The New York Times
Republicans won blue collar votes. They don’t offer much in return.
As the election unfolded showing that President Donald Trump was gaining strong blue-collar support in November while suffering historic losses in the country’s suburbs, Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, a Republican, said on Twitter: ” We are a partying working class now. This is the future. And with further results revealing that Trump had transported 40% of unionized homes and made unexpected forays with Latinos, other Republican leaders, including Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, trumpeted a political realignment. Republicans, they said, were accelerating their transformation into a Sam’s Club party rather than a country club. But since then Republicans have offered very little to advance the economic interests of blue-collar workers. Two major opportunities for party leaders to present their priorities recently presented themselves without a nod to American workers. Sign up for The Morning New York Times newsletter In Washington, as Democrats push forward a nearly $ 2 trillion economic stimulus bill, they face universal opposition from Congressional Republicans to the package, which is full of measures for the benefit of workers in difficulty. year after the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The bill includes 1,400 checks to middle-income Americans and extended unemployment benefits, which are expected to expire on March 14. And at a high-profile conservative rally in Florida last weekend, potential 2024 presidential candidates, including Hawley and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, barely mentioned a blue-collar program. They have used their turn in the national spotlight to stoke grievances about “the cancellation of culture,” to denigrate the tech industry and to reinforce Trump’s false claims about a stolen election. Inside and outside the party, critics see a familiar pattern: Republican officials, like Trump, exploit the cultural anger and racial resentment of a large segment of the white working class, but did not make a concerted effort to help these Americans economically. . “This is the Republicans identity conundrum,” said Carlos Curbelo, a former Republican congressman from Florida, highlighting universal opposition from House Republicans to the stimulus bill drafted by President Biden and the Democrats in Congress. “This is a package that Donald Trump would most likely have supported as president.” “Here is the question for the Rubios and the Hawleys and the Cruzs and anyone who wants to capitalize on this potential new Republican coalition,” Curbelo added. “Ultimately, if you don’t take action to improve people’s quality of life, they will abandon you.” Some Republicans have sought to resolve the strategic issue. Utah Senator Mitt Romney has proposed one of the GOP’s most ambitious initiatives targeting struggling Americans, a measure to fight child poverty by sending parents up to $ 350 per month per child. But other Republicans rejected the plan, calling it “welfare.” Hawley matched a Democratic proposal for a minimum wage of $ 15, but with the caveat that it only applies to companies with annual revenues in excess of $ 1 billion. Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster whose clients have included Rubio, criticized Democrats for not seeking a compromise on the stimulus after a group of GOP senators offered a smaller package. “Seven Republican senators voted to condemn a president of their own party,” he said, referring to Trump’s impeachment. “If you can’t get any of them in a COVID program, you’re not really trying.” As the COVID-19 relief package, which all House Republicans voted on, makes its way to the Senate this week, Republicans are expected to come up with new proposals targeting struggling Americans. Ayres said the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida last weekend, the party’s first major rally since Trump stepped down, was a spectacularly missed opportunity in his inability to include a discussion meaningful on policies for blue collar workers. Instead, the former president advanced an intra-partisan civil war by naming in his speech on Sunday a list of all Republicans who voted to impeach him. “You’d better spend a lot more time crafting an economic agenda that benefits workers than questioning a lost presidential election,” Ayres said. “The question is, how long will it take Republicans to realize that chasing heretics rather than winning new converts is a losing strategy right now?” Separately, one of the country’s most prominent blue-collar efforts was underway this week in Alabama, where nearly 6,000 workers at an Amazon warehouse are voting to unionize. Pro-union workers received a boost in a video from Biden on Sunday. Representatives for Hawley – who has been one of the main Republican champions of a working class realignment – did not respond to a request for comment on his position on the issue. The 2020 election continued a long-term trend in which parties essentially swapped voters, Republicans winning with blue-collar workers, while suburban white-collar workers headed for Democrats. The “Tory Sam’s Club” idea, launched about 15 years ago by former Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, recognized a constituency of populist Republicans who favored a higher minimum wage and government for families in difficulty. Trump has revealed historic levels of support for a Republican among white working-class voters. But once in office, his biggest legislative achievement was a tax cut in which most of the benefits went to businesses and the wealthy. Oceans of ink have spread over whether the white working class’s devotion to Trump was more related to economic anxiety or anger towards “elites” and racial minorities, especially immigrants. For many analysts, the answer is that it was both. Its advancement of policies for the benefit of working-class Americans was often chaotic and left in limbo. Jobs in manufacturing, which had continued to slowly recover since the financial crisis of 2009, stagnated under Trump the year before the outbreak of the pandemic. The former president’s bellicose trade war with China has hit American farmers so hard economically that they have received massive bailouts from taxpayers. “There’s never been a program to deal with the kinds of displacement that is going on,” said John Russo, former co-director of the Center for Working-Class Studies at Youngstown State University in Ohio. He projects that once the economy returns to pre-pandemic levels, U.S. blue-collar workers will be worse off as employers ramp up automation and continue the downsizing adopted during the pandemic. “Neither party is talking about it,” Russo said. “I think by 2024 that will be a key issue.” Republicans who don’t prioritize economic issues may be reading their base accurately. A survey last month by GOP pollster Echelon Insights found that the main concerns of Republican voters were primarily cultural: illegal immigration, lack of police support, high taxes, and “liberal bias in mainstream media ”. Despite Biden’s campaign calling him the “middle class Joe” of Scranton, Pa., As a candidate, he made only slight inroads in supporting Trump for white voters without a college degree, which has disappointed Democratic strategists and party activists. In exit polls, those voters preferred Trump over Biden by 35 percentage points. Among voters of color without a college degree, Trump won one in four votes, an improvement from 2016, when he won one in five. His forays with Latinos in South Florida and the Rio Grande Valley in Texas particularly shocked many Democrats, and this prompted Rubio to tweet that the future of the GOP was “a party built on a multiethnic, multiracial coalition of American workers ”. After the Trump presidency, the question remains open as to whether other Republican candidates can earn the same intensity of blue-collar support. “Whatever your criticisms of Trump – and I have a lot of them – he was clearly able to connect with these people and they voted for him,” said Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, a Democrat. from the Youngstown area. Ryan is preparing to run in 2022 for an open Senate seat in Ohio. He agrees with Trump in taking on China, but criticizes him for not following his harsh language with sustained policies. “I think there is an opportunity to have a similar message but a real agenda,” he said. As for Republican presidential candidates aspiring to inherit working-class supporters of Trump, Ryan saw only bleak prospects for them, especially if they continued to reject Biden’s stimulus package, which was passed in the House. and is now before the Senate. “The COVID-19 relief bill was aimed directly at the struggles of the working class,” Ryan said, adding that Republicans voting against the package were “in a wake-up call.” Perhaps. A Monmouth University poll on Wednesday found that 6 in 10 Americans supported the $ 1.9 trillion package in its current form, particularly the $ 1,400 checks to people at certain income levels. But Republicans who reject it may not pay a political price, said poll director Patrick Murray. “They know the checks will hit their base anyway, and they can continue to complain about Democratic excesses,” he said. “There would only be a problem if they managed to sink the bill,” he added. This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company