Labor unions have long stood with the Democratic Party, but manufacturing workers have slowly turned their backs to unions.
In 1992, unions represented 20 percent of manufacturing workers whereas now, they represent only nine percent of them. As manufacturing left large urban centers to occupy blue-collar suburbs, the Republican Party turned into the political organization that best captured their hearts and minds.
The Wall Street Journal reports that President Donald Trump’s message of protectionism is one that resonates with what is now red country, giving middle-America the attention that Democrats never bothered to capture.
Gun rights, anti-abortion measures, and a rhetoric that stands for an anti-immigrant sentiment rooted in putting American workers first have all started to gain a great deal of support in the districts that had once been solidly Democratic. And that, WSJ adds, is in part because of the Democrats’ incapacity to accommodate individuals with a more conservative approach to life and society.
“As the economic core of metropolitan areas has changed from manufacturing to services, finance and technology, the party has made little room for the conservative cultural views of many blue-collar workers and has embraced gay rights and increased immigration,” The publication explains.
“The 2016 Democratic platform, for instance, had 19 mentions of rights for LGBT people. The 1992 platform had a single mention of the word ‘gay’.”
Even terms long-used by Democrats are now often used by Republicans like Trump himself, which indicates that the Republican Party may be shifting and leaving its capitalist tone behind in favor of a more pro-welfare agenda.
“In 1992, the Republican Party platform declared the GOP the party of ‘tough free traders’ who pushed an expansive ‘free trade agenda’. In 2016, reflecting Mr. Trump’s presidential candidacy, the platform said instead that the U.S. needed ‘better negotiated trade agreements that put America first’. The platform coupled ‘free trade’ with ‘fair trade’, a term that Rust Belt Democrats have long used.”
All in all, WSJ explains that Trump’s protectionist trade war with China could have two effects.
At first, pushing against European and Chinese producers may rally the blue-collar base in these solidly red districts, putting Republicans “over the top” during mid-terms. But if the trade war ends up having a negative effect on American production, the blue-collar districts may end up feeling poorly represented, leading to apathy.