Reassessing the Constituency of the Democratic Party

Editorial, The Week in Review – Analysis, Commentary, Opinion

02.04.2017

 

For nearly the entire twentieth century the Democratic Party has been identified with labor unions, farmers, the working class, the marginalized and the poor.

 

In my home state, Minnesota, the Democratic Party is known as the DFL, Democratic Farmer Laborer Party, just to make this more connection with its constituency more explicit.

 

For the last fifty to sixty years the Democratic Party has also been known for its commitment to human rights, civil rights, the rights of minorities, and the rights of women.

 

Just about thirty years ago, with the election of Bill Clinton, the Democratic Party began to shift. It developed favorable relationships with banking, promoting big business and multi-nationalism, democrats became “free-traders.”

 

The Democratic party has, for the most part, retained the loyalty of Labor unions through this transformation, even though some of those trading policies significantly hurt the American manufacturing sector. As free trade expanded, many jobs left the United States for Foreign markets. Whole communities dissolved, and faded away.

 

On the macro scale, our trade policies have been good for the United States. We are exporting more goods. Jobs have been created in other sectors to make up for the jobs we lost. Employment is up, inflation is down, wealth is up…but the wealth gap has grown.

 

Most economists, those without an axe to grind, will tell you that those policies have been neutral, but that is small comfort to those who have had to rearrange their lives because their jobs and their homes and their town disappeared.

 

In the last couple of election cycles many democrats have suffered at the poles. One thing you hear from the critics is that democrats no longer know how to speak to their constituency, they need to re-establish their relationship with the unions, the laborers, and the farmers. The Democrats need to recover their ability to speak to the working class, to rural Americans.

 

I am calling this logic into question.

 

Democrats need to be the party of the majority/minorities, whether there are laborers, chefs, farmers, servers, artists, doctors, lawyers, or bankers.

 

Democrats need to be the party of women, no matter where they live.

 

Democrats need to be the party of science, of criminal justice reform, of civil rights.

 

Democrats can forget about the white rural factory worker, the white rural factory farmer, the protectionist, English language only, NRA member.

 

We do not need them, we do not need to twist ourselves into knots trying to speak their language.

 

Republicans began to master the art of getting that constituency to vote against their self interest in the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s. Through the Christian right, and now the Tea Party, that group is lost to us.

 

I watched my own father, a Republican, become the president of his union, just so that he could tear it apart, weaken it, and make it ineffectual. There are many unions that remain the natural allies of the democrat party, but there are many other unions who have been co-opted by the right, and actually work against the interests of their membership.

 

All of these relationships need to be run through a gamut of discernment.

 

Teachers unions, nurses unions, hospitality sector unions, the unions of educated para-professionals, skilled labor, and artists, these are the unions we need to support. We need to support the unions with higher concentrations, of women and the majority/minorities that is the future of America.

 

The Democratic Party must give up the prospect of trying to bring in the no-nothings of the right wing, the climate change deniers, the evolutionary science deniers, those who believe that America is a Christian nation, those who want to control the bodies of women.

 

That constituency is lost to us.

 

Our new constituency is urban, intellectual, artistic, technological, and professional.

 

Embrace it.

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