of whites, not a majority, so that still works for us. On the other hand, do we need to give up on older whites? For example, the photo ID for voting constitutional amendment in Minnesota failed as badly among senior citizens as other age groups. This was an amendment rather than candidate, but still, among older white voters, the Democratic position won (our older voters are so heavily white that I feel safe saying that). So it can be done.

Income: I haven't seen a cross-tabs of different income groups and race or ethnicity. As I started thinking about differences in income, I realized I've got nothing but guesses and presumptions. It seems worth asking though if rich whites vote differently than middle class or poor whites. Does each income group vote the same way regardless of where they live, and what other groups they fall into? If I had to guess, I would guess income isn't predictive of much of anything. I don't like guessing though, so best to look.

Multiple variables: A white male is actually a member of two demographic groups. A suburban white male is in three groups. A young suburban white male ... it's probably obvious where I'm going, and probably the point is obvious. Just remember that when you're trying to step back and rethink what you're doing, you have to check the obvious too just in case you've actually been forgetting it. So multiple variables is a complication without a magic formula. The message or policy that we hope wins over the young suburban white male might have a strong appeal to suburbanites, but then young people hate it. I have no solution to offer except to be sensible that this is what we're dealing with. In fact, rather than assuming undecided voters are oblivious people who somehow missed an election campaign that dominated the news for year, they could be undecided because the suburban part of their identity likes what we have to say, but the young part prefers the Republican position. In other words, an individual could be experiencing conflicting values or conflicting interests, even while being informed, and thus gets to election day unable to decide. That might explain why the Obama campaign broke down their targets for TV ads to such discrete units.

Where you live: How is where each of us lives a variable in winning the white vote? While we're discussing the macro view, and we can try to encourage those in a position to actually make strategic decisions to do one thing or the other, at a local level, we can do more than just share a link on Facebook or recommend a diary on Kos. We can become the person making decisions. Sometimes the trick is jut showing up. Even when you're looking just at your own time, we have our biggest impact at home. By time I mean we can travel to volunteer elsewhere, but you can only help with a campaign that way. You can't stay and build something like you can at home. So I'm hardly going to blame someone who devotes their time to the safe district that helps not at all to win swing districts, if the safe district is where they live. When we try to influence the people who run statewide campaigns or statewide parties, we're thinking at a large level. When you have three hours free next Thursday, you help at home. And that's fine. Nobody knocking doors in their own district should be made to feel like they're wasting their time, and you're certainly not wasting time building a local party or advocacy group where you live and therefore can keep at it. At the same time, our overall topic is winning more white voters so we can win more districts in a situation where Democrats are packed and maybe even gerrymandered. So to the extent each person has flexibility, just consider that. Maybe you live in a safe district but just over the line from a swing district. That might allow you to not just show up once or twice, but to be a volunteer who can be around for years.

It also shows the importance of local party building. If local parties are built in safe districts only, that doesn't help. It means in every other district, each campaign requires reinventing the wheel. That's short term thinking. If you do happen to be living in a red or purple district, I encourage you to focus on building the local party, hopefully building up an experienced group and broadening the base of volunteers. Be the 50-state strategy. So I guess as well as saying think local, I'm also saying think long term.

cross-posted at MN Progressive Project

11:45 AM PT: Thanks to Nightsweat pointing out another variable, which is media. Maybe it's actually an aspect of density, but media availability might actually be a variable by itself. Urban and suburban areas usually have a bunch of local TV stations, full radio dials, ready access to broadband, and large dailies and alternative weekly newspapers, while some parts of the country still have no broadband, and dial-up works fro not much of the modern internet. Many cable systems don't carry MSNBC let alone Current/Al Jazeera, but they all carry Fox News. There are few local TV channels in many places, and even few radio stations, and nothing liberal. Even some big cities have no liberal radio, not the terrestrial radio is as important as it used to be but it's far from nothing ... and everybody gets conservative radio. Good luck getting alternative weeklies much outside the urban core. So in short, people can vary widely in terms of the available media.

Originally posted to ericf on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 08:00 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  A political party needs all voters (11+ / 0-)

    A political party needs all voters and shouldn't be writing anyone off.  We all have certain issues that cut across all lines.  Jobs, healthcare, education and so on come to mind.  

