AMAC Exclusive – By Claire Brighn
Beginning in earnest with Donald Trump’s election in 2016, working class voters in the United States have fled the Democratic Party in droves, quickly eroding a once solid base of support for the party. Amid this seismic shift in the electorate, many elected Democrats and mainstream media pundits have over the past several months desperately tried to prop up this narrative of Democrats as the party of everyday Americans – even as the policies emanating from Washington have grown increasingly opposed to their interests.
Following the 2016 election, many in media circles seemed to believe that Trump’s performance with blue-collar and working class voters in states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio must have been a fluke. Though 2018 was an electoral setback for Republicans in the House, 2020 quickly proved a continuation of the trend that began four years before. Analysis from The New York Times in 2020 on “The Two Americas Funding Trump and Biden Campaigns” found, for example, that in “ZIP codes above [the median household of $68,703], Mr. Biden outraised Mr. Trump by $389.1 million. Below that level, Mr. Trump was actually ahead by $53.4 million.” Additionally, the study also found that much of Biden’s “financial edge” came from deep blue states along the coasts – supporting the widespread perception of Democrats as the party of coastal elites. “The donations mirror voting patterns,” Republican pollster Whit Ayres noted at the time.
The reason why this shift is occurring is easy to see – on issue after issue, Democrats’ policies are hopelessly out of step with the experiences of working class voters. On day one of his administration, Biden took actions like canceling the Keystone XL pipeline and ending oil and gas leases on federal lands – policies favored by wealthy liberals, but which started a steady rise in energy prices that hit working class Americans particularly hard. Democrats’ $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan,” which was chock-full of woke priorities aimed at appeasing far-left activists, touched off an inflation crisis that has further devastated the financial lives of working class families. Instead of working to curb inflation, Biden and Congressional Democrats passed a bill dubbed the “Inflation Reduction Act” that economists believe will do nothing but increase inflation, and which contains subsidies for electric vehicles and solar panels – more welfare for the wealthy. In just the past two years, every Democrat in Congress has voted for higher energy costs, ending coal, and unleashing an army of IRS agents on low and middle-income Americans.
Despite Democrats’ claims that these policies are targeted at working and middle class Americans, evidence suggests that the opposite is true. For instance, available data shows that 80% of electric vehicle subsidies end up going to individuals making more than $100,000 per year. A Wall Street Journal analysis of California’s push to switch to “green” energy sources, a plan similar to the climate provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act, showed that while working class households saw their energy bills increase, wealthy households actually saw financial gain from the policies.
Additionally, though Democrats slammed the Trump tax cuts as “tax breaks for the rich” and insist that their tax plan would “make the wealthy pay their fair share,” real wages grew under Trump, and that wage growth went predominately to “workers at the lower end of the pay scale.” Meanwhile, an analysis from the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation found that the tax code changes in Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act would result in an increased tax burden of more than $17 billion on Americans making less than $200,000 in 2023 alone.
Democrats’ struggles with working class voters are perhaps best captured in middle American states that were once reliably blue or purple but are now trending Republican. The state of Iowa, for instance, which for decades was “the reliable wind vane of American politics,” has all but totally rejected Democrats. Obama carried the state twice in 2008 and 2012, but Trump also won there twice – gaining ground in 2020 over 2016. Since then, Republican voter registration has almost doubled in the state, and Biden’s approval sits at a dismal 23%.
A similar story has played out in Ohio, which also voted for Obama twice, but which Trump won handily in 2020. Though Biden managed to carry Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota two years ago, these once reliable bastions of Democratic support are now toss-ups.
In all of these states, which have been at the epicenter of the decline of American manufacturing in recent decades, working class voters are driving this shift, undoubtedly in large part thanks to Donald Trump’s message of economic renewal and a return to American greatness.
In response, some Democrats have, to their credit, attempted to rebuild this base of support. A headline from The New York Times late last month asked: “How Can Democrats Persuade Voters They Aren’t The Party of Rich Elites?” In an apparent response, Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio (D) wrote in an op-ed earlier this month, “We’re supposed to be the workers’ Party. Democrats must be that party again.” (Never mind the fact that Senator Brown has garnered a reputation as one of the most far-left members of the Senate and was a strong supporter of Democrats’ spending binge.)
But this outreach effort has proven to be little more than lip service to the actual needs of working class voters. Far from re-calibrating their policy agenda as working class voters abandon them, Democrats appear poised to double down on their embrace of elite interests and a far-left social agenda, one that is completely at odds with the traditional values of most working class families. For Republicans, this presents a golden opportunity – if they can follow Trump’s lead and continue focusing on the issues that matter most to these voters.
Claire Brighn is the pen name of a conservative researcher and writer with previous domestic and foreign policy experience in the Executive Branch.
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