Thursday, February 8, 2024

Literary Ruralism (XLIV): Merge Left: Fusing Race and Class, Winning Elections and Saving America

In his 2019 book, Merge Left: Fusing Race and Class, Winning Elections, and Saving America, Professor Ian Haney Lopez explores the best messaging to achieve cross-racial coalition building to support progressive causes.  Here's the beginning of Chapter 9:  The Race-Class Approach:
The Right’s core narrative urges voters to fear and resent people of color, to distrust government, and to trust the marketplace. The Left can respond by urging people to join together across racial lines, to distrust greedy elites sowing division, and to demand that government work for everyone. This is, to repeat, a core narrative, not a recommendation regarding precise language. This is the foundational scaffolding the Left can use to build a multiracial movement for racial and economic justice. The first box puts the core narrative into visual form. The next puts flesh on the bones, offering three versions of the race-class message. How did the race-class messages perform compared to dog whistle racial fear? We tested nine versions of the race-class message. Persuadables found all nine race-class messages more convincing than the dog whistle racial fear message. It’s an impressive result for a first run. Recall that familiar messages typically do better simply because they’re familiar. Those in the middle hear racial fear messages every day, and yet even when first exposed to the race-class messages, this group found all of them more convincing.

And here's the part that specifically references rural folks and their receptivity to the so-called race-class narrative: 

While much more research remains to be done and the race-class messages will certainly evolve, we’re confident the early positive results were not a fluke. Other groups subsequently tested versions of the race-class message and also report strong findings. Rural Organizing, a progressive group focused on rebuilding rural America, surveyed their constituents in 2018. Unsurprisingly, they found rural-specific messages to be very popular. For instance, this message garnered approval from 94 percent of respondents: “The rural and small-town way of life is worth fighting for.” Now compare how the novel race-class arguments did. Rural Organizing also tested this message: “In small towns and rural communities we believe in looking out for each other, whether we’re white, Black or brown, tenth generation or newcomer.” Almost nine out of ten, 89 percent, agreed. And this message: “Instead of delivering for working people, politicians hand kickbacks to their donors who send jobs overseas. Then they turn around and blame new immigrants or people of color, to divide and distract us from the real source of our problems.” Three-quarters of all respondents, 76 percent, agreed.3

In the summer of 2018, Latino Decisions polled more than 2,000 registered voters in the 61 most competitive House districts. They tested this statement: “Today, certain politicians and their greedy lobbyists hurt everyone by handing kickbacks to the rich, defunding our schools, and threatening our seniors with cuts to Medicare and Social Security. Then they turn around and point the finger for our hard times at poor families, Black people, and new immigrants. We need to join together with people from all walks of life to fight for our future.”4 More than 85 percent of respondents agreed.

These high levels of agreement are heartening, especially coming from rural areas and competitive districts where one might expect a more lukewarm reception.

We’ve also seen the race-class approach picked up in campaigns and by politicians across the country.

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