by Peter Franklin
Monday, 15
November 2021
Spotted
10:00

American voters prefer populism to wokeness

Especially if they're working class
by Peter Franklin
He’s running off to vote for a populist. Credit: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The Rightward drift of the working-class vote is one of the most important political trends of our time. But what about the working-class voters who have yet to join this exodus?

They’re important too. The Left can’t win with the support of middle-class progressives alone — it needs to make the most of what remains of its working-class base. But how?

From an American angle, that’s a question that Jacobin, a Left-wing journal, set out to explore in collaboration with YouGov and the Center for Working-Class Politics. The study is worth delving into in detail, but this is the gist of it.

The polling focused on Americans without a college degree. Self-declared Republicans were then excluded from the sample — presumably because they’re considered a lost cause. So all of the findings relate to the opinions of working-class Democrats, swing voters and non-voters.

As for ideology, five options were offered. A generic Republican for purposes of comparison — and then four flavours of Democrat: “populist progressive” (e.g. Bernie Sanders); “woke progressive” (e.g. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez); “woke moderate” (e.g. Kamala Harris); and “mainstream moderate” (e.g. Joe Biden). The respective British equivalents might be Paul Embery, Owen Jones, Keir Starmer and Tony Blair.

The generic Republican candidate was by far the least popular option — which is entirely unsurprising because committed Republican voters were excluded from the survey. But what kind of Democrat did the rest of the working-class prefer? Here’s the key point:

“Candidates whose campaigns focused primarily on universalist policy issues such as jobs, health care, and the economy performed better than those who focused on group-specific policies, such as racial justice or immigration. In addition, woke messaging decreased the appeal of other candidate characteristics.”
- Jacobin

Several things jump out from the results. Firstly, a complete lack of preference as to the sex and race of the candidates. If progressives are failing to win over working-class voters it’s not because they don’t want women and non-whites as their political representatives. However, the survey group did prefer candidates with a working-class background.

What’s more, the preference for populism over wokery was especially pronounced among blue-collar workers outside of the Democrats’ urban strongholds.

Might the Dems be able to expand their voter base by mobilising habitual non-voters? The report warns that these are dangerous waters to be fishing in. In particular, the authors dismiss the notion that there’s some untapped reserve of support just waiting for a Left-wing saviour:

“Non-voters favoured more conservative candidates than voters in terms of partisan preferences and key policy issues. Overall, we find little support for the idea, suggested by progressive candidates like Sanders, that increasing turnout among low-propensity voters will naturally benefit progressive politicians.”
- Jacobin

I wonder, though, what would happen if this group were to be given other choices. The survey only offered one populist option — progressive populism. It’s possible that other kinds of populism would be much more effective.

America has a vast number of non-voters, 80 million according to the report. What if Donald Trump was only skimming the surface?

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Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
10 months ago

Not a ‘rightward’ drift per se. The values of the working class have stood still, the Left has drifted so far left as to be almost unrecognisable and any ‘rightward drift’ is only to stand still. And of course there are reactionaries on the right who will push harder against the left and who will grab all the headlines. Also this pervasive fearful cringing at any ‘move to the right’ as if we’re all becoming Nazis is pathetic. The right of the political spectrum is no more inherently bad than the left. The left has its fair share of authoritarian despots ya know. We can see them already in their puritannical demands to control language, punish dissent from the orthodoxy and disguising its desires to control the world in a cloak of. utopian ‘progressivism’. A read of ‘Animal Farm’ should dispel any idea that socialism is benign.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
10 months ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

Quite. Right. I have a number of friends who had voted Labour all their life and still believe in old labour policies to improve the lot of the working class but have ceased voting Labour as the party have moved leftward and concentrate on policies that have left the old traditional Labour voter disenfranchised. The fact that poor white boys are now the worst performing section of pupils says it all.
At the same time plenty of Conservative voters feel disenfranchised as the Conservative party has drifted leftwards. The Conservatives won the last election as the least worst option. People are not voting for policies they want but against policies they don’t want. The very low membership of political parties again says it all. In any event only a limited number of voters in swing seats actually have a vote that counts.
A lot of working class voters in traditional safe Labour seats who have been left stranded by the woke drift of Labour don’t vote Tory (a) because they don’t think of themselves as Tory and (b) because they feel their vote against Labour won’t make any difference so they are the non- voters that the study identifies as potentially right voters if they are stirred up. – and yes I know it is a US study.
Moreover, as another poster observed, you may vote Conservative to get less woke but doing so makes little difference if the Conservatives fail to replace woke individuals in charge of the various institutions that actually drive most of the policy implementation in the country. In the US the tradition is to put your own people in charge of the organs of government that actually deliver the policies. In the UK the tradition is different. The result is that woke continues to rule in practice despite the return of a Conservative government.

