There’s no getting around it; this week has been a deeply troubling, emotionally draining one for most Americans. Beginning with an audio recording of President Trump pressuring the Georgia Secretary of State to find votes that don’t exist, to an armed insurrection that overtook the Capitol and attempted to derail the peaceful transfer of presidential power, and ending with a record breaking number of daily coronavirus deaths.
Our inimitable moderator, Clyde Haberman, began our conversation by appropriately asking our guests, author David Paul Kuhn and former Virginia Senator, Jim Webb, what they made of it all. The former Senator astutely observed the nature of mobs and how they differ from the actions of individuals. Kuhn correctly reminded us not to mistake a few thousands extremists with the 74 million people who voted for Trump. We have, afterall, a two party system, but we are not a two party country. Many voters are anti-liberal, and not necessarily conservative. It’s a mixed bag of voters – some support a path for citizenship and some support a wall for example.
LBJ was the last president to win the white vote, so what happened?
Kuhn emphasizes the context and chaos of the time as a contributing factor to white working-class voters leaving Democrats for Republicans. Nixon appealed to them, while Democrats focused on making inroads with African Americans, LGBT, and more recent immigrant communities. Today, the Democratic coalition includes many wealthy, college educated whites as well.
According to Kuhn, entities like The Lincoln Project were not as successful at bringing Republican voters over to Biden as they could have been because they emphasized the wrong things. Rather than highlighting how Trump, in many ways, governed like a traditional, business friendly conservative, they focused on just what a lousy president he is. Historians may very well come to that same conclusion, but that just didn’t resonate with the white working class. Ultimately, People ultimately go to their sides when forced to choose their corners – Kuhn uses feminists supporting Clinton post-affair as an example of this.
Both commended Biden for bringing down the national temperature, striking the right tone and appealing to blue collar white voters, even if it was late.
There is a sad phenomenon taking place in America’s white working class. Decreasing life expectancy, increasing divorce rates, stagnant incomes, rising alcohol and drug abuse, or as Nobel Prize Winning economist Angus Deaton has called it, Deaths of Despair.
How do Democrats win back these disillusioned voters?
Kuhn and Webb argue that Democrats need to lessen the cultural weight and emphasize common cause and needs – infrastructure, social safety nets, early education and broadband. The needs of the white working class don’t look that different from those of black and brown working class communities.
Watch the video below:https://www.youtube.com/embed/mpR_4X5EtTY?wmode=opaque&enablejsapi=1
David Kuhn is a political analyst and writer who has written several books that have been heavily praised, including his most recent one that was named on The New York Times “100 Notable Books of 2020.” Kuhn has served as the chief political writer for CBS News online, a senior political writer for Politico as well as chief political correspondent at RealClearPolitics. He has also written for The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, National Review, New Republic, among other publications, and regularly appears on networks ranging from BBC to Fox News.
His book is credited by famed strategist James Carville as “perhaps the best book ever on how Democrats lost the white working class” and in the WSJ, Senator Webb stated that Kuhn was an “unacknowledged prophet” for the “consistency” of his longtime “warnings about the reasons white working people were moving away from the Democrats [which] were largely dismissed by the news media and party elites.”
Jim Webb is the former Democratic Senator from Virginia He wrote, introduced, and guided to passage the Post-9.11 GI Bill, the most significant veterans legislation since World War II, and co-authored legislation which exposed 60 billion dollars of waste, fraud and abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan wartime-support contracts. A long-time advocate of fixing America’s broken criminal justice system, Mr. Webb was spotlighted in The Atlantic as one of the world’s “Brave Thinkers” for tackling prison reform and possessing “two things vanishingly rare in Congress: a conscience and a spine.” He went on to give a response to the State of the Union which has been regarded as one of the stronger State of the Union responses in recent memory.
He previously served as Secretary of the Navy under President Reagan and is the recipient of the Purple Heart. Webb is also an Emmy Award winning journalist, a filmmaker, and the author of ten books. Since retiring, Webb is continued to be a prolific writer and has written for many national journals including USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal.
Clyde Haberman has served as a journalist with The New York Times since 1977. His assignments included staff editor of The Week in Review; Metro reporter; City Hall bureau chief; and foreign correspondent in Tokyo and Rome, and bureau chief in Jerusalem. He is known and received tremendous praise for his coverage of the Attica prison rebellion, the fall of Ferdinand Marcos, the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the 1993 Oslo accords between Israel and the Palestinians, the aftermath of the September 11 attacks and the rise of Islamic terrorism in the Middle East.
He was part of a Times team that won the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News, awarded for coverage of the prostitution scandal that led to Eliot Spitzer’s resignation as New York governor. He continues to be a NYT columnist and writes the Retro Report essays for The New York Times.