  •  Well thought out. (6+ / 0-)

    The non-urban world is the missing link to increasing the Democratic agenda. The Southern/flyover/hillbilly remarks have got to stop.
     Apart from all the things you mention, one big aspect is the firearms issue. It especially effects the few rural areas that could potentially turn blue.

    "The United States is a nation of laws: badly written and randomly enforced." -Zappa My Site

    by meagert on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 10:59:07 AM PST

  •  I saw cross tabs once by income (12+ / 0-)

    it was interactive so I could cull by race, income, and age. Exit polling.

    The one demographic where Obama won a majority white,,,,was poor whites. I've forgotten if it was under 30K or 25K.

    We aren't looking for Obama phones, but we do know Obama is on our side, he always remembers how policies will affect us. Obama has been our biggest champion since Johnson.

    The numbers I looked at were for 08.

    How big is your personal carbon footprint?

    by ban nock on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 11:01:15 AM PST

  •  I stated that Dems can win back senior white (13+ / 0-)

    voters by embracing Sen. Mark Begich's (D. AK) plan to strengthen Social Security:

    Begich hails from a state with a large Senior Citizen population.  Dems, especially ones in red state, can learn from Begich.

    Funny Stuff at

    by poopdogcomedy on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 11:04:10 AM PST

  •  Media ownership (11+ / 0-)

    It's hard to own all the media in a big urban area.  It's not so hard in Podunk, MS. If you control all the inputs of information, you control the outputs of opinion.

    How do you fix that?  Net neutrality and laws that allow unbundling of cable TV channels so the norm becomes picking and choosing your media and having it delivered over the Internet.

    Encouraging faster broadband speeds nationally also assists.

    We get what we want - or what we fail to refuse. - Muhammad Yunus

    by nightsweat on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 11:05:07 AM PST

  •  Voters (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Agree very much with this post.  We need to start helping up, and appealing to, all people, not just some.  That is how the mixed economies and welfare states of all the other First World states are run.

  •  well thought out piece but (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lujane, Quicklund

    demographic changes in the following:
    1. age cohort (there's 'bout to be  a fuckton of senior citizens),
    2. ethnicity (we're 2 decades from being minority-majority) and
    3. religion (organized religion, although not necessarily belief, is in a significant decline)

    are going to change the landscape a great deal in ways that aren't so simple to quantify.

    •  Religion (7+ / 0-)

      People here totally exaggerate the decline of religion.  Just looking at stats for true blue Minnesota, Protestants and Catholics alone make up over 80% of Minnesotans and the unaffiliated are about 13%.  

      The most brilliant move taken by the campaign to defeat the anti-gay marriage amendment in Minnesota was to show respect for religious voters and to carefully and respectfully divide and conquer winning over Lutherans and avoiding antagonizing Catholics.  

      Many here could learn a lot from that movement.  Gratuitously insulting Christians and Catholics is self-indulgent and self-defeating.

      •  the rise of the "nones" is pretty significant (5+ / 0-)

        almost a quarter of all Americans and more than half of all young Americans under 35 are "none". A quarter of all Americans is roughly 77.5 million people, hardly an exaggeration.

        The vast majority of them still do still believe in a something, but it does speak to a decline in organized religion, which I actually said.

        I don't think the decline is permanent, but permanent enough that it'll have policy making decisions for the better, I think.

        relax relate release

        by terrypinder on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 12:50:42 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Depends on the state (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Lujane, MadGeorgiaDem, Quicklund

          If you're a "none" and you are young and you are urban, Democrats may have you on 3 or more factors - may work great on the east and west coast.  But as long as you still need voters from Pennsylvania through Minnesota you better be able to get votes from white religious voters.  You may not get a majority of them but you won't get a majority if you don't have them in your coalition.  You have to ask for their vote and not ridicule their religious beliefs.

    •  Just addressing point 1 (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tikkun, Lujane, Kay Observer2, milkbone

      We are seeing a increasing number and proportion of senior citizens, however, research I've seen on how aging affects voting indicates it doesn't. People develop voting habits in their first few elections and usually maintain those through their lives, rather than changing as they age. The younger skew of liberal voters isn't from people turning conservative as they age, but from older voters having been conservative all their lives. That's why winning younger voters for the last decade, and in huge numbers the last few elections, is such a big deal. It makes sense when I think back to how the dying off of the Depression generation that started voting for FDR helped bring about the conservative era. Now those young conservatives are elderly.

