Is Campaign Finance Reform Really the Key to Winning the White Working Class?


Stan Greenberg says that white working-class voters aren’t lost to the Democratic Party. In fact, most of them strongly support a progressive agenda in the mold of Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders. The problem is that they don’t trust the system, and they want to see reform first, before they’re willing to vote for Democratic candidates with expansive social welfare programs:

Three-quarters of voters in the twelve most competitive Senate battleground states in 2014—states flooded with campaign money—support a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United ruling. Three in five of those voters support “a plan to overhaul campaign spending by getting rid of big donations and allowing only small donations to candidates, matched by taxpayer funds.”

….Yet most important for our purposes are the results for white unmarried women and working-class women. These groups both put a “streamline government” initiative ahead of everything except protecting Social Security and Medicare. They want to “streamline government and reduce waste and bureaucracy to make sure every dollar spent is a dollar spent serving people, not serving government.” They gave even greater importance than white working-class men to streamlining government. For these women, being on the edge means feeling more strongly that government should pinch pennies and start working for them.

….What really strengthens and empowers the progressive economic narrative, however, is a commitment to reform politics and government. That may seem ironic or contradictory, since the narrative calls for a period of government activism. But, of course, it does make sense: Why would you expect government to act on behalf of the ordinary citizen when it is clearly dominated by special interests? Why would you expect people who are financially on the edge, earning flat or falling wages and paying a fair amount of taxes and fees, not to be upset about tax money being wasted or channeled to individuals and corporations vastly more wealthy and powerful than themselves?

I’ll admit to some skepticism here. Are working-class voters, white or otherwise, really pining away for campaign finance reform? The evidence of the past 40 years sure doesn’t seem to suggest this is a big winner. Still, times have changed, and the influence of big money has become far more obvious and far more insidious than in the past. Maybe this really is a winner.

As for streamlining government, my only question is: where’s the beef? That is, what kind of concrete plan are we talking about here? “Streamlining” seems a little too fuzzy to capture many votes.

In any case, read the whole thing if this is the sort of thing you enjoy arguing about. It’s food for thought at the very least. As for me, I’m off to see my doctor. I’ll be back sooner or later depending on how streamlined his office is.

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