The Democratic Convention’s Biggest Mistake

The Democratic Party convention has come and gone, and while it was generally successful—and often inspiring—one critical message was strangely missing: Democrats seemed to virtually ignore blue-collar voters. They never explained precisely how their policies are going to help them. We heard plenty of rhetorical hugs and kisses for other important Democratic constituencies—people of color, LGBTers, environmentalists, and Bernie Sanders economic populists. But imagine yourself as an underemployed, financially stretched, blue-collar worker watching from your couch in suburban Ohio or Pennsylvania. What did you hear? Nothing. Zip. Nada, as Tim Kaine might say.

By contrast, the Republican convention seemed to be talking only to those voters. The Democrats’ omission is mystifying for three reasons:

  1. Blue-collar workers traditionally have been a critical part of the Democratic base. Union support is vital to Democrats for fundraising, voter turnout, and loyalty.
  2. Pundits have been saying it is precisely the white, blue-collar voters in swing states who could tip this election for Trump.
  3. Democratic policies have so much to offer middle-class and working-class families. Why wouldn’t you showcase them?

Democratic campaigns throughout the country can’t make the same mistake. We should be aggressively fighting for those voters in three ways:

  1. By reminding voters that Democrats have been the party of workers for a hundred years. Since the turn of the 20th century, almost every significant improvement in the lives of American workers has come from Democrats:
    • The 40-hour workweek
    • Social Security
    • Medicare
    • Paid vacations
    • The first minimum wage
    • Time and a half for overtime
    • Unemployment insurance
    • The right of women to join the workplace
    • Affordable health care for everyone
    • The recently passed law to curb the worst abuses of the credit card industry
    • The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to keep people from getting ripped off by unscrupulous finance companies
  2. By emphasizing how Democrats are still fighting for working people today, and how our proposals will specifically help them, including:
    • Tax cuts for the middle class, not the wealthy
    • Support for unions, so that people have a voice in the workplace
    • Raising the minimum wage
    • Affordable college tuition
    • Affordable child care
    • Guaranteed sick pay
    • Paid family leave
  3. By contrasting Democrats’ specific proposals with the sad record of Republicans and their emphasis on tax cuts for the wealthy. Conservatives have opposed virtually every improvement in the lives of workers.

Americans live in the greatest, richest, most powerful nation in the world. They have a right to ask for a decent quality of life. Democrats are the only party with a long and accomplished history of fighting for our nation’s workers. We need to tell that story.

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