      The young voters Democrats have been winning have already shown a greater preference for urban life than older generations, and that's part of the self-packing we have going on. Long term we win, but short and intermediate term, we're still left winning majorities of votes but minorities of seats.

      •  maybe we should push for (0+ / 0-)

        congressional districts to all have equal populations and not be restricted to state lines.  (national non-partisan redistricting) The Senate is where the rural districts are supposed to have their clout.

    •  Is 'fuckton' a metric unit? ;) (0+ / 0-)

      Please do not be alarmed. We are about to engage... the nozzle.

      by Terrapin on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 10:15:06 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Aside from electoral considerations (7+ / 0-)

    It can't possibly be a good thing for the country to have political parties dividing up voters largely by race. I don't think I want to know the ultimate result if that trend continues.

  •  More white voters (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ban nock, tikkun, Kay Observer2, Quicklund

    Well, no argument about the basic premise- it certainly is a worthwhile goal winning over more people. I believe the Democratics are sort of getting the idea of being a real peoples party. That is aiming at economic justice even though there are sources of campaign money that will dry up. The Obama effort in 2012 did recognize the power of a populist message. If the party sticks with it and actuall fights for that message, understanding that this will mean some losses it stands the best chance of winning white workers and others who are still blinded by the prejudice and fear mongering of the other side.

  •  I'll put it out there. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    There are too damn many people of color sitting behind the president too damn often.
    I've noticed it in dozens of speeches over the years.
    Optics are very important. A camera shot is easily manipulated. Republicans turn themselves inside out to make sure they get the black guy and the hispanic woman situated right behind and to the left or right of the candidate, and we don't do a similar tactic ... why?

    •  Well, the situation was reversed for 2008 (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Chitown Kev

      and Obama campaign was criticized for limiting the number of blacks in the background.  I recall this because I live in MI and when O came to town, it was in Detroit.  And the background was orchestrated to have a few blacks and a whole lot of young white males and females.

      But yes, I agree.  While Repubs work to get that token black in the picture, Dems need to also be more aware.  It is that whole 'pictures speak a thousand words' thing.

  •  Out of state retirees dominate my local Party. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite, Lujane

    Although I have never voted for a republican in my life, and although I have worked for the Party in every election for decades, I feel hostility from the retirees because of religious, cultural, & regional factors.   It's as if there's a Democratic litmus test to pass before assuming the "privilege" of calling myself a Democrat.   I vote a straight Party ticket.   I give to Democrats at all levels.  I do grunt work for the Party.  This notion that somehow, someway, I am not a "real" Democrat is offensive and wrong headed.  In spite of that, I remain a loyal Democrat, if not a "real" Democrat in the eyes of some.

    •  Okay, I think this is important, but I can't (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lujane, Kay Observer2

      figure out what specifically is going on.  You say retirees dominate yiour local party.  That could be Florida, or Arizona or New Mexico, or some other places.  Are people doubting that you're a "real" Democrat because you're a southerner? Or rural?  Or some other reason?

      Obviously, it's self-defeating and offensive for people to disparage your Democratic identity when you've been a loyal supporter for decades.  No matter what their reasons are.  But I'd like to understand better what's going on.

      And thanks for hanging in there.

      --------------------- “These are troubling times. Corporation are treated like people. People are treated like things. …And if we ever needed to vote, we sure do need to vote now.” -- Rev. Dr. William J. Barber

      by Fiona West on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 02:09:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I think this post is really about (6+ / 0-)

    how to "do better" with white voters, to whom the Progressive policies the Democratic party has built its coalition around do not appeal. So the task as I see it would be to either be deceptive about our goals or to attempt to somehow slow the vibrancy, effectiveness or direction of those goals to cater to an ever diminishing percentage of the white race.

    Democratic values appeal to anyone with an open mind, and a lack of fear and hatred towards others who look, worship, or love differently than themselves. The white voters you think we need to "do better" with, have proven by word and deed that they can not and will not accept a society based on those values.

