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February 02, 2017

Not long ago there was an earth shaking election that upended received notions of the political order. An AFL-CIO pollster concluded that “This was a working class revolt, and it reveals the danger to Democrats of not successfully addressing workers’ economic concerns.”

The pollster’s assessment was buttressed by other findings. The Democrat won among the college educated but she was trounced with non-college men and non-college women abandoned her too.  Gender politics paled beside economic anxiety that voters felt the Democrats had not addressed. Working class whites felt that the party had forgotten them. The number one issue to the working class was that they wanted someone to fix the economy.

Of course you will recognize that I am referring to Scott Brown’s defeat of Martha Coakley in 2010.

The reason I thought of this is that speculation has begun about a possible challenger to Governor Charlie Baker in 2018. Is there anything to be learned from 2010 and 2016?

Concede that Massachusetts is not the Rust Belt, and we proudly cast our votes overwhelmingly against Donald Trump in 2016. Still I came up a bit short in reading an account of a December session in which Attorney General Maura Healey attempted to cheer up Arlington Democrats. The Boston Globe story speculated that Healey might run for governor. So this was interesting:

Healey has, so far, insisted that she’s not interested in a 2018 challenge to Baker, and that she’s focused instead on her job as attorney general.

But her Arlington event may have served as the clearest sign yet that Trump could provide a ladder to prominence for Democrats.

The meeting dwelled on issues the attorney general said she wanted to pursue: immigration, transgender rights, gun control.

These are important issues but perhaps not targeted to the constituencies where the Democrats need to pick up votes. One Democrat who never forgets to keep economic fairness for workers front and center is Senator Elizabeth Warren, and that showed when she reversed the workers vote against Brown in 2012. Whether you look at class through income or education, Warren won the working class. Exit polls showed that she ran strongest among those with incomes less than $50,000 per year. She picked up 55% of voters with a high school education or less.

A UMass Amherst poll taken shortly before the last gubernatorial election showed Attorney General Martha Coakley beating Charlie Baker by 2-1 among people who earn less than $40,000 a year. But Baker had a 14 point lead among those with a high school education or less.

Back before alternative facts and non-Muslim-ban Muslin bans, a lot of political attention was focused upon Democrats poor performance with working class whites against Donald Trump. A good deal of this attention was concentrated on the economically irrational behavior of the angry white male. Indeed, exit polls showed that white non-college educated men made up 16% of the electorate and backed Trump with 71% of their votes. But the largely ignored non-college white women comprised 17% of the national vote and voted 61% for Trump. Lower income voters went for Clinton (racial breakdown not available on CNN).

When Jay Gonzalez announced his run for the Democratic nomination for governor the other day he emphasized Massachusetts first in the nation status from the American Revolution to gay marriage. He didn’t mention that the Massachusetts Democrats are also first in the nation in showing how to lose a winnable election by ignoring working class voters.

Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democratic party, Scott Brown, Democratic Party

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