Shortly after the November 8th election, I was watching Real Time with Bill Maher. The show is a guilty pleasure of mine, for as smug and crude as Maher can be, he has a tendency to provide a more realistic sense of the world and the Democratic Party than most liberals. I was especially interested in watching it that week, just to see how shocked and appalled his panel would be. As entertaining as their palpable despair was, I actually found something Bill Maher pointed out, with his usual bluntness, to be very intriguing.
“The Democratic party—back me up on this guys—sort of lost the white working man,” said Maher. “That's what they used to have. And they made the white working man feel like your problems aren't real because you're 'mansplaining' and [you need to] check your privilege. You know, if your life sucks, your problems are real. What should I do? Cut my d**k off and check my privilege?”
Maher also made this point about his party: “Democrats have become to a lot of Americans a boutique party of fake outrage and social engineering and they're not entirely wrong about that.”
Since then, countless fingers have pointed to countless reasons for why Hillary lost the election. Analysts have pointed to fake news articles, to the FBI’s investigation, to poor campaigning, to Obamacare, to Russian cyber-attacks, and to countless other causes for her historic collapse. All of those things probably did play a part.
However, it’s worth revisiting Bill Maher’s diagnosis, as I believe it explains not only her loss, but why the Democratic party has done poorly over the last several years.
With Donald Trump’s victory, the Republican Party now owns the presidency and majorities in both houses of Congress. It will also soon have a majority in the Supreme Court and have large majorities at the state level, including with both governorships and legislatures. It’s also worth mentioning that Trump defeated Hillary in several reliably blue states, including Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. None of those states have gone Republican since the 1980’s.
The Democratic soul searching should begin in those three states. They are part of the Rust Belt, the states Democrats normally win because of the many blue-collar, unionized workers. Democrats were confident in their traditional stronghold, using their resources elsewhere. In fact, Hillary was so confident that she didn’t focus on Michigan until it was too late and never even visited Wisconsin once. The results of their neglect were huge losses in a critical Democratic stronghold, in both the presidential and down-ballot races.
Many analysts argue that Trump over performed in the Rust Belt because of his promises to end trade deals and bring back jobs. I believe this had a lot to do with it. This is where we get back to Bill Maher’s critique of the Democratic Party. For a long time, “good jobs were at the core of the progressive agenda,” according to University of California-Hastings law professor Joan C. Williams.
However, in the last several years, the Democratic Party, as Maher points out, has become a “boutique party of fake outrage and social engineering.” It has done this by supporting movements that have “made the white working man feel like your problems aren't real because you're 'mansplaining.'” While these blue-collar workers have seen their jobs disappear in a troubled economy--which has only been made worse by struggling industries--the Democratic Party is out there trying to gain points by acting outraged every time a cop does something possibly bad, or every time a student is offended by something a professor says in class, or every time a transgender person can’t figure out what bathroom to use.
While this message might bring some groups into the Democratic Party, it is not connecting to the average American. Professor Williams agrees that Democrats are “obsessed with cultural issues” and that it’s leading to their current election problems. “I fully understand why transgender bathrooms are important,” she says, “but I also understand why progressives’ obsession with prioritizing cultural issues infuriates many Americans whose chief concerns are economic.”
Professor Williams is correct that people wanted to hear more about jobs and less about bathrooms. However, there is another aspect that Bill Maher points out: “Democrats, there is a terrorist attack and Democrats reaction is: don't be mean to Muslims instead of how can we solve the problem of sh*t blowing up in America.”
These were two huge topics Trump addressed during the campaign. First, let’s bring jobs back. Second, let’s cut straight to the problem when it comes to Islam. Through it all, he consistently bashed political correctness. Frankly, I didn’t agree with his plans on trade or Muslims. I would also bet that many people who voted for him didn’t either. However, his message resonated with them because they are so tired of leaders making apologies rather than coming up with solutions. They want someone who will fight for the issues they deal with every day, not someone who issues an executive order about transgender bathrooms in schools. With Hillary, they just saw another person who wouldn’t fight for them.
If the Democratic Party wants to get these blue-collar voters back again, it must get back to basics. It has to get back to finding real policy solutions, not being so politically correct that it focuses on everyone except for the blue-collar whites they’ve taken advantage of for decades. As Trae Crowder, the “Liberal Hillbilly,” said while guest-appearing on Bill Maher’s panel, “You have to stop ignoring these people. You have to understand them and speak to them.”
For too long, working-class whites have felt that liberal elites have disregarded and even despised them. Liberals have felt that they could ignore their concerns and focus on their ultra-progressive agenda, throwing the blue-collar voters just enough to get by. But it’s not working anymore, and the sooner they figure that out, the better off they’ll be.