Posted on July 2, 2024

Democrats Must Change Their Whole Approach Toward White People

Steve Phillips, The Nation, June 17, 2024

In the days after Trump’s conviction on 34 counts of falsification of business records, white leaders from coast to coast rushed to microphones and social media to pledge their allegiance. Polls show no meaningful erosion of backing for Trump among voters (a New York Times/Siena survey found just 3 percent of his supporters saying they plan to switch their vote after the conviction).

None of this should be surprising. In a country that is growing increasingly racially diverse, the Republican Party remains disproportionately white (83 percent of GOP voters are white, according to Pew Research analysis of exit polls). White rage has always been the rocket fuel powering Trump’s ascendance and continued political relevance. {snip}


{snip} The evidence has been clear for decades for anyone who cared to look. From a quantitative standpoint, championing white nationalism in this country has always been good politics.


{snip} The dominant strategic focus of the Democratic Party has been and remains to woo white voters, but in my 30 years in national politics, I have seen precious few examples of empirical data and research guiding this quest to win white support.

To address this gap, I have spent the past year working with the groups Showing Up for Racial Justice and the Working Families Party to conduct a study on what the data really shows about white voter behavior over the years. We just released the resulting report titled “Expanding the White Stripe of Our Multiracial Coalition” this week {snip}

With the clarity that Trump’s conviction won’t dislodge his white supporters, the findings in the White Stripe Report are more timely and urgent than ever. The report offers three top-line calls to action. They are:

• Target the right white people

Much of the media and too much of the Democratic focus has primarily centered on trying to change the minds of voters inclined towards Trump. But there are millions of progressive-leaning whites who are infrequent voters but would likely support Democrats if they did come out and vote. {snip}

Our analysis of the nonvoting population among registered voters in 2020 identifies 26.9 million whites who didn’t cast votes but would probably have backed Biden. A far better use of funds this year will be making sure that those white people vote, instead of spending millions of dollars on endless television ads trying to get Trump supporters to switch allegiances.

• Spend proportionately

There comes a point where Democratic spending on white people results in diminishing margins of returns. {snip}

Having a realistic expectation of what percentage of white voter support the party is actually seeking will be key heading into November, as will be setting a limit on the amount of money, time, and effort that will be spent trying to exceed that limit. Saving money in this fashion will free up funds to invest in mobilizing voters of color who support Democrats at much higher rates.

• Run toward—not away—from racial issues.

Though this may seem counterintuitive, it turns out that being explicit about race doesn’t diminish support among white voters. In fact, it could increase support by activating those millions of progressive nonvoting whites.

The default impulse of most white people when it comes to issues of diversity, racial justice, and equality is to change the topic. In the research we examined, the data shows that pushing back on these attacks and summoning people to be their highest and best selves actually works. Democrats received their highest share of the white vote in the past 24 years when they challenged America to elect a Black man as president, and Obama secured 43 percent of the white vote in 2008.