    Let them go to their Republican/Libertarian/traditional values/musket humping/biblical interpretation of the US constitution tar pits to die the political death they have earned.

    Let us move forward.

    •  But why wouldn't they accept it? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Judgment at Nuremberg, Lujane

      Probably because they don't see themselves as part of it.  Why don't they?  

      The OP points out that there's this idea that being Republican is somehow part of being Christian.  Could there also be an idea that being Republican is somehow part of being white?  Why not challenge that idea directly?  I sometimes get the idea that some whites vote Republican because they think it's just what you're supposed to do if you're white--which is a little different from being The White Party in a subtle way.    

      The key to the '60s was that it was a transformation in what it meant to be white, and in particular a white male.  For various reasons, that project went off course, and then was largely given up in the face of punk and in the interest of Bigger Fish To Fry in the Reagan era--a fundamentally bad choice, IMHO, because the conservative movement's sales job regarding what it means to be white has been absolutely essential to its success.  We need to pick it back up if we're going to get anywhere serious.

      (DISCLAIMER:  I'm a white guy, and very much in support of the '60s project to that extent and more, so please forgive the axe-grinding.)

      The '60s were simply an attempt to get the 21st Century started early....Well, what are we waiting for? There's no deadline on a dream!

      by Panurge on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 06:47:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think your second sentence (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        answers your first question well, and I think the second question is one that white males, as well as anyone who builds walls between themselves and other humans as a basis of self identity they later find hard to move past, must answer as well.

        They must also decide on their own how to reconcile their frustration with other people who don't seem to pay enough attention to "their" walls, or give "their" walls the same importance, even if they feel their walls are "enshrined" in their DNA, skin color, genitalia, religious book or founding government document.

        I am by no means perfect in this area, but I try to recognize when its me that has the problem, versus somebody I consider to be the other so to speak.

        Challenging someones wall of self definitions in order for them to change is futile I have found. They have to change and/or remove it because they want to.

        (disclaimer: I am mixed race with a white parent and a black parent and have decided I am neither, which tends to put me at odds with people who feel I have to decide which side of their wall I belong on.)

    •  Artfully stated (0+ / 0-)

      My thoughts too, but expressed much better.

  •  the progressive message sells if it's done right. (5+ / 0-)

    the problem with d's is we either don't know how to do it or don't seem to care (imo).  instead of telling voters what time it is, we tell them how to make a clock.

    some commenters have made the point that d's need to focus on protecting soc security & medicare, & i agree.  with the baby boomer generation ageing, ss & medicare issues are going to be even more critical than they already are & baby boomers are the biggest generation, sizewise, ever.  it's low-hanging fruit for d's.

  •  There are two components to why Dems aren't (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ruh Roh

    getting more white voters.

    The media.
    The Dems' use of the media.

    The media is complicit in the gop/wall street/big oil big lie for two reasons, mainly.
    The media is controlled by Wall Street.
    The right wing hounds and badgers the media to frame the issues to create false equivalencies and other falsehoods.

    The Dems are half-assed in their use of the media.
    They also can't get their message together.

    The fact is that every middle /working class American should have voted for Obama.

    Even upper middle class that are concerned about the sustainability of the capitalist system and Wall Street itself.

    There's basically one cure to virtually all the issues. Create jobs through investment in clean energy, energy efficency, and a 21st century infrastructure.
    This will stimulate the private sector and create unexportable jobs, cut the deficit, restore demand, restore revenue to the states, take the pressure off the social safety net, etc.

    The Dems message should be screamed by every Dem pol and voter: "GET. OUT. OF. THE. WAY. GOP!"

    The problem with pollster/wonk approaches to the "demographics" is that it categorizes, divides, pigeonholes the various demographics and searches for clever marketing to each group and emphasizes the differences.
    There may be some value to that, to some degree, but the fact is that we should be able to make a sales pitch to various demographics that includes them in the "big idea" of progress. That doesn't pit one group against another.
    There's basically two groups in America: the gop/religious right who are trying to halt/obstruct progress, and everybody else, who are beyond ready to get on with it.

    You can't make this stuff up.

    by David54 on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 04:21:18 PM PST

  •  I want to answer a ct about just leaving behind (6+ / 0-)

    close-minded whites.

