Top House Democrat: Economic agenda will reach working-class whites

WASHINGTON—The 2018 off-year election may be 21 months away, but congressional Democrats, particularly in the House, are plotting an economics-centered agenda to help regain the trust – and the votes – of the working class whites who deserted in droves last year to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and other GOPers.

So says Rep. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., a self-proclaimed working-class guy from Brooklyn and Queens, who also happens to chair the House Democratic Caucus, a top party post.

Crowley outlined the agenda in response to questions from the crowd after he spoke March 1 to the Treasury Employees’ legislative conference, meeting in D.C. Those delegates concentrated on federal workers’ issues (see separate story), but the talk turned to politics when Crowley, after his speech, said he had time to take queries from the floor.

“I grew up in Woodside, Queens,” he explained to the first questioner on politics. “All my grandparents were immigrants from Ireland and I’m the son of a police officer. Growing up in Woodside is more akin to growing up in Akron, Ohio, or Youngstown, Ohio, or Scranton, Pa.”

All three cities were one-time heavy industry hubs and all saw huge defections of working class whites, including union members, to Trump.

“We – someone who looks like me – have to continue to speak out to that sector of America that we lost, in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan” to Trump, continued Crowley. At the same time, the Democrats must stress “that we are the party of inclusion,” including that working class. Those voters felt left out by the national Democrats in 2016.

The solution to bringing them back? An economic platform that would show the Democrats believe “a rising tide lifts all boats,” he said. The platform would include:

• Raising the federal minimum wage, now $7.25 hourly, to $15, as the union-backed Fightfor15 campaign demands. Crowley said such a hike would help union as well as non-union workers. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton endorsed a minimum wage hike, to $12.

• “Making college affordable” and making sure that when kids graduate “make sure there’s a job available for them.” Crowley did not specify how the Democrats would guarantee either goal.

• “Working together to find solutions to problems that drive us apart.” That’s where Trump has gone wrong in his first 40 days in the Oval Office, said Crowley, by using executive orders and other actions to drive people even further apart.

Crowley said, without being specific, that “there’s a lot of fodder out there” for Democrats to use to re-attract the working class whites who deserted – and to take back the U.S. House. The Dems need to gain 24 seats to do so, he noted, and there are 26 districts in the U.S. that Democrats Barack Obama and Clinton carried “but which are now represented by anti-union Republicans.”

Source: PAI