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The Union Members Who Voted For Trump ‘Have To Be Organized, Not Ignored’ – Unions ‘Should Be Holding More Political Discussions With Their Members And Listening Closely To Their Needs’

Published Sunday, January 3, 2021
by Mindy Isser/In These Times
The Union Members Who Voted For Trump ‘Have To Be Organized, Not Ignored’ – Unions ‘Should Be Holding More Political Discussions With Their Members And Listening Closely To Their Needs’

Although Republican Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump will (hopefully) be leav­ing the White House, Progres­sives must reck­on with the fact that 74 mil­lion peo­ple - almost a third of whom came from house­holds mak­ing under $50,000 - vot­ed for him.

It is alarm­ing that so many Work­ing Class Peo­ple would vote against their class inter­ests, but per­haps most alarm­ing of all are the Union Mem­bers who were drawn in by Trump­ism.

Before the 2016 elec­tion, Demo­c­ra­t­ic Pres­i­den­tial Can­di­dates had long won Union House­holds by com­fort­able dou­ble-dig­it mar­gins, but in 2016 and again in 2020, Trump erod­ed those mar­gins.

If the Left is to win pro­gres­sive poli­cies (and the next Pres­i­den­tial Elec­tion), it needs a mil­i­tant Labor Move­ment.

Unions, after all, are one of the only effec­tive Work­ing Class Insti­tu­tions in this coun­try that can engage Work­ers to build pow­er on the job and in soci­ety at large.

We must under­stand who these Union Trump vot­ers are, why they vot­ed for Trump, and what can be done to win them back

Many on the Left have writ­ten off Trump sup­port­ers as a lost cause or unwor­thy of effort.

This response is under­stand­able, par­tic­u­lar­ly for Peo­ple of Col­or and oth­ers direct­ly harmed by Trump poli­cies.

And we should by no means court the vocal sub­set of Trump­ists who are vir­u­lent White Supremacists. 

But most Amer­i­cans hold a con­fus­ing mix of polit­i­cal beliefs that will nev­er fit square­ly with­in the Demo­c­ra­t­ic and Repub­li­can par­ties.

When the group Work­ing Amer­i­ca held in-depth con­ver­sa­tions with more than 2,300 Work­ing Class Vot­ers in so-called Bat­tle­ground States in 2016 and 2017, it found that beliefs didn’t map to par­ty lines: Vot­ers believed in both expand­ing the coal indus­try and pro­tect­ing the envi­ron­ment; in both uni­ver­sal health­ care and keep­ing out ​“free­load­ing” refugees; in both ban­ning abor­tion and low­er­ing health ­care costs.

A 2019 poll from the Kaiser Fam­i­ly Foun­da­tion and Cook Polit­i­cal Report found that, in Bat­tle­ground states, 70% of respon­dents sup­port­ed a path­way to cit­i­zen­ship for Undoc­u­ment­ed Immigrants - and yet 71% felt it was a bad idea not to detain peo­ple who crossed the bor­der with­out doc­u­men­ta­tion.

Not every issue dri­ves vot­ing behav­ior: 70% of Amer­i­cans sup­port Medicare for All, and yet the Pres­i­den­tial Can­di­date cham­pi­oning the pol­i­cy (U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders) came up short

If the goal of reach­ing out to Trump vot­ers is to acti­vate their pro­gres­sive beliefs strong­ly enough to influ­ence their vot­ing behav­ior, then Union Trump vot­ers should be a promis­ing place to start.

A good Union nat­u­ral­ly ties the fate of the Work­er to oth­ers, a pow­er­ful counter-nar­ra­tive to the rugged indi­vid­u­al­ism our soci­ety (and Trump) pro­motes.

Union Mem­bers are also (the­o­ret­i­cal­ly) trained and expe­ri­enced in fight­ing their boss­es.

Being part of a strug­gle against a boss means reliance on fel­low Work­ers, regard­less of race and gen­der and oth­er social divi­sions.

Unions them­selves, of course, need to embark on a far-reach­ing pro­gram for Mem­ber­ship to put these strug­gles in con­text - one that doesn’t shy away from tough ques­tions in fear of upset­ting a (ten­u­ous) sense of unity

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