    But I can’t get to it again; either my computer or the site are acting a bit wonky.  I’d already copied the key point though:

    ” Democratic values appeal to anyone with an open mind, and a lack of fear and hatred towards others who look, worship, or love differently than themselves. The white voters you think we need to "do better" with, have proven by word and deed that they can not and will not accept a society based on those values. “

    So we should just let them die out like dinosaurs while we move on.

    The commenter also says we’d have to either be deceptive or undermine our own goals in order to appeal to more white voters (perhaps particularly white working class voters, the major focus of these comments).  I reject that idea.  We should not deceive white voters, nor should we abandon our values. Nor do we need to.  There are white voters we’ll never win, but there is also a sector of white voters who will respond to our values and our view of the world – the story that Democrats tell – if we communicate that to them and make clear that they are included in that story.

    Why should we bother?  Well, don’t forget that the white working class was one of the original core constituencies of the progressive coalition in this country.  Even in the 50’s and 60’s, if you look at what white groups supported the Civil Rights movement, it was primarily progressive unions and liberal churches.

    It was in the middle twentieth century that the Democrats weakened their identification with the working class, primarily in order to develop better relations with business interests, and get some of the cash being handed out, if only to partially keep up with the Republicans.

    We also, in the 70’s to 90’s, pretty much lost the competition of media and messaging power.  You can’t effectively address white working people in, say, Kansas, when there are almost no liberal newspapers, television, or radio stations.  It’s meaningless to say that white voters in Kansas over recent decades have “proven” that they “can not and will not” accept Democratic values.  Many of them haven’t seen or heard anything but a fun-house mirror version of Democratic values for a long time.  This is a state that was flamingly radical in the late 1800’s.  Now it’s crazy reactionary.  Yet the people have not been genetically altered into right wing zombies.  The change has been social and political, and need not be eternal.

    The Republicans have worked hard to gain ground in the white working class.  They analyzed and skillfully, deliberately mirrored back working class feelings of anger, betrayed hopes, disempowerment, losing ground.  They’ve made that into a powerful story.  Which is, of course, a lie.  They don’t say, “You feel disempowered because your wages have flat-lined since the 70’s while all the gains go to the One Percent.  You feel you’re losing everything and your kids are going to be worse off, they’ll never have a good job or a pension or be able to go to college – and that’s true. But the corporations are doing very well.”  No, they say: “You’re losing ground because the government is taking your hard-earned money and giving it to people who don’t deserve it.  You feel disempowered and ignored because the liberals don’t care about you.  They want to help the special interests – black people, illegals, radical women, gays – so those groups will vote for them.  Your kid will never get a scholarship because the damned liberals will give all the scholarships to the black kids.  They think you’re just an ignorant redneck anyway, and your kid in college would be an utter waste.”

    It’s an effective story – in part because it validates real anger and fears.

    Still, there is an equally powerful – and true – story that the Democrats erratically, off and on, tell.  It’s the story of ordinary people coming together to fight for better lives for themselves and their children, and for all children. It’s a story about both reaching for what you need and reaching for justice, and it says there can be enough.  Enough jobs, enough scholarships, enough hope.  And one of the things most necessary to that story is for people to come together.  Dedicated Americans of every color, every religion, every region, are the heroes of that story.  It was told most powerfully, recently, by Michelle Obama at the convention, when she held up her black father and Obama’s white grandmother as twin beacons of unifying American values.

    This is a primal American story – often betrayed, never completely lost.  Barack Obama tells it over and over: the story of each generation reaching towards “a more perfect union.”  This is a key reason he’s gotten as many white votes as he has.  He tells that story with conviction, and he stirs something in those who hear him.

    The Obamas, obviously, can’t do it all.  It’s our collective job as white progressives to remember the fifty-state strategy, to get off the keyboards (at least some of us, at least part of the time, for god’s sake) and to tell the unifying American story to the white people who still vote Republican or don’t vote at all.  Some of them wouldn’t hear it in a thousand years.  Some of them will.

    We really don’t have the luxury of dismissing anti-Democratic whites as hopelessly morally inferior -- rednecks, morons, knuckle-draggers (I believe the technical term is “trash”) -- way beneath us politically advanced and principled people.  There are roles that naturally fall to anyone in a coalition, and one of the necessary roles of white progressives is to address white racial polarization to the extent that we can.

