Democrats Must Win Back Working-Class Voters

Democrats Must Win Back Working-Class Voters
AP Photo/Nick Ut, File
Democrats Must Win Back Working-Class Voters
AP Photo/Nick Ut, File
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Our nation is less than a year away from voters heading to the polls to either change the direction of our country or reelect President Donald Trump. Regardless of who Democrats nominate as our candidate, one question must remain top of mind among party strategists – how do we win back working-class voters? 

It’s an important question to ask as Democrats’ support among white, working-class voters has been on the decline since 2008. This was fully evident during the 2016 election when Donald Trump was propelled into the White House by winning these voters in key states such as Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.   

It may seem obvious that our party is on the right side of issues that working-class Americans care deeply about, especially given many of Trump’s failed policies and actions during his years in office. These range from his administration rolling back regulations that protect worker pay and safety to nominating anti-worker individuals to key positions at the U.S. Department of Labor and the National Labor Relations Board. But the failure of Democrats to deliver on key issues for working-class voters, including labor law reform and card check legislation, also played an instrumental role in driving working-class voters away from the Democratic Party over the past few years. 

Recent actions by some Democrats have not helped our party gain traction with this bloc of the electorate. We can see an example of this in California, where a rising Democratic star, state Rep. Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, has received national media attention regarding her pro-union record and alleged support for farmworker rights. However, farmworkers in the state recently launched a six-figure ad campaign to highlight how Gonzalez Fletcher opposed legislation that would have given them more collective bargaining rights. 

Furthermore, the Democratic-led California Agricultural Labor Relations Board refused to honor the votes of these workers, ignoring the voices of thousands who had voted to decertify the United Farm Workers union. The ALRB kept those votes locked away for over five years while farmworkers protested. It wasn’t until after an appellate court in California overruled the ALRB that they were finally forced to allow the vote totals to be announced. To make the optics on this situation even worse for Democrats, it was a Republican lawmaker who ended up proposing legislation to assist these farmworkers.  Such duplicity has not gone unnoticed. Many unions have been taking their time before endorsing a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. One union leader in Nevada recently stated, “At the end of the day, the candidates aren’t speaking about issues of how people survive,” resulting in many unions slow-rolling endorsements for Democratic candidates this election cycle. 

Thankfully, party leaders in key battleground states, like Pennsylvania Rep. Conor Lamb, are ringing the alarm bell, urging the 2020 presidential candidates to champion working-class issues. Even AFL-CIO leader Richard Trumka, head of the largest union in the country, highlighted how Democrats have some work to do when it comes to winning over working-class voters. “More often than not, the Republican Party is bad for workers,” he said. “This president is bad for workers. But let’s be honest about the Democratic Party’s record.”

Such candor is a good start. However, if we expect to win back the White House in 2020, it is ultimately up to the candidates to take working-class issues seriously and prove to these voters that they will have their backs once elected.

Brendan Flanagan is a Democratic consultant and a veteran of Obama for America.

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