Posted on August 2, 2023

Dems Launch a New Effort to Shore up White Voters — By Leaning Into Race

Brakkton Booker, Politico, August 1, 2023

A new Democratic-aligned initiative — dubbed the White Stripe Project — has a novel idea for winning white working class voters back to the Democratic Party: lean more into talk of equity and race.

Organizers say traditional methods in wooing white voters are ineffective, often relying on knee-jerk recommendations from an elite group of Democrats that pushes a race-neutral economic message. White Stripe organizers say this approach is misguided. They are calling for a more targeted and data-driven approach that they argue will be a better return on investment.

The project has plans to build a robust infrastructure to attract white voters who are open to Democratic messaging but who are less likely to vote. Once identified, organizers are betting with targeted messaging and pinpoint engagement that enough of these voters will show up for the party at the ballot box.

“White voters have disproportionate political power,” Erin Heaney, Executive Director of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) told organizers during the Monday afternoon launch of the project. “We need a strategy for engaging and organizing them alongside communities of color.”


“We need to have a public, non-defensive, data-driven conversation,” said Steve Phillips, a Democratic political analyst and author who serves as President of the Sandler Phillips Center which studies voting demographics. It’s one of the progressive groups that formed the project.


Phillips doesn’t believe that race-centered issues should be abandoned in favor of a more race-neutral economic message. He is quick to point to another Democratic loss in Ohio last cycle.


But race as a wedge issue can’t be ignored, say the White Stripe organizers. Instead, it should be tackled head on as Republicans embrace culture-war issues like critical race theory and battling the so-called “woke agenda.”

“We know that race is an incredibly powerful tool to keep people, white people, silent and separated from the multiracial coalitions we need to win,” said Heaney, who leads one of the principal groups spearheading the project.


Officials with the Democratic National Committee tell POLITICO despite recent campaign stops to majority-white districts, there is no plan to abandon his championing issues of racial equity.


“The Democratic Party is a party that fights for diversity, fights for equality,” says Lis Smith, another Democratic strategist not associated with the White Stripe Project.

She adds the party needs to be doing more than just be focusing on white working class voters.

“Democrats have been underperforming generally with working class voters, whether they’re white, Latino or Black. And that’s an issue that we need to work on,” Smith said. “But the solutions won’t be found in turning our back on some of our most devoted voters.”