The class inversion in American politics — Republicans’ struggles with college graduates and Democrats’ struggles with the working class — is a running theme of this newsletter. To help make sense of it, I asked four Times Opinion writers to join me in an exchange this morning. They are Michelle Cottle, Carlos Lozada, Lydia Polgreen and Ross Douthat, and they’re also the hosts of a new podcast, “Matter of Opinion.”
David: Democrats are nearly shut out of statewide office in almost 20 states, largely because of their weakness with working-class voters. And in the past five years, the party has lost ground with working-class voters of color. How can Democrats do better?
Michelle: There are concrete issues on which some Democrats stumbled too far to the left, crime being notable. But I don’t think the main problem is with the party’s policies so much as its overall vibe. Dems need to relearn how to talk to working-class voters — to sound less condescending and scoldy. Too many Democrats radiate an aura of, If only voters understood what was good for them, they would back us.
Carlos: Dispensing political strategy is not my comfort zone, so all I’ll say is that it seems a bit shortsighted when politicians talk to Latino voters as if the only thing they care about is immigration and the border, or when they address Black voters as if all that animates them is policing reform or racial discrimination. Don’t try to woo large and varied voting groups with narrow appeals. It’s pandering, it’s obvious and it’s dismissive.
Lydia: As Michelle hinted at, the Democrats have become the party of officious technocracy, which makes so many things they propose sound, well, ridiculous. A classic for me was Kamala Harris’s student loan forgiveness plan from the 2020 race: You had to be a Pell Grant recipient, start a business in a disadvantaged community and keep that business going for three years. That’s no “Make America Great Again.” They should talk about big, bold and simple ways you will improve people’s lives.
Michelle: “Officious technocracy” is my new favorite term, Lydia! I’m officially — and officiously — appropriating it.
Carlos: The irony of the Democrats’ officious technocracy is that, in some cases, it misrepresented how science works. Admonishing people to “follow the science” on Covid can be counterproductive when recommendations should change as new data comes in. Science is a method of inquiry, not a set of off-the-shelf solutions.
Ross: Talking about working people’s material interests in language that doesn’t sound like it was lifted from a glossary of progressive-activist terminology is the right path for Democrats. Right now, though, I think they have a lot to gain by treating the Covidian and George Floyd-era breakdown in public order as their major political problem — treating homicide rates, drug abuse, school discipline and border security as key issues where they need to separate themselves from their own activist class, which has a tendency to act like living with disorder is an essential part of left-wing tolerance.
Remember Kamala Harris the prosecuting attorney, once disdained by the left? The Democrats could use a leader like that.
Craziness and chaos
David: What about the other side of the class inversion? Republicans used to win white-collar professionals. Not anymore.
Ross: The G.O.P. has multiplied the reasons for college graduates to turn against them: The craziness and chaos of the Trumpist style cost them with one group; the fact that they can now legislate against abortion costs them with another.
I think you can see in the success of Brian Kemp in Georgia a model for how they can advance pro-life legislation without suffering dramatic losses. But the Kemp model requires a rigorous reasonability, a studied outreach to suburbanites, a moderate and competent affect, none of which a Trump 2024 candidacy is likely to offer, and the effort to defeat Donald Trump may push Ron DeSantis from the Kempian sweet spot as well.
Lydia: I think it’s brave to take a principled stand on a defining moral question like abortion, electoral consequences be damned! Just ask the Democrats what embracing civil rights cost them. Maybe there is something for the G.O.P. to learn from Bill Clinton, who was able to triangulate his way into the Oval Office by undercutting the critiques of liberal overreach.
Michelle: It goes beyond the Trumpian crazy. Republicans have, for a while now, been spinning up their voters by painting every issue as an existential crisis such that compromise, triangulation and moderation are anathema. College-grad-moderate-swing-voter-suburban types find it unsettling.
Carlos: Maybe the thing to remember is that “rigorous reasonability,” as Ross calls for, is relative, and the G.O.P. could benefit from the soft bigotry of low expectations. It might not take all that much for college grads turned off by Trumpism but still wary of the activist left to consider a Republican who combines populist policy impulses with a more sober governing style. In his book, DeSantis brags that his administration in Florida was “substantively consequential.”
Michelle: I like your optimism, Carlos. But I’d venture that DeSantis’s nerdier approach is a key reason he’s getting his booty stomped in polls by the MAGA king. Not juicy enough and way too wonky/jargony at times.
Listen to the latest episode of “Matter of Opinion” — about America’s place in the world and the significance of this week’s visit to the U.S. by Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister.
THE LATEST NEWS
Modi’s U.S. Visit
President Biden is welcoming Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, today, hoping to woo the country at a time of conflict with Russia and rising tension with China.
By staying neutral in the war in Ukraine, India has profited: It has emerged as a primary buyer of Russia’s crude oil, which it refines and exports.
Other Big Stories
As Modi visits the U.S., President Biden should promote shared democratic values with an increasingly autocratic ally, The Times’s editorial board writes.
The Ethicist: “My wife lives in a nursing home. Can I take a lover?”
Lives Lived: Haim Roet survived the Holocaust by hiding in a Dutch village. At a protest in 1989, he read out the names of people murdered by the Nazis, starting a practice that has become a part of memorial ceremonies around the world. He died at 90.
SPORTS NEWS FROM THE ATHLETIC
N.B.A. blockbuster: Kristaps Porzingis is heading to Boston and Marcus Smart to Memphis in a three-team swap.
Wunderkind: Meet Ness Mugrabi, the N.F.L.’s youngest agent.
Scrutiny: Leaders of the PGA Tour, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and the LIV Tour were invited to testify in front of a congressional committee.
ARTS AND IDEAS
Role-playing games: The Final Fantasy video game series has been around for more than three decades. Recently, as its creators worked on the next entry, Final Fantasy XVI, they confronted what The Times’s Brian X. Chen calls the “Star Wars” problem: Can a long-running franchise reinvent itself to win over new audiences without losing longtime fans who crave nostalgia?
Final Fantasy XVI is out today, and Corey Plante writes at Kotaku that it successfully threads the needle: “It just may be the best the series has been in more than 20 years.”