Dems divided over appeal to economically progressive voters with socially conservative views, analyst says

The Democratic Party is in the midst of an internal debate over how to assemble a coalition that is large and dispersed enough to win control of Congress and the White House, according to one political analyst.

In an interview on Hill.TV’s “What America’s Thinking,” election analyst Henry Olsen said that Democrats have yet to decide whether they should try to bring back disaffected voters with economically liberal viewpoints who also hold moderate or conservative positions on social issues.

“That sort of voter is the group that has been American elections for the last 15 years,” Olsen told host Jamal Simmons. “It’s the sort of person that, contrary to what a lot of Democrats or media people believe, was the reason that Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaIraq is not yet lost, but if we continue to ignore it, it soon will be Obama praises marathon runners Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei for 'remarkable examples of humanity's ability' Each of us has a role in preventing veteran suicide MORE won re-election in 2012 by focusing on that voter in Ohio, in Michigan, in Iowa — and he did very well among them.”

Following Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Democrats fear Ohio slipping further away in 2020 Poll: Warren leads Biden in Maine by 12 points MORE’s unexpected loss to President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE in 2016, some Democratic leaders and intellectuals are calling on the party to re-examine its electoral strategy. During the Obama presidency, many progressive activists and commentators became convinced that the party needed to shift its rhetorical emphasis from economically progressive policies to appeals specifically targeted to women and racial and religious minority groups.

That strategic calculation followed a provocative 2002 book written by left-leaning analysts John Judis and Ruy Teixeira which argued that the Democratic Party was on the cusp of attaining a permanent electoral advantage thanks in part to Hispanic immigration and higher black turnout for Obama in 2008 and 2012.

Even before Trump’s victory, however, Judis had reversed course and argued that he had underestimated how significant less-educated white voters were to Democrats’ electoral chances and how economically progressive policies were a bigger part of Democrats’ appeal to voters as a whole. According to the Pew Research Center, black Americans voted at a similar rate in 2016 to what they had in 2004 when Obama, the nation's first black president, was not on the ballot.

Since 2016, several of Judis’s opponents have argued that racial or sexist animus played a large role in Clinton’s defeat and that the party should avoid trying to appeal to this group.

According to Olsen, Democrats are asking themselves now if “we want to go back and try and engage with the white, blue-collar voter, who just eight years ago was a loyal Democrat, and make these sort of compromises” on issues like religion or immigration.

—Matthew Sheffield