James Zogby: Democrats Must Not Ignore European, Mediterranean Ethnic Voters

James Zogby: Democrats Must Not Ignore European, Mediterranean Ethnic Voters

Arab American Institute President and Democrat strategist James Zogby has a warning for the Democrat Party. He feels his party is losing the vote of Americans of European and Mediterranean descent – and they’d better get it back.

Zogby is especially worried about losing ground in the important states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania – all states with a large contingent of voters with “European/Mediterranean” lineage. He thinks that these states could help Democrats with the close margin we have seen for years in American election results but only if Democrats don’t ignore these voters.

In his op-ed, Zogby seems to echo a piece written by Thomas B. Edsall in 2011 that the Democrats had simply abandoned white voters “in favor of cementing a center-left coalition” built of aggrieved minorities and super rich liberals.

“According to the 2010 census,” Zogby said, “more than a third of all residents in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania are immigrants or the descendants of immigrants from European and Mediterranean countries.” These voters, Zogby said, “retain a strong attachment to their heritage, belong to ethnic organizations and churches, and remain connected through their ethnic media. Many of them also have deep roots in the labor movement and in the Democratic Party.”

Zogby claimed that these voters are “progressive” in political ideology but “traditional” in their family lives and social values.

“They are progressive on the role of government in public education, health care, Social Security and protecting the minimum wage and labor standards. But they are traditional in their attachment to their families and their communities,” he stated.

Zogby bemoaned that his party lost these voters. “These ethnic voters were once core constituents of the Democratic Party, but along the way, we stopped talking to them and directing our message to them. As a result, we lost their support,” he said.

He gave an example from 1984 when he heard both Democrat nominee Walter Mondale and President Ronald Reagan address a group of Italians. He claimed that Mondale had the “better program to ensure progress for middle-class ethnic voters,” but Reagan had the better message; instead of droning on and on about those policies like Mondale did, Reagan reached out with a personal story about his own immigrant grandmother, connecting on an intimate level with the audience.

Zogby wants the Democrat Party to return to its past efforts of connecting on a personal level with voters of this sort. “We just have to broaden our appeal and expand our base by speaking directly to older immigrant groups, as well as to newer immigrants–white ethnics, as well as African Americans and Latinos,” he insisted.

It is likely true that, if the Democrat Party could regain many of these once Democratic voters, the razor thin margins we see in many elections might be upset in favor of Democrats. As Zogby noted at the end of his piece, “They were once Democratic voters, and there is no reason why they can’t be again.”

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