Monday, December 7, 2020

Identity Politics Vs. The Working Class

No, I have not been in contact with David Leonhardt and I have no idea if he reads my stuff.....but he is definitely echoing some of my sentiments on the Democrats' class and culture problem.
"The Democratic Party’s biggest problem today is its struggle to win over working-class voters.
After President Trump’s 2016 victory, some political analysts argued that this problem was really all about racism. And Trump’s appeals to white nationalism certainly won him votes.
But it’s also clear that the Democrats’ weakness with working-class voters — defined roughly as people without a four-year college degree — is not only about race. Many Trump voters, after all, voted for Barack Obama in 2012, which suggests they’re not incorrigible racists.
Perhaps even more telling is the shape of this year’s results. Not only did Trump again win by huge margins among working-class whites, but he also fared better among Hispanic voters than he did in 2016. Black voters strongly backed Democrats again, but their turnout appears to have risen less than turnout for other groups.
All of which points to the same issue: The Democratic message is failing to resonate with many working-class Americans.
If the Democrats’ struggles were really all about racism, several heavily Mexican-American counties in South Texas would not have swung to the Republicans this year. Nor would Trump have increased his vote share in the New York boroughs of Queens and the Bronx by about 10 percentage points versus 2016. He appears to have won a higher share of the vote in the Bronx, which is only 9 percent non-Hispanic white, than in affluent Manhattan, which is 47 percent white....
How can Democrats do better with the working-class?....Many working-class voters, across racial groups, are moderate to conservative on social issues: They are religious, favor well-funded police departments and support some restrictions on both abortion and immigration. On economic issues, by contrast, they tend to back Democratic positions, like a higher minimum wage and expanded government health care.
For Democrats to do better with the working class, they probably need to moderate their liberal image on social issues — and double down on economic populism."
That would be a good start--they've got to make the party more culturally welcome to the working class; more Bronx than Manhattan.
Speaking of well-funded police departments, Matt Yglesias makes some great points in a long piece on his Substack site. He points out that, while defund the police has not been a successful slogan for electing Democrats (to say the least), it has been a very successful slogan in capturing attention for the ideas of cutting police budgets and eventually abolishing the police.
The problem is that, even leaving electoral effects aside, these ideas are really terrible ones as public policy and more generally for solving the problems associated with contemporary American policing.
"In the immediate wake of George Floyd’s death, there was a widespread but largely non-specific desire to do something about police abuses in particular and anti-Black racism in general. That conversation could have gone in a lot of different directions. But defund activists successfully kept policing near the center of the anti-racism conversation, and kept the idea of cutting police funding absolutely at the center of the police reform conversation. In the early days, a rival activist campaign called 8 Can’t Wait that focused on operational changes to police procedures got a lot of attention. But defund successfully crowded them out, and owned the brand that if you were really hard-core about antiracism, you’d be for defunding.
A whole bill full of police reforms passed the US House of Representatives and received only a tiny fraction of the attention that was paid to defunding.
Thanks in part to the hard work of defund police activists, no Republicans who opposed that measure faced any heat over it. Instead, heat was applied to mayors and city council members in progressive cities, and the aim of the heat was to get them to enact cuts in police funding. In some cities this policy was adopted and in others it wasn’t. But in terms of what activists can achieve, it went pretty well. They dominated the conversation. They put their idea on the agenda....The problem with all of this isn’t that the strategy didn’t work, it’s that the strategy is bad....
[C]utting your city’s police budget is not going to make the police more effective at catching murderers. And it’s also not going to make officers more accountable for wrongdoing. To make officers more accountable for wrongdoing, you need to adopt some kind of measures that make them more accountable. Defund activists don’t oppose increased accountability, of course. But both the 8 Can’t Wait agenda and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act that the House passed focused on accountability. Defunders shifted the conversation off that toward defunding. But a non-accountable police department with 10 percent less money is still a non-accountable police department.....,
Beat cops are effective at reducing crime, and investing money in hiring them is worthwhile. Investigative cops also appear to be at least somewhat effective at solving violent crimes, and investing money in hiring more more of them would lead to higher clearance rates....To solve [police misconduct], we need to change the rules and make it easier to fire cops. It’s not good enough to wait for the most egregious incidents and then try to charge police officers as criminals. There needs to be a higher standard of routine conduct, where people who don’t do the right thing get disciplined and drummed out. And the practice of abusive officers shuffling from one department to another also needs to stop. This is a question primarily of changing state law to repeal or modify Police Bill of Rights legislation and the content of union collective bargaining agreements.
And if you fired more bad cops and wanted to replace them with new and better cops (and of course retain already good officers), then realistically you’d probably need to pay more. It would be a very normal change of the basic employment bargain — a higher standard of conduct with less job security, but in exchange you get better pay.....
We need policy reforms that address the actual problem here. That means operational changes to the rules about how cops are supposed to behave. It means structural changes to the job security of officers with spotty records. And it means a sustained ongoing effort to dislodge the warrior cop ideology and replace it with an ethic of public service.
The fact that defund police activists managed to draw attention away from the idea of changes that would have averted Floyd’s death to their own project is an impressive triumph on their part, not some kind of tactical failure. The problem with it is that their project is bad — likely to lead to more violent crime (and eventually a backlash against the concept of criminal justice reform) and unlikely to reduce police misconduct."
If Democrats do not assert a strong police reform and funding agenda against the defund/abolish the police activists, they will only continue the process of culturally alienating the working class from the Democratic party. With 2022 and 2024 shaping up to be very tough elections, Democrats need to go in precisely the opposite direction.

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