Beyond Identity Politics

In the last three presidential elections, the Democratic candidate lost among white working-class (non-college-educated) voters by an average of 22 points. The worst performance came in 2012, when Obama lost this group— once the bulwark of the Democratic coalition—by a staggering 26 points (62 to 36 percent).

The loss of this key demographic is mitigated to some degree by its shrinking size. The numbers of white working-class voters will probably dip to just 30 percent of all voters by 2020 and 44 percent of white voters. This is a dramatic decline from 1988, when white working-class voters were 54 percent of all voters and almost two-thirds (64 percent) of white voters.

Some observers argue that since the ranks of the white working class are declining, Democrats should simply rely instead on their rising “Obama coalition” of minorities, unmarried and working women, seculars, Millennials, and educated whites living in more urbanized states. Yet it would be a grave mistake for Democrats to count on this strategy.

This article was originally published in Washington Monthly.