House Democrats fear that they are losing white, working-class voters due to the party’s shift toward urban and suburban voters.
Although Democrats gained six seats in the House, they lost all 12 Republican districts they targeted with white, non-college educated voters mostly by double-digit margins and almost suffered surprise losses in their own districts with the most blue-collar whites, Politico reports.
Many of those white, working-class districts have been redrawn after 2010 to make it tougher for Democrats to win in those areas and have only gotten worse since then.
Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), one of the few remaining Democrats from those areas, launched a challenge against House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, citing the need to change things up if the Democrats want to take the majority.
Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), who won 53 percent of the vote in his close race in November, blamed his party’s stance on the deficit, gay rights, abortion, and the Second Amendment for turning off voters in his rural district.
“The party’s not going to change on those issues, so the people out there are not going to vote for Democrats,” Peterson said to Politico in an interview. “You might get some marginal difference, but we’ve become an urban party.”
While some Democrats have advocated moving in a more progressive direction, other Democrats have been scrambling to find a solution to how they can win blue collar voters due to Hillary Clinton’s poor performance with that demographic on Election Day.
Some Democrats such as Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) have said the way to win back blue collar voters is by focusing on the economy, trade, and the needs of working-class voters.
“The Midwest is red, and we need to try to get it back,” said Dingell. “Point blank, we’ve forgotten who our base is. Our base needs to be broad. It isn’t ‘us versus them,’ it’s ‘we’ — but we’ve got to remember who the ‘we’ is.”
Other Democrats said that repeated attacks on Trump and paying attention to only the needs of minority and women voters turned off working-class voters.
“So much of this is identity politics,” said Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI).
Unlike most districts where Clinton lost, Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN) was able to eke out a win by six-tenths of a percentage point in an area where Clinton lost by 15 points by making legislation his priority.
“Someone said, ‘When it comes to trade, and the need for changing the way we do politics, and [that] the system is fixed for the benefit of few and the expense of many, you sound a lot like Trump,’” Nolan said. “I said, ‘No, Trump sounds like me.’ And that has been who I am for a long time.”