    Racial polarization is not good for a society.  Not only does it rob us of part of the buffer between ourselves and Republican victories; it also funnels blind, angry young white men into the Tea Party, into hate groups, into militias, into jobs in the prison industry, into state legislatures, into careers as cops, where they will shoot way too many young black and brown men.

    We may simply have votes in mind when we set out to communicate Democratic values and tell the Democratic version of the American story to anyone who will listen.  But any point we shave from the level of racial polarization will bring gains in many different ways.

    There’s more I’d like to talk about – George Lakoff and his study of how to talk about our values, the brave resiliance of people who go door to door in election season, the damned media.  Etc.  But it’s way too late and I think the comments conversation is pretty much over anyway.

    But thank you, ericf.  I think your diaries are raising important questions.

    --------------------- “These are troubling times. Corporation are treated like people. People are treated like things. …And if we ever needed to vote, we sure do need to vote now.” -- Rev. Dr. William J. Barber

    by Fiona West on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 10:01:49 PM PST

  •  Thank You (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Thanks for this series. I hope that the Democratic establishment is taking notice. Dems can't expect to perform at Obama-levels in the next election. The phenomenon of Obama's candidacy produced some reactions that are unique to him and may not be at the same level for our next presidential candidate, with the possible exception of Hillary. We should be thinking about how to attract more white voters--there is no reason why Dems should not get the majority of white votes given the popularity of our issues. For example, Romney got the majority of white senior votes in the last election. Can anyone explain to me how he could possibly carry that demographic given that Republicans would love to do away with social security and Medicare! This is just one example of how whites are voting against their own interests. Anyone can clearly see that the best chance to save social security and Medicare is with Democrats in charge.

    I think that Howard Dean was on to something with his 50 state strategy. Dems criticized him but I think he should get a lot of credit for expanding the electoral map in 2008. We have a message that could resonate in the south but we have to go after those votes. A lot of the reason behind the voting patterns is racial. Republicans exploit white resentment to keep lower income whites voting against their interests. This is why all of the hand wringing by Republicans over demographic trends are focused on Hispanics only. They know that if they do outreach to blacks they will lose their edge with white voters. They will lose some votes by actively reaching out to Hispanics too but a lot less than if they were going after blacks. So they have no choice but go after Hispanics because of the growing population. We should not kid ourselves, the Republicans can fool Hispanics just like they do seniors and low-moderate income whites if they just moderate some of their language and do something about immigration. At minimum, we should boldly go after North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Kentucky, Arizona, and Tennessee. If we could make just some of these states competitive, the GOP would have a very difficult time winning any more national elections. The best way to do this is to make a concerted effort to build the party from the bottom up in these states--you have to aggressively compete for all offices or as Dean used to say, "you have to show up!" Make no mistake about it, the GOP will figure out their existential crisis and make some adjustments--eventually. Once they figure out that they have to be more inclusive and get their media machine onboard, they will be hard to beat in the future. Just look at Chris Christie!

    •  Exactly; our version of a Karl Rove strategy (0+ / 0-)

      To permanently weaken the GOP and turn it into a regional minority party for some time to come. And a fifty state strategy will accomplish this, because it will force them to play defense in traditionally safe areas.
          And. . .in terms of the messaging, it is a lot easier to message to working class white people when you already have political power, not when you are the minority party.

      An empty head is not really empty; it is stuffed with rubbish. Hence the difficulty of forcing anything into an empty head. -- Eric Hoffer

      by MichiganChet on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 04:51:21 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  White people need to figure out what they want (0+ / 0-)

    besides white rulers and magic.  I'm sorry, but 'the free market' is magic.

    To any wingnut: If you pay my taxes I'll give you a job.

    by ban48 on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 04:26:31 AM PST

  •  Thought-provoking (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greenbell, terrypinder

    I applaud this diary for generating good discussion and raising good questions.

    Here are some thoughts.  Church attendance by state is pretty telling.  A glance at this Wikipedia articleand the corresponding map shows that the 15 states with the highest church attendance are solidly red.  In fact, 18 of the top 21 states are red.  The three exceptions in the top 21 are Iowa, Minnesota and Virgnia.

