Juan Williams: Dems can beat Trump with the white working class

Juan Williams: Dems can beat Trump with the white working class
© Greg Nash

“Well, I dream, I dream about Biden,” 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 told CBS News last week when asked if he’d like to face the former vice president in the 2020 presidential election.

“Look, Joe BidenJoe BidenWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio New study: Full-scale 'Medicare for All' costs trillion over 10 years MORE ran three times,” Trump explained, incorrectly. (Biden ran for president twice, in 1988 and 2008.) “He never got more than one percent and President Obama took him out of the garbage heap… I'd love to have it be Biden.” 

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Trump’s insults reveal an insecurity.

 

He knows Biden is the best Democrat to take back the White House.

Why?

The Democrats’ political fortunes in the 2020 presidential race hinge on winning back the white, working-class voters in the middle of the country. At the moment, Biden is the best Democrat to speak to those voters.

Last week, a Harvard/Harris poll showed Biden had a lead — 32 percent to 18 percent over 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 — as the Democrats’ favorite candidate to face off against Trump.

Biden’s rise has a lot to do with his appeal to the white working class. According to the Reuters-Ipsos weekly presidential approval ratings, Trump still has the support of 52 percent of non-college educated whites. Quinnipiac has him with a 54 percent approval rating in the same demographic.

That’s still a majority — but a far fall from the nearly 70 percent of whites without a college degree who supported him in 2016.

In the short run, Trump’s loss of a big slice of those voters opens the door to major political problems for this year’s GOP congressional candidates. They are facing high voter enthusiasm among Democrats who want to rein in Trump.

Declining support among white working-class voters also makes the GOP more vulnerable in the midterms because Trump has already lost favor with a lot of educated, suburban swing voters, especially white women. They have not reacted well to Trump separating children from parents at the border, nor to a year and half of chaotic tweets, trade wars and an embrace of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Note that the Democrats have a record number of women running in the midterms.

Meanwhile, black and Latino anti-Trump voters have more reason than ever to get out to vote. Trump’s attacks on immigrants and distaste for federal policies to curb police brutality against blacks or help minority students go to college has fired up those voters.

To counter the energized Democrats, Trump will try to revive support among the white working class by bashing immigrants and lambasting NFL players for protesting brutal cops.

But Trump’s team was really counting on last year’s tax cut to stir the white, working-class base in the midterms.

So far, it is a dud.

“Real average hourly compensation actually fell in the first quarter after the tax reform was passed,” Bloomberg Opinion writer Noah Smith recently explained. Wealthy shareholders have seen gains in their stocks, he added, but there is no major rise in business investment. He concluded that it is possible the “tax cuts have run their course as economic policy.”

That conclusion is supported by an analysis by Americans for Tax Fairness that found the tax cuts have led to only 4.3 percent of workers “getting any one-time bonuses or wage increases from their employers.” A recent Morning Consult/Politico poll found 52 percent of voters said they got no wage hike from the tax cut.

That makes it easy for Democrats running this year and in 2020 to make the case that Trump’s tax cuts benefitted the wealthiest one percent of Americans while doing almost nothing to put more money in the pockets of the working class of any race.

Incredibly, congressional Republicans went to the White House last week to try one more time to make the tax plan more attractive, this time by making permanent individual tax cuts in the initial bill.

Right now, however, working-class whites in the Midwest and the south are feeling economic pain caused by the trade wars Trump has started.

Retaliatory tariffs have raised prices on American exporters — particularly agriculture, but also on cars and manufacturing. Harley-Davidson, a white working-class favorite, is moving jobs overseas to avoid the trade wars. And Trump is criticizing the Federal Reserve for raising interest rates.

These are bad signs for the GOP.

And then there is healthcare.

The Trump tax cuts included a repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, which is leading to higher premiums and lower coverage rates for working-class Americans. Outright repeal of the whole law would make healthcare even more expensive.

Trump may soon regret wishing for Biden as an opponent.

Biden’s white working-class roots make him a strong messenger to ask Trump’s voters the 2020 version of Ronald Reagan’s famous question in 1980, as he challenged an incumbent president — are they better off today than they were four years ago?

Biden is not the only Democrat ready to ask that question.

Last week another white male Democrat, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, won the chairmanship of the National Governors Association. Bullock won reelection in his state even though Trump carried Montana by 20 points.

Bullock’s pitch would essentially be the same as Biden’s but from a younger candidate.  

From there, it becomes easier to imagine a Democrat — be it Biden, Bullock, or even Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio New study: Full-scale 'Medicare for All' costs trillion over 10 years MORE (I-Vt.) or Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio New study: Full-scale 'Medicare for All' costs trillion over 10 years MORE (D-Mass.) — winning back the white working-class voters Trump branded the “forgotten.”

Perhaps they will be forgotten no more.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.