Last edited 10 months ago by Jeremy Bray
aaron david
aaron david
10 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

As an American, I don’t think this is quite right, at least on the concept of gov’t capture. Yes, at a superficial level the party controls who goes into positions of power in the gov’t, which are commonly referred to as political posts. And that is to help direct the nation in the manner chosen by the voters in their last election. The base level, day-to-day operations of the departments are run by the civil service, which is supposedly non-partisan.
But this group has been captured by the left, on a moderate-to-rabid range. And therein lays the problem. The group of government workers has so-called civil service protections, in that they are very difficult to fire or otherwise get rid of, but are so politically entrenched as to be an extra-legal force. A force that is as hard to move as a mountain when they drag their feet, but quick to jump when they feel threatened, a la Trump and an angry electorate.
From what I have seen, this is much like the BBC, and it’s “lovies” as I hear them called. Maybe I am wrong, but I don’t think so. The organization is so captured by a certain set of politics that it can no longer see what it is supposed to do and instead inserts those politics at every opportunity. Which leads to a fun-house mirror version of reality.
The problem, at least here in the US, is that the feeding grounds for this group of people, universities, have become so closed-minded, bigoted if you will, that a huge chunk of graduates have picked up that bigotry and carried it forward in their lives.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
10 months ago
Reply to  aaron david

I was a bit brainwashed at Uni – Marxist-feminist theory was literally the topic of every lecture. But when I came back out to the real world eventually I got a hold of reality again. The problem I see now is that the ‘real world’ is now little different to Uni in terms of how this stuff is all pervasive. So why would you ever reject it? It has reached critical mass.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
10 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I’ve just joined the SDP. The duopoly needs a shake up

Karl Francis
Karl Francis
10 months ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

You’d make a damn good MP.
I’d vote for you in a heartbeat.
P. S. The Robocop thing might be your undoing?
Then again… in the current climate???

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
10 months ago

The left long ago gave up on winning the vote.
They achieved much more of their agendas by institutional capture and expansion.
Despite their horror at Brexit and Trump, their activities were hardly impeded, let alone halted.
The “wrong” votes on those occasions simply hardened their resolve to ignore voters as “populists” and go on to dominate social and mainstream media, public institutions, regulatory bodies and corporate HR .

Last edited 10 months ago by Brendan O'Leary
Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
10 months ago

Yep.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
10 months ago

It was the derangement over Brexit and Trump that truly opened my eyes to how bad things were. I actually voted Remain and Labour – by 2019 I was a Tory Brexiteer. I just joined the SDP though……

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
10 months ago

“…The respective British equivalents might be Paul Embery, Owen Jones, Keir Starmer and Tony Blair…”

I bet Paul Embery is absolutely thrilled with his group.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
10 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

LOL. It’s practically an insult

AC Harper
AC Harper
10 months ago

It may be too broad a brush for detail work but my suggestion is that people who put progressive politics at the centre of their world cannot understand why anyone else should think differently.
So people who put progressive politics at the centre of their world make up stories to protect their failure to understand. The Others suffer from ‘false consciousness’, they are oppressed victims who don’t recognise the fact, they are ‘Gammons’ hankering after a lost Empire, they are racists, white supremacists, uneducated, evil. Or, the current progressive offering isn’t progressive enough and more progressive action is needed.
Still with the broad brush, most ordinary people are willing to be tolerant of others and smooth out undeserved inequalities but they don’t relish rapid changes that affect them and their families.

jim peden
jim peden
10 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Yes, politics is just tribal religion in another guise. “Our crops were flooded again even though we sacrificed the rest of our cattle to the river gods as the druids advised.” It’s as though the Enlightenment never happened. We need Enlightenment 2.0.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
10 months ago
Reply to  jim peden

Enlightenment 1.0 killed Western Christianity, except in the backwoods.

Our current social and political predicaments all result from the death of Western Christianity.

The Enlightenment 1.0 also caused Robespierre, Lenin and Stalin.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
10 months ago
Reply to  Tony Buck

Enlightenment thinkers were right. But they underestimated the need in some humans for authority and the safety of the tribe, whether religious or secular. Wokeness has all the hallmarks of a religion – dogma, sinners, heresies and witch burnings. But lacking the forgiveness and compassion that Christianity (at its best anyway) does possess. On some level some people need it – need to feel ‘special’.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
10 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

“It may be too broad a brush for detail work but my suggestion is that people who put progressive politics at the centre of their world cannot understand why anyone else should think differently.”
Have you read Jonathan Haidt? His view is similar to yours.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
10 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

“Progressive” is a word that has been irretrievably perverted and ruined by the politics of the 21st century. It used to be an adjective you might attach to someone enlightened who thinks creatively, looks to the future, and is invested in the idea of fairness in society*. “Progressive” now seems to mean anyone who creates their own hopelessly impractical view of the world and then uses authoritarian tactics to capture the narrative and punish anyone who dissents. At worst, it means fanatics who have entirely left the arena of reality.
*purposely avoiding the phrase “social justice” here, as that has been utterly hijacked too.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
10 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I do agree. Although, as you say, the word probably has been irredeemably corrupted, I try not the use it in connection with what is going on in some parts of the left because I refuse to be party to allowing this taking-over of language that is going on. This take-over is being used to denote some terms “good” and others “evil” or even change the meaning of words, and its not just a leftist programme, some racists are appropriating perfect good terms and corrupting them. We must do our best to stem the tide wherever and whenever possible or all dialogue will eventually become impossible.