    Next, consider the distribution of denominations. One can get some sense from this map: evangelical Christians concentrate in exactly the core of the Republican base, but not in Iowa or Minnesota, where church attendance is high.  (An even more detailed set of maps is here.)

    An interesting study from Baylor University classifies Christians according the kind of God they believe in, with those believing in an authoritarian God again concentrated in the same states as the evangelical Christians.

    The role of fundamentalist Christianity in nourishing authoritarian political views is telling. Where church constitutes the primary social opportunity--for example, in small towns or even in urban areas in states like Oklahoma--this spills over into politics.  

    All of this relates back to Bob Altemeyer's research on authoritarians in US politics.

    The point I'm making here is that you may be using too broad a brush when you speak about "Christian" voters.  The problem isn't religion, it's authoritarians, the religious they choose, and the cultural, social and media influences that build and motivate this group.  It's a group that will likely never vote democratic, if Altemeyer's research is correct, since progressive values are the antithesis of authoritarian values.

    That's not to say the battle is lost.  Rural America, including Oklahoma, was firmly Democratic in the New Deal era.  Changing the media, making it less monopolistic and less charged with hate-filled rhetoric, can help.  Even missionary efforts from progressive Christian groups, founding churches in the authoritarian heartland, could help. (I can't find the source, but I believe that the Protestant denominations in the late 1800's divided up the US to better use scarce resources, in part resulting the maps we've got above.)

    Anyway, good diary.

    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. -- Arthur C. Clarke

    by mathGuyNTulsa on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 06:41:04 AM PST

    •  Catholics (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mathGuyNTulsa, RUNDOWN, fenway49

      Thanks for the maps.  They confirm my beef with so many here who non stop trash Catholics.  Look at the map!!  Wisconsin is also up there in religious adherence.  What you see in the northern middle is the result of the great German (and Scandinavian) migration.   Germans certainly can tend to the authoritarian and where they are (think Michele Bachman) they go red but like their Scandinavian neighbors they may also value efficient social welfare.   Catholics and Lutherans are not Baptists.  The cultural values are different even though they may overlap on some issues.  

      As I said above, the trick is to divide the religious voters but you have to know and respect their cultures and values well enough to know how to appeal to them.  

      •  There's Catholics and there's Catholics (0+ / 0-)

        Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut are among the most liberal states in the nation. Also the most Catholic.

        Here in New England, some Catholics are socially conservative but many people, raised Catholic, are not conservative socially or economically. I myself went through 13 years of Catholic school. Many of the socially liberal "Catholics" here are not observant these days, but still identify historically as Catholic.

        Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

        by fenway49 on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 01:54:45 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  SS, Medicare, Employment (0+ / 0-)

    Protect and strengthen SS from the corporatist Republicans and corporatist DLC Democratic "centrists/pragmatists" that want to gut it.

    Protect Medicare from the same Republicans, DLCers.

    Expand Medicare to everyone.

    Employment.  Side with workers, not bankers.  Protect and strengthen workers rights.  Stop letting Wall Street pirates get away with financial pillaging.  Hold financial wrongdoers responsible, so workers know you're on their side.

    These are core and basic economic issues, which will strengthen the appeal of the Democrats to white voters.  It seems like almost a no-brainer, obviously.  But the Democratic Party still doesn't seem to get it.  They're still far too intent on "pragmatizing" themselves out of a majority.

    What's wrong under Republicans is still wrong under Democrats.

    by gila on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 09:17:04 AM PST

  •  Disagree (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Trying to achieve a certain voting percentage in ANY demographic group is to take a measuring tool and make it one's reason to exist. It's like trying to maximize team batting average and letting wins and losses fall where they may.

    Additionally, Democrats do quite well with white women. Democrats do well with younger whites. So we are talking about tailoring our policies to attract older white males. In other words you are suggesting we adopt Republican policies. I think everyone agrees that's not the thing to do.

    How else do you expect to increase the Democratic vote share among older white males other than to offer them policies they like? And what policies to older white males prefer? GOP policies.


    They way for the Democratic Party to improve its performance among white voters is to offer the nation new policies, new thinking, new solutions. Success in governance, plus Father Time and his sidekick The Grim Reaper will take care of demographic imbalances.

    Keep our horses in front of our carts please.

