How did the most racist president of our life outperform a more generic Republican like Mitt Romney with Latinos? Research by Equis Labs suggests that Latinos found Mr Trump’s populist message about the economy appealing.
And as Mr. Trump has shown – and Mr. Youngkin confirmed – racially coded attacks don’t necessarily repel Latino voters. You can even put them on. One of us, Ms. Gavito, was one of the first to spot this worrying trend. In focus groups in battlefield states ahead of the 2020 election, pollsters from Lake Research tested a message denouncing “illegal immigration from places overcrowded with drugs and criminal gangs” and calling for “full police funding to keep our communities” not Threatening people who refuse to obey our laws. ”Both whites and Latinos found this message compelling, but Latinos were significantly more likely to find it appealing than whites.
So this is the Democrats’ problem: the fact that Republicans can easily pull races into conversation kicks off the idea that Democrats can thrive just by getting their legs off the ground about more popular things. And the fact that racially coded attacks boost turnout among white voters without necessarily generating backlash among minority voters undermines the idea that mobilizing a diverse electorate can win elections for Democrats.
This is the bad news. The good news is we know what the way forward is.
First, Democrats must separate our (accurate and necessary) analysis of structural racism from our political strategy in a country where nearly 70 percent of the electorate remains white – and as much as 80 percent or more in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin White. Rather than ignoring race while Republicans are fooling us with it, Democrats must stand up to it, stating that powerful elites and special interests are using race as a tool of division to distract hardworking people of all races while blindly robbing them. Then turn back to common interests. The fulcrum is crucial: Without it, the Democrats will just bypass the electorate while the Republicans play with their racial fears.
This strategy is known as the “racing class narrative” developed by Berkeley-based Prof Ian Haney López, writer Heather McGhee, and messaging expert Anat Shenker-Osorio (who we worked with). To be clear, Democrats should not seek to impose a framework for racial justice; On the contrary, research found that a focus on racial justice is less compelling than the racial narrative. The strategy we propose here is a middle ground: it is more powerful than a pure racial justice framework, but also more powerful than a strategy that completely ignores race. Race is the elephant in the room and Democrats need to stop fooling themselves that they can keep it from becoming a problem.
Second, the Democrats must put aside the wrong choice between persuasion and mobilization tactics and embrace both. By confronting race as a tool of division and then turning to common interests, the Democrats can offer an optimistic, inspiring, and even patriotic vision. This is the approach that catapulted Barack Obama into the White House. As an African American, Obama was never allowed to ignore race. Forced to face this, Obama offered Americans a vision that mobilized a broad, diverse coalition – and at the same time won over white voters. In 2008, Obama won the highest percentage of white votes since Bill Clinton in 1996.
Race has shaped American history and politics since our inception. It runs through most aspects of daily life and creates complex emotions that Americans of all backgrounds find it difficult to discuss. But Virginia showed that race is impossible to ignore.