As Biden Moves The Democratic Party Right... Does That Create An Opportunity For Progressives?

"I Yam What I Yam" by Nancy Ohanian

Running his yap on Axios' HBO series yesterday, South Carolina dishonest closet case Lindsey Graham (R) said "There's something about Trump; there's a dark side and there's some magic there... To me Donald Trump is sort of a cross between Jesse Helms, Ronald Reagan and P.T. Barnum." Ronald Reagan? I don't think so, except that they both came from the fringes of the entertainment industry... but the other two are a good description. Trump said Graham "could make the Republican Party something that nobody else I know could make it. He could make it bigger; he could make it stronger; he could make it more diverse. And he also could destroy it." Could on the latter.

What Graham didn't talk about is what Trump is doing for the Democratic Party-- more a tent too big to exist than a viable party. In fact, the Democrats really only even exist as a party anymore to catch the falling pieces when the GOP screws up... which it does a lot. They're both controlled by Big Money and they both support the status quo. Maybe the Democrats have a couple of inconvenient progressive bones left in their body and the Republicans are more reactionary than conservative. But, neither offers much hope for anyone looking for systemic reform of a decrepit society. Biden's political tombstone should read: "Nothing will fundamentally change."

And that brings us right to this weekend's Politico Magazine cover-story, The Rise of the Biden Republicans. No one likes to ever talk about it-- let alone admit it-- but Biden began his political career on one issue: racism. He was going to protect Delaware suburbanites from busing, meaning from blacks. You know what a piece of crap everyone feels Manchin and Sinema are. Biden was Manchin and Sinema for his entire Senate career-- which is why Obama picked him for the VP slot.

What was a Reagan Democrat? A racist. What's a Biden Republican? Zack Stanton wrote for the Politico piece that "In leaning too hard into white identity politics-- and perhaps being too focused on what he thought Reagan Democrats wanted-- Trump accelerated the rise of a new voting bloc that is, in many ways, the mirror image of the Reagan Democrats. Call them the Biden Republicans. Like the Reagan Democrats, they’re heavily white and live in suburbs. But where the Reagan Dems are blue-collar and culturally conservative, [Democratic pollster Stanley] Greenberg sees the Biden Republicans as more affluent, highly educated and supportive of diversity. Historically, they identified with the Republican Party as their political home. But the leaders who were supposed to fight for them seem to care more about white grievance and keeping out immigrants; seem to care more about social issues and “owning the libs” than about child-care payments and college tuition. They don’t consider themselves Democrats-- at least not yet-- but they are voting for them, delivering them majorities in the House and Senate, and making Joe Biden just the fourth candidate in the past century to defeat an incumbent president. Now, with the support of Biden Republicans shored up-- at least for the time being-- Joe Biden is embarking on an audacious gambit that’s gone largely unnoticed, but, if successful, could kneecap national Republicans for a decade: Recapturing the support of the Reagan Democrats."

In both 2016 and 2020, Trump brought in new voters—people animated by “white nationalism and racial resentment, and whose overwhelming motivation is a deep worry that Black people and immigrants will control the country,” and who are “voting straight-ticket [Republican] to ‘save the country,’” says Greenberg. But by courting those votes, Republicans risk pushing the Biden Republicans further into the Democratic side of the ledger.
...Biden lacks the cosmopolitan appeal of Obama, but to Reagan Democrats, that’s a feature not a bug. “Obama was pro-globalization, and believed we benefited from it,” says Greenberg. “He would have been embarrassed to go see a company that was bringing jobs back from abroad to build in America. He would have been embarrassed to highlight that. But Biden will.” It’s Trump’s economic populism without Trump’s dog-sees-a-squirrel message discipline.
“Trump voters, a large portion of them, want a welfare state that is dependable for working people,” says Greenberg. And Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion Covid relief package could make a tangible difference in their lives. Do the Reagan Democrats stick with non-Trump Republicans if Biden’s Democrats deliver reopened schools, a strong economy, a huge investment in infrastructure and a $3,600-per-child benefit to families on top of a $1,400 stimulus check?

Good question-- and Stanton's long, long interview with Greenberg sets out to come up with an answer. You should read the whole thing at the link above. Greenberg warns that he doesn't "think the Republicans are as disillusioned with Trump as polls suggest, but I do think there’s huge support for the relief package. Trump voters, a large portion of them, want a welfare state that is dependable for working people. The Reagan Democrats and these white working-class voters are incredibly pro-Medicaid expansion. Look at what happened in any of any of these Senate races in ’18 in states [with initiatives on] on the minimum wage or Medicaid expansion. The minimum wage and Medicaid expansion won by much bigger numbers [than the incumbents]. I mean, it won in Utah."

Further, he said he thinks there are "two kinds of Biden Republicans-- two trends. One of them is you saw quite affluent, very Republican towns [in suburban counties], and Biden got a very large percentage of votes from those counties. They are more affluent college graduates voting for Biden. Will they stick? They may, given how Trump is defining the Republican Party. And the other piece is that Biden is very self-consciously campaigning for Macomb County-type, white working-class voters [for whom] race is not the only thing driving their vote, but who went to Trump [in 2016] because of globalization and their belief that Democrats are not fighting for American workers. Biden is fighting for those voters, too."