Memo to Democrats: Wise up


In 2016, the Democrats had a great chance to hold the White House and take the Senate, and they blew it. One of many ways they blew it was their abysmal showing among white voters without a college degree. Hillary Clinton lost that demographic group by almost 40 points, which is 14 points worse than Barack Obama did in 2012.

I come from a white working-class background. I’ve spent most of my professional life covering politics here in deep-red Georgia. And if Democrats aren’t reaping many votes from that group, it’s in part because they abandoned both their message and that audience.

So here’s a few thoughts on how to change that:

1.) If you wait until the campaign season to start outreach to these voters, forget it. In the overheated, increasingly tribalistic atmosphere of an election, trying to change minds or alter loyalties is all but hopeless. So take some of the enormous resources expended in campaigns and invest them much earlier, as in right now, in a sustained, issue-driven outreach that speaks to real needs and real problems.

2.) You had a message, but you let Donald Trump steal it from you. Take it back, then beat him about the head with it, figuratively speaking, because he more than deserves it.

Trump won because he didn’t shy from engaging in what Republicans in any other year would decry as class warfare. He raged against the elites, he promised to defend the little guy against a system that is rigged against him. He promised to defend social programs and take on Wall Street. But now that he is in office, he has done the exact opposite. The very Wall Street insiders whom he used to attack have now been handed control of the U.S. economy. The fat cats are getting fatter. Goldman Sachs stock is up $70 a share since Election Day, because he is giving them all they could ever dream of getting.

So tell people that, now, while they can watch it taking place. Tell these voters that Trump and other Republicans are taking their health insurance away so they can finance tax cuts for the rich, because that’s exactly what they’re doing. Explain how the refusal to expand Medicaid has put rural hospitals out of business and forced doctors to relocate to larger communities where they can actually get paid. Remind them of the meth and opiate epidemics ravaging their towns, and the fact that Medicaid could help pay for the drug treatment programs that might save their child’s life.

Remind them as well that Medicaid pays the bill for two-thirds of the elderly in long-term care in Georgia. Ask them to imagine their lives if Medicare and Social Security are privatized. On trade, remind them that Mexico and China are two of our biggest export markets for agricultural products, and that a trade war will gut rural economies.

3.) These voters are not going to come to you looking for information, not in this divisive political climate. If they’ve retreated into their own little information bubbles, follow them there. You can buy your way into their bubble, and you can do so pretty cheaply. As the old saying goes, put the hay where the cows can reach it.

Buy ads on the likes of Rush Limbaugh’s radio show and other talk-radio formats in rural and small-town markets; buy time on Fox News in small cable systems. Advertise on county music stations and Christian stations, and if you do so, honor your audience.

You cannot reap what you never attempt to sow.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

Opinion: Alabama rolls toward a high-stakes skirmish

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — But for the bomb, the four would be in their 60s, probably grandmothers. Three were 14 and one was 11 in 1963 when the blast killed them in the 16th Street Baptist Church, which is four blocks from the law office of Doug Jones, who then was 9. He was born in May 1954, 13 days before the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board...
Opinion: You’re not worried enough about judicial appointments

You are not worried enough. Granted, that may seem a nonsensical claim. Assuming you don’t belong to the tinfoil hat brigades who consider Donald Trump the greatest thing to hit 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue since Abraham Lincoln left for the theater, you’ve spent the last year worrying as much as you know how. There has certainly been no shortage...
Opinion: “The works I’ve done ….”

We lost the great Sharon Jones a year ago tomorrow, after a long and heroic battle against cancer. Before her departure, however, the Georgia-born Jones left us with this, a cut off her new, posthumously released album “Soul of a Woman.” In an interview shortly before her death, she referenced her fondness for a gospel classic...
Opinion: Hospice care helps make every day count

There are two things certain in life, death and taxes. We talk a lot about taxes, but rarely talk about death — or the dying process. Most people, especially people of faith, don’t fear death. They fear the dying process. They fear being in pain and having other symptoms, such as nausea or shortness of breath. They fear dying alone and...
Opinion: A humble suggestion to improve our politics
Opinion: A humble suggestion to improve our politics

AP File Photo / J. Scott Applewhite Angels do not govern men, a fact we face more and more often. The U.S. Senate this week alone featured one member who may face an ethics investigation (Robert Menendez of New Jersey, whose corruption case ended in a mistrial ), one...
More Stories