No Clear Evidence for Either Democratic Strategy, Politics as Identity

It’s unclear if Democrats should focus on middle-income, suburban voters or the white working class.

Former American secretary of state Hillary Clinton gives a speech in Muscatine, Iowa, October 6, 2015
Former American secretary of state Hillary Clinton gives a speech in Muscatine, Iowa, October 6, 2015 (Hillary for America/Mike Davidson)

The big debate in America’s Democratic Party right now is whether it should attempt to win back working-class whites, especially in the Midwest, who defected to Donald Trump in 2016, or win over more middle-income, suburban voters, some of whom switched from voting for Mitt Romney in 2012 to Hillary Clinton in 2016.

I suspect the latter and I’ve made that case recently here and here.

Short version: the interests and views of middle-class, suburban voters align more closely with those of minorities, millennials and the urban upper class, which is the Democratic base, than they do with rural, small-town, reactionary voters, which is the Republican base.

If this is a winning strategy, though, is still up in the air. Nathaniel Rakich point out at FiveThirtyEight that special elections so far support both theses: Democrats have overperformed in the suburbs as well as among white voters without college degrees.

Politics as identity

Richard Thompson Ford argues in The American Interest that whereas identity politics are nothing new, politics as identity is. “Left” and “right”, or “liberal” and “conservative”, are no longer reasoned positions that can be subject to discussion and debate; they have become identity markers.

What we might call political identity politics leads us to take positions on political controversies by identifying the correct liberal or conservative position rather than by considering facts and merits.

Political convictions become elements of the individual self-image, which makes it almost impossible to change minds on a given issue.

Basques boycott Rajoy

The Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) has said it will withhold its support from Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy’s budget so long as his government does not restore autonomy in Catalonia.

“Today it’s we Catalans, but tomorrow it will be any cause,” said Eduard Pujol, a spokesperson for Catalonia’s largest independence party, after meeting with the Basque party’s leader, Antoni Ortuzar, in Bilbao.

The PNV has only five out of 350 seats in the Spanish Congress, but that is exactly the number of seats Rajoy’s People’s Party, the liberal Citizens and their allies are short of a majority.

Rajoy suspended Catalan self-government after the region declared its independence from Spain in October.