Karl Francis
Karl Francis
10 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Well said

James Joyce
James Joyce
10 months ago

I had a look at the study on a “know your enemy” basis, but couldn’t get through it. Populism does seem to cross political boundaries sometimes, as many of the people who liked Bernie Sanders voted for Trump, as an outsider who actively attacked “the Swamp.”
What they, and the author of this article completely fails to grasp, is that the official position of the Democratic Party is hatred of straight white people, capitalism, the supposed “patriarchy,” the nuclear family, and the traditions and customs that go with it. Show your contempt for America by not standing for the National Anthem. Sit down. Take a knee. Turn your back. Since most Americans don’t instinctively hate these things–many find them just fine–it’s a hard sell, though beginning in early years of schools is a capital idea and seems to be working. The NEA–a teachers union 3mm strong–has taken hard left positions on Corona, teaching racial hatred, and many other things. They see their job as making white people hate themselves and it seems to be working.
Tip O’Neill, a former Speaker of the House (Nancy Pelosi of old) famously quipped that “all politics is local.” Maybe then. Today, all politics is racial–definitely in America, maybe in the UK and other places too, to a growing extent. What may not initially seem racial definitely is, when you follow the money.
None of this will matter much, as a civil war is coming.
Lock and load!

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
10 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

The Collapse is coming.

And if prophecies prove true, The Warning (from God) is coming too.

Jim Cooper
Jim Cooper
10 months ago

I’d say Paul Embury is a working class social conservative/economic socialist. Bernie Sanders? I wouldn’t say so…

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
10 months ago
Reply to  Jim Cooper

He sounds like an SDP voter then. Time to leave the Labour Party.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
10 months ago

I think Jeremy Corbyn is a closer (but not perfect) fit to Bernie Sanders than Paul Embery.
Paul Embery is at least slightly socially conservative. Remove the ‘slightly’ if the reference point is Owen Jones.

Last edited 10 months ago by Andrew Dalton
Julie Kemp
Julie Kemp
10 months ago

Too much now is way beyond any form of treatment – time is not on ‘America’s’ side right now it seems. Pandora’s Box, with the agency of the tyrant states abroad and their ‘US’ acolytes (especially) have thoroughly sickened the Human Race in all ways.
‘America’ is very sick indeed. ‘She’ is not alone in all this, albeit she has been the Mother Country of so much good and given so much service to the wider world nonetheless. ‘Her’ betrayal will have consequences aplenty. ‘Her’ natural immunity bodies of ‘T’ cells belong to the ‘Ordinary Joe’ and the ‘Mega Man’- men and women of many colours and talents who ‘know’ just how their cells work against infections. Those cells will trump the rot that has brought down the edifice of ‘the United States’. For such ‘T’ cells emanate from an Energy Source that is beyond even the trillions (meaningless number) of ‘dollars’ (which ultra-small minded woke types hope will fill their pockets and satisfy their vanities) will go up in smoke soon and will become white elephants and pathetic jokes country-wide.
I look forward to the Great Blood Letting with dread and a nanogram of glee. But all i want is to have the natural (‘God’ given) richness of the American Constitution to re-set the Human Drama anew. I’m sick of Tragedy. That’s why i ‘love’ Greg Gutfeld and his Colleagues!

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
10 months ago
Reply to  Julie Kemp

The American Empire is really the continuation of the British Empire. It seems to be the Anglosphere has had it so good for so long it’s rotting from within. The Chinese, the Islamists and the Russians have NO such problems – they don’t obsess over pronouns or whether a man can be a woman and are not prepared to accept immigrants who challenge their culture or blow themselves up. This is evolution at work – only the fittest survive.

Last edited 10 months ago by Cheryl Jones
Red Reynard
Red Reynard
10 months ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

Cheryl,
it (western imperial hegemony) has rotted from the inside because that is the nature of all empires; to succumb to rotting and failure from within or succumb to overthrow from without because of the internal rotting.
They (the upcoming empires) don’t obsess over those things now; but they will, once the comfort sets in – such is the fate of empires.
all the best
Red

William Hickey
William Hickey
10 months ago

The only swing voters in the US are white voters.

In a multicultural electorate, that tells you where to fish and how to fish, all in one indisputable fact.

Last edited 10 months ago by William Hickey