Trump Voters Welcome
Working in the districts we work, we hear two things all the time.
First, we hear Trump voters express disappointment. They’re disappointed about a lot of things, but mostly they’re disappointed that the President has abandoned his populist campaign rhetoric and turned into just another trickle-down Republican.
The other thing we hear is Democrats sneering at Trump voters.
We’re terrible about that. On healthcare, for example, we scorn areas that both benefited from the ACA and voted heavily for Trump, who promised to kill it. The jokes write themselves, and ridicule provides some satisfaction after a loss that still grinds.
But this is politics, and the goal of politics is to win elections. You don’t win elections by driving people away.
People’s House Project works in the red swath of the country from western Iowa to the beaches of Virginia. There are more Trump voters across that band than there are Hillary voters, but their disappointment in Trump is a huge opportunity for Democrats. People are listening who haven’t in decades. They’re hungry for some way out of their economic wilderness. Trump got their hopes up, and in the end let them down.
The only way we’re going to be able to get Trump voters is if make them feel welcome. That doesn’t mean we have to accept everything the Trump coalition holds dear. There are white nationalists we would never tolerate, to pick an extreme example. But the Trump supporters within our reach are people who thought Trump cared about their economic problems and wanted to help.
If there’s going to be a Blue Wave in November, a lot of those Trump voters are going to have to like what they hear from us. If we offer only a steady diet of ridicule and smug triumphalism, they’ll turn their backs. But if we listen to their concerns, if we respect their beliefs, and if we deliver a classically Progressive message of empowerment, respect, and dignity, we may be able to capture them forever.
The Democratic Party claims to be the party of working people, of the powerless, of the forgotten. We’ve maintained that rhetoric but lost touch with the soul of what that means, in the process losing the parts of the country that used to provide our strength. Regaining that soul starts with a spirit of welcome.
There is a place for everyone at our table, even those who voted against us last time.