Strangely, Republicans are repeating Democrats greatest mistake of the last half century. That mistake is to give voters nothing.
In recent years, Republicans have made enormous gains among certain groups such as working-class whites and Hispanics. For example, registered Republicans now outnumber registered Democrats in the white, rural, working-class state of West Virginia.
Notably, 11 West Virginia counties switched from Democrat to Republican in 2020, the Associated Press estimates. Hence, 24 of West Virginia’s 55 counties are now Republican majority. Consequently, Shelley Moore Capito became the first Republican US Senator reelected in West Virginia since 1907.
Similarly, Pew Research estimates 57% of whites without a college degree identified as Republicans in 2019. Hence, there is some truth to the idea that Republicans are winning the working collection.
Democrats do nothing for the Working Class
The conventional wisdom is that the working class is voting Republican because the Grand Old Party (GOP) reflects their values. I disagree, I cannot believe a party that fights for billionaire tax cuts reflects working-class values.
Instead, my belief is that Democrats are losing the working class because they have done nothing for working families in over 50 years. To explain, working-class Americans voted Democratic because Democrats, such as Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) and Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ), did many things for the working class.
For example, LBJ created Medicare and Medicaid, passed the Voting Rights Act, and increased Social Security. Meanwhile, FDR created Social Security and expanded unionization during the New Deal.
Giving the Voters Nothing
Working-class Democrats did not vote for LBJ, FDR, and John F. Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) because those guys shared their values.
No, they voted for those men because of what they did for the working class. Does any believe wealthy Harvard men such as FDR and JFK represented the working class? Of course not.
Conversely, Democrats have done nothing for the working class since LBJ’s Great Society. Since then Bill Clinton (D-Arkansas) promised single-payer health insurance but delivered trade deals, outsourced jobs, and welfare cuts. Similarly, Barack Obama (D-Illinois) promised single-payer health insurance and delivered a giveaway to the health insurance industry.
I think the real reason many working-class people are voting Republicans is to fuck the Democrats who do nothing for them, not because of culture war. To explain, working-class Americans voters face a choice between parties they know will do nothing for them.
However, one party (the Democrats) will disrespect the working class and its values. Another party (Republicans) will pretend to respect workers’ values. Predictably, the working-class votes for the party that pretends to respect its values.
Republicans repeat Obama and Clinton’s mistakes
Now Republicans are repeating Obama and Clinton’s mistakes. For example, the last Republican President Donald J. Trump’s (R-Florida) only legislative success was a $1.9 trillion tax cut that benefits the rich and corporations. Trump achieved no part of his agenda beyond a half-hearted attempt to start construction on the Wall.
Predictably, Trump lost reelection in 2020. In contrast, the last Republican President to win reelection and the popular vote was George W. Bush (R-Texas). Bush signed a massive Medicare expansion; the bill that gave Medicare drug coverage to 40 million seniors,into law on 8 December 2003. Less than a year later, Bush won the Presidential election with a majority of both the popular vote and the Electoral College.
Bush won because he did something for ordinary Americans and the working class. Trump lost because he did nothing for ordinary Americans and the working class. Obviously, the patrician Bush did not share working-class values, yet the working class voted for him as they voted for FDR.
Why the Republican Workers Party will Fail
My prediction is that the efforts to create a Republican Workers Party will fail because the GOP plans to do nothing for workers.
Instead, they will use the Republican playbook we saw in the Trump administration. That playbook is to double down on Paul Ryan style fiscal conservatism to please the donors while ramping up the culture war to fool voters.
Hence, the Trump administration’s moves were straight out of the Obama-Clinton playbook of doubling down on left-wing culture war while embracing extreme neoliberal economics. For example, Clinton never met a free trade deal he did not sign and Obama refused to help the American middle class after the trauma of 2008.
Yet both men got more and more woke as they spent time in the White House. For example, the Obama of 2008 opposed Gay Marriage. In a few years, Obama was lighting up the White House in rainbow colors and celebrating the legalization of gay marriage.
Similarly, the Trump of 2016 rarely discussed culture war issues. The Trump of the 2020 campaign was all culture warrior, and little else. For instance, Trump’s refusal to wear a mask at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and his rush to nominate Supreme Court justices.
Politics without the Working Class
I predict the Republican Worker’s Party will be a miserable failure because it will do nothing for the working-class.
Similarly, my long-term suspicion is that most of the American working class will abandon politics because politicians are doing nothing for them. I suspect we are moving towards an electoral system where most voters will be affluent and educated or single-issue extremists (think gun-rights advocates).
Hence, we will have a political system that deliberately excludes the working class through a combination of benign neglect and voter suppression. I don’t know how that system will work, but I predict it will be both undemocratic and unsustainable.