“I’m going to be working for you, I’m not going to have time to go play golf.”
Donald J. Trump
What can the left do to win the working-class whites who make up the Trump coalition? Democrats, activists, and political pundits have been asking this question since the election. You can’t watch a Sunday show or visit a left of center blog or website without this topic coming up. Minds greater than mine have engaged in long disquisitions and written 5,000 word articles laying out political strategies to rectify this electoral problem; sadly, for all of the intellectual horsepower that’s been thrown at this issue many of those thinkers have overshot the simple answer: not much! This is an unpopular answer with coastal progressives and the academic left; their penchant for a healthy debate prevents them from accepting the reality that their efforts will be wasted on a majority of Trump’s base. There are blocks of the Trump faithful who have no desire to hear nuanced political and economic arguments: even if they are broken down into campaign slogan sized bites. It’s politically irresponsible for Democrats to ignore the Trump coalition, but I have to be honest and admit that trying to reach some of these folks isn't worth the time and money it would cost. With that said, how do we determine who the politically redeemable are? We ask them about Trump’s golfing!
A lot of persuasive arguments get wasted on the wrong person or group of people. Making an argument in which all of the rhetorical devices are strong, the syllogisms are based in solid logic, and the analogies are easy to understand is worthless if the listener or reader isn’t invested in challenging their core beliefs. We have historically accurate records (election results) of working-class white voters routinely giving their political power to candidates who make getting access to healthcare harder and dismantling unions easier. I’m skeptical of arguments that hinge on better healthcare and wages. The last 8 years have been plagued by refusals to accept federal funds for healthcare and state referendums on “right to work” laws. It's hard for me to believe these folks have been serially misled; they willfully send the same people back to their state houses and Washington. Our arguments aren't the problem their dissonance is. This is a critics dilemma of Foucauldian proportions. If those of us who are embedded in Trump country don't let our coastal allies know what the reality on the ground is they will continue publishing politically useless articles, but if we are too brutal in our assessment some might see our efforts as useless. I choose to be abrasive and hope it wakes people up. Your arguments aren't working!
We can’t ask every Trump supporter where they stand on his golf hypocrisy, but we can poll districts that flipped for Trump ahead of the 2018 primaries. If there are districts where his constant lying has poisoned his electoral well, the DNC and DLCC should disproportionately invest more resources in those senate and congressional races. I’m hoping the Democrats don’t take another midterm election off: I’m not convinced the left can keep up the momentum we’ve seen over the last two months. There are 34 senate seats up in 2018; if we play this right we can reclaim the senate and cut into the huge majority the Republicans have in the House before an important 2020 census year election.
All of Trump’s supporters aren’t deplorable, but I’m not willing to sift through them to separate the dissatisfied and misguided from the white supremacists and Neo-Nazis. The bigots who supported him will do what they do when the opportunity presents itself: ask Jared Kushner, but we may be able to reach the socially liberal conservatives who aren’t wedded to the culture wars. The golf question may seem like a joke, but I’m dead serious. Anyone incapable of being honest about his words and tweets about something as inconsequential as golf is too far into their dissonance for us to waste time trying to flip.
Our arguments are Trash to people who take Hannity serious.