Summary of a long post: politics to follow. Move on if it isn’t your thing.
In trying to understand how the USA arrived at the shitshow that Donald Trump and the Republican Party represent, I’ve started reading alternative news sources like
Fox News to compare with my usual rational source of the New York Times. I call it “Know thy enemy”, and I hope it will help me understand why so many people could vote against their own self interest for such an obvious moron. Part of the reason was the widespread hatred of Hillary – some of whom were clear sexists, but some also just didn’t believe she represented their interests. That still doesn’t explain why the Republican party holds both houses of Congress, and this should be our focus in the lead up to the 2018 election.
I have serious concerns that the Democratic party is headed down it’s own rat hole in pursuit of a progressive agenda that doesn’t have as much support as my fervent friends seem to believe. I previously gave the example of immigration, which I think mostly comes down to the difference between “illegal immigration” and “legal immigration”. Newt Gingrich thinks it is something that can allow Republicans to win, and we should beware of this. The Democratic party seems to have a blind spot on that issue – but also on other issues.
I recently came across two interesting articles on this. First, the New York Times opinion piece pointing out the wide gender disparity between support for the parties. Trump won among males, while Hillary won among females – by pretty wide margins. Moreover, this gap extends to the parties themselves, and there is some evidence that the gap is widening. A 2017 Pew study suggested that men prefer smaller government with fewer services, while women prefer the opposite. Another study found that men favor going to war to resolve disputes more than women do. This is actually my biggest objection to US foreign policy, and has been since the Vietnam war.
There are several ways to act upon this information. One way is to “double down on women”, the same way that Hillary tried to double down on the black vote. Another way is to try and understand what motivates men to favor Trump, and address some of their concerns. We would never win over all the racists and nazis, but elections are usually won by putting together coalitions who feel that their needs are better represented. In that light, it’s also interesting to read the transcript of a podcast from the Cato Institute, where they try to break down Trump voters into five different groups. I know that some of my friends will recoil in horror from the Cato Institute, since it was largely funded by the Koch brothers and represents the purest form of libertarianism. Just try to read the report and see if it offers any useful insight to understand the motivation. The poll might be flawed, but I found a lot of insight from it.
The first group of Trump voters was called the American preservationists (20%), and one issue that they are concerned about is immigration. I think we could win over some of them if we face the issue of legal vs illegal immigration, because they are largely working class and are being hoodwinked by the Republicans. They are the biggest group to think about.
The second group is the free marketers (25%). They just want small government, and this is the classical conversative/liberal divide on which I think the Democratic party has little to offer except possibly by controlling defense spending (e.g., the Afghanistan war that is leading nowhere).
The third group is the anti-elites (19%). I understand these the least, but they dislike it when people talk down to them. They probably hated Hillary’s connection to Goldman Sachs, and think Trump is a self-made man so he gets a bye.
The fourth group is the staunch conservatives (31%) – both social and economic. It’s possible that we might win some over by showing that Republicans are the ones who keep mushrooming the debt, but it’s a stretch.
The fifth group is disengaged (5%). They aren’t that motivated or informed, but if they vote, they vote on gut reaction to the candidates. The best way to appeal to them is probably to look less threatening. They share something in common with unmotivated democrats who lose interest in the candidate or the causes that the party is advancing. Every time I hear appeals to “people of color”, I wonder how white American preservationists would think about it. The Democratic party needs to lose the focus on identity and focus on real issues. Those issues might statistically matter more for people of color, but by identifying it as their issue, we exclude others who might care about the issues. It’s not about gender, race, age, or even class.
In the end I think it comes down to having a clear message on immigration and economic issues. We should stop wringing our hands on sexism and racism and religious bigotry – those people are unlikely to be swayed to the Democratic party, but they don’t really define why the Republicans are winning. The voting public is much more nuanced. Let’s grow the party rather than defining it narrowly.