It happened in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and even South and West Texas: Counties that had supported Obama and previous Democrats voted Republican. Much has been written about the voters who switched in the 2016 election described as “Disgruntled”, “Angry”, “Rebellious” and much worse. In Texas, these voters haven’t been insulted so much as ignored. Not ignored in the sense of not having been targeted by mail, TV, social media, etc. but ignored as to issues these voters care about.
As the Democratic Party became more urban and educated, its focus naturally began to change to issues the core activists and donors care about. Issues such as climate change, LGBTQ rights, environmental protection, reproductive freedom, to name a few. While these issues resonate with the college educated urban voter, they have not had the same appeal to the historic “blue collar” Democratic voter base. In Texas, Democrats depend heavily on Latino voters who have tended to significantly favor Democrats. These voters, however, are more interested in “Lunch pail” issues, such as job protection, fair wages, medical insurance, funding for local education and safe neighborhoods. In addition, if one looks at historic voting trends, Latino multi- generational voting pattern are similar to those of other immigrant groups in that as they move up the income scale they starting identifying, at least partly, with Republican issues (The Trump movement has paused that trend in the short term). The Latino voter should not be conflagrated with African American voters who are still motivated to pursue racial equality, but do share some of the same concerns as Latinos in Texas.
The Trump phenomenon is working in Democrats favor, but if candidates use only talking points that emanate from focus groups in Austin and D.C., and fail to listen to the new “Blue Collar” voter, they run the risk of wasting a key opportunity.
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