    •  We're not talking about tailoring our policies (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I wouldn't, and didn't suggest tailoring policies for white males, and I didn't see anyone do that in the comments either. In fact, in this and the prior diary, I avoided getting into how to appeal. The first one was about why we need to worry about winning more of the white vote, and this one is about the variables involved, which are mostly demographic. That just gives us an understanding of the overall situation before getting into specifics. We're not going to change policies, but we might do better at realizing where we're not trying to communicate or where communication isn't working, or how we're overlooking those are policies would appeal to. The idea is to understand the problem before jumping into solutions.

      •  I just think you'll see what you hope over time (0+ / 0-)

        All Democrats need to do is stick to first principles - and govern well while in office - and demographic imbalances will settle out over time.

        As for tailoring the message to an audience. In that category, I think the communications pros are already vastly competent in that.

        As for laypeople, keeping laypeople on message is harder than herding cats. ;)

  •  Current generation Union membership (0+ / 0-)

    Never had to "fight" for their wages and benefits - and take them - along with their pensions, for granted.

    Like young women who never had to fight for things like the "right to vote".

    Complacency is the battle to be fought amongst "white" voters.

    If not us ... who? If not here ... where? If not now ... when?

    by RUNDOWN on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 10:06:05 AM PST

  •  One thing that would help that could be easily (0+ / 0-)

    done is to stop saying shitty things about white men and to stop saying shitty things about the South.  Texas could be easily taken back if we could get some help from the beltway Dems and CA Dems, DCCC, DGA, DSCC, etc.

    I have commented on this before, but I feel ignored.  I think Southern Dems should develop our own strategy and at the same time beg for money from other regions as we show progress.  We can take back Texas, but not with the help from DEm politicians here.

    This "Trickle Down" thing has turned out to be somebody pissing on my leg and tellin' me it's rainin'.

    by swtexas on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 01:49:53 PM PST

  •  It's easier than all this (0+ / 0-)

    Dems just need to do their damn job and stick up for the people, the environment and what matters and stop letting the Republicans trounce all over them.

    If Dems showed half the spine that voters do they would dominate elections but they don't. As a party they are weak willed and afraid to stand for their convictions.

    See Harry Reid and Senate Rules.

  •  This is not scientific (0+ / 0-)

    But it seems to me that, historically speaking, the New Deal Democratic coalition largely arose in response to urban issues in an industrial economy, and ethnic tensions. Immigrants in the urban north, particularly the Irish, were Democrats because that's the party that would have them. The white south were Democrats for entirely different historical reasons.

    By the 1920s this coalition was in severe tension and by the 1960s it was breaking apart. Non-white voters replaced southern whites, who in response to civil rights largely became Republicans after being Democrats since forever. Only know is that numerical tradeoff starting to work for Democrats.

    Part of the reason Dems have a smaller share of the white vote is that they lost all those southern whites but didn't pick up huge numbers of white voters in the north. They already had the urban north. In the rural north and the social clashes that led to Democratic ascendancy didn't really happen. From the days of "waving the bloody shirt," the rural North generally was Republican territory throughout, and so it remained.

    Take a look at Dave Leip's 1960 Presidential map, for example (annoying, he has blue for GOP and red for Dems). If you scroll over "Counties" to the left of the U.S. map, it doesn't look much different from the 2012 map in much of the North and West. Ohio, Michigan, Pa., Illinois, Wisconsin: Democratic in the very urban counties, all Republican in the rest. Mostly Republican in the Plains and the Rockies counties.

    You mentioned Vermont. Today it's pretty far left, but until the 1960s Vermont was among the most Republican states in the country. Since then there's been a large influx of liberals from places like NYC (the "Ben & Jerry" syndrome) and the national GOP has veered hard right, alienating more moderate Vermonters. A rare place where whites have grown more Democratic.

    Then in the 70s and 80s, with all the economic and social malaise, a lot of urban and newly suburban whites fell under Reagan's spell. They identified Democrats and liberals as the cause of social problems (I'd argue mostly wrongly), and their new GOP identity stuck for a while. I think many of those voters are coming back to the Dems after the Bush debacle and the rise of the Tea Party crazies.

    Republicans...think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it. Harry S. Truman

    by fenway49 on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 02:16:10 PM PST

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