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Blueprint for how Democrats can win back the working class

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Florida voters, as they were giving their electoral votes to President Trump’s re-election, also approved a measure instituting a $15-an-hour minimum wage.

Which tells you all you need to know about where we are with our politics.

Democrats, since FDR, had been the party of the working class, and note how I use the word “had,” past tense, because despite the best efforts of some of us on the inside, I think it’s clear that we’re done in that respect.

And I say this based on what I’m seeing and hearing from my Democratic friends in the wake of the 2020 election.

We can’t seem to be able to get our heads around how the election could be so close.

How could so many million Americans be so stupid, basically?

Or, actually, no, they’re not just stupid; they’re all racists, which, OK, ignores the numbers from Miami-Dade, and the exit polls there suggesting that Latino voters, in droves, voted for Trump, and exit polling elsewhere telling us that Trump made significant gains among African-American males.

They’re stupid, they’re racists …

They’re evil.

That’s the other sense I’m getting from Democrats, who have worked themselves into a lather over the specter of post-election violence that CNN and social media are telling them will be initiated by endless waves of gun-totin’ bubbas.

Because of course these mouth-breathers with varying degrees of mental illness and defect, racist to their core, stupid beyond comprehension, are bent toward vengeful blood-lust.

This is where I need to point out, for sake of autobiography, that I’m a progressive Democrat – universal healthcare, Green New Deal, throw as much money at K-12 education as we possibly can.

And that I also grew up in a trailer park in deep red Augusta County, Virginia, which went 72.8 percent for Trump on Tuesday.

The trailer park is still there, in a rural hamlet, Crimora, population 2,209, nearest stoplight 10 miles down Route 340, the focal point of local commerce being the Dollar General, and where the 2020 vote went 86.5 percent for Trump.

I’d figured out when I was a student at Crimora Elementary School, which was shuttered by the county as a cost-saving measure in the late 1980s, that I wasn’t on the same team philosophically with Wall Street Republicans who’d decided that ketchup is a vegetable for the purpose of being able to slash funding for school lunches.

Basically since, I’ve had a hard time processing why so many of the people that I grew up with have the habit of backing politicians who only pretend to have their backs.

It finally dawned on me a couple of years ago.

At least Republicans pretend.

Sure, it’s pretense that, when you realize what it is, is insulting, considering the reverse Robin Hood effect of the policies enacted in Washington that take money and services from the working and middle classes to be able to better line the pockets of millionaires and billionaires.

Problem is: what are we Democrats doing that’s any different?

You think Wall Street didn’t have a good reason for putting its money on Joe Biden in the 2020 horse race?

Biden made it clear from the start that he won’t upset the healthcare apple cart, that he will buck progressives on the Green New Deal.

They knew that Democratic voters would hold their noses, considering the alternative, and the gamble that enough middle-of-the-road Republicans would cross over to distance themselves and their party from Trumpism seems to be paying off.

We’ve unwittingly ushered in the dawn of a new Gilded Age.

Yeah, OK, we’re not celebrating yet, but will be soon, as the votes are counted that begin the final countdown on this Era of Trump, which I think we’ve mistaken as a cult of personality.

To be sure, Trump thinks it’s been about him; he’s made every effort to make everything that has happened the past five years about Trump, par for the course for a guy who slaps his name on buildings he doesn’t own paid for by people he doesn’t claim to know.

The Trumpism that grew around him is losing the carnival barker who is doing his best to starve the movement that grew organically around him of its oxygen as he cashes out, but that was destined to happen at whatever his end point was going to be, given his track record.

I don’t know that the movement dies with its Barnum.

The people who put Trump in the White House four years ago, and wanted to give him another four years, want their kids to do better than they’re doing, and they can’t afford to send their kids to private schools or hire a teacher to help them figure out remote learning.

They want the good-paying jobs that their fathers had when they were kids, and when you tell them that those kinds of jobs might not ever come back, they call bullshit, and they’re right, it’s bullshit.

Good-paying jobs for Middle America aren’t a thing of the past.

We could easily make the Green New Deal that we love so dearly about jobs as much as it is about the environment.

A novel concept there, right, that investing in the Green New Deal could also mean investing in the people who will need to build out the energy infrastructure of the 21st century.

These are the good jobs that we had a generation ago, that can pay for families to live in nice houses, in safe neighborhoods.

I’m not making a huge mental leap here at all.

We could make K-12 education about jobs as much as it is about education.

I’m living, breathing, walking proof of that.

I don’t make it out of the trailer park if not for public schools, if not for federal financial aid helping me pay for college.

I’m a better person for all of that, sure – but I’m also better economically, both for myself and as a contributor to the greater good.

We could make universal healthcare about jobs, because it is.

Making healthcare a universal right means no one has to worry about going to the doctor when they’re sick, that a cancer diagnosis or car accident could lead to bankruptcy.

Coupled with guaranteed paid sick leave, we’re all healthier, more productive – happier, more secure.

Focus on jobs, focus on education, focus on healthcare security, and I think we can figure out ways to overcome our differences on social issues – on race, on guns, on abortion/reproductive rights.

I think a key there is coming to an understanding of mutual disarmament in terms of the rhetoric that we have allowed to define our shared existence.

People who don’t think differently aren’t by definition “stupid,” not “evil.”

We’ve got a lot to work through – racial, gender and LGTBQ+ equality; police and criminal justice reform; religious freedom.

We need to do it from an understanding that, at the foundation, we’re all Americans, all on the same team.

If we can’t do that, if we decide that, we are a house hopelessly divided, we will fall, and we will fail.

Story by Chris Graham