A Recipe for Winning Back Working America

January 4, 2017

Congress returned this week just in time for official Washington to digest a famous chef’s recipe for winning back the voters they lost. It’s surprising that this prescient election post mortem should come from the kitchen rather than the green room, but then we’ve all been numbed to surprise by now.

Anthony Bourdain’s New Year’s Day dissection of his class’s  November shock rivals any analysis by Washington’s wise men. Writing in the Washington Post Bourdain blames “privileged Eastern liberals for showing utter contempt” for working class America. When media and pop culture figures “mock them at every turn and treat them with contempt, we do no one any good,” he said.

Bourdain could have been describing coal country when he described his travels in “God fearing America”. There he found people doing what everyone else in the world is doing: “the best they can to get by and take care of themselves and the people they love.”

There’s a message for all, especially for an administration that has been arguably tougher on coal states than on some of our foreign enemies.

State pollsters also missed the impact that alienated blue collar America had on the election. Dave Weigel noted that throughout the industrial heartland, local pundits called it one way while their states voted the other way. When Republicans capture the Kentucky legislature and the Democratic standard bearer gets just 26 percent of West Virginia voters, it’s time to change the bait.

So how does the Washington establishment bring the economically marginalized and politically disenfranchised back into the fold? Ten senate Democrats facing re-election in states carried by Trump have less than two years to figure this out.

One way to win back blue collar workers is to stop groveling before the Sierra Club and the “privileged Eastern liberals” who fund them. Instead, propose policies that treat working Americans as real people rather than deplorable abstractions.

There is scarcely an interest group whose regulatory agenda has been more systematically hostile to economic growth and blue collar America than “keep it in the ground” activists. After losing midterm elections across the board, the president decided to fulfill Sierra Club fantasies with a string of executive orders and regulations. This only accelerated the steady erosion of working class support that helped bring him to office.

The result: the environmental Left has managed to pit the traditional party of working men and women against working men and women, costing miners their jobs and some Democrats their seats.

The election proved there will be scant penalty for elected officials who ignore the demands of the Club and the spring break Bolsheviks who swell its ranks. Elected officials can win by offering more responsible environmental solutions – ones that respect the interests of working people.

If a celebrity chef from New York can see this, maybe the Capital’s intelligentsia can too.