NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, July 13th, 2023

Reframing the narrative: Netroots Nation panel explores how to build a winning coalition across race and place

Hel­lo from Chicago!

Net­roots Nation 2023 is now under­way in the Windy City, with break­out ses­sions exam­in­ing press­ing issues fac­ing our coun­try and world.

One of those ses­sions, titled A Work­ing People’s Nar­ra­tive: Build­ing a Win­ning Coali­tion Across Race and Place delved into the expe­ri­ences of spe­cif­ic com­mu­ni­ties in Amer­i­ca regard­ing vot­ing. The pan­el explored how chang­ing the nar­ra­tive could influ­ence peo­ple’s vot­ing habits and choices.

One of the key take­aways from the dis­cus­sion was the need to reframe the nar­ra­tive sur­round­ing anti-pover­ty ini­tia­tives. Tra­di­tion­al­ly, anti-pover­ty pro­grams were viewed as gov­ern­ment inter­ven­tions to res­cue indi­vid­u­als from pover­ty. How­ev­er, the pan­el empha­sized the impor­tance of rec­og­niz­ing the harm of improp­er­ly framed nar­ra­tives like that one. Instead, they sug­gest­ed uti­liz­ing a frame cen­tered on pro­gres­sive val­ues. For instance, a call to action could be “uti­lize the fam­i­ly tax cred­it to sup­port and pro­vide for your family.”

The words cho­sen, in oth­er words, should evoke a frame of fam­i­lies tak­ing con­trol of their cir­cum­stances rather than being pas­sive recip­i­ents of assistance.

Ter­rence Wood­bury, the Direc­tor of HIT Strate­gies, was one of the pan­elists. He shed light on the econ­o­my as the pri­ma­ry dri­ving force behind vot­ing pat­terns, with a par­tic­u­lar focus on Black vot­er turnout. Wood­bury high­light­ed a sig­nif­i­cant dis­par­i­ty in con­fi­dence and vot­ing out­comes between Demo­c­ra­t­ic and Repub­li­can vot­ers, show­ing an 18–21% dif­fer­ence. These sta­tis­tics under­lined the sig­nif­i­cance of eco­nom­ic con­cerns among black vot­ers and their impact on polit­i­cal pref­er­ences. Wood­bury con­clud­ed his com­ments by not­ing that old­er vot­ers and women vot­ers, irre­spec­tive of race, tend to vote more frequently.

Anoth­er pan­elist, Kris­ten Wheel­er, exam­ined the vot­ing behav­ior of white women who iden­ti­fied as bicon­cep­tu­als (“mod­er­ates”) or remained undecided.

Despite Don­ald Trump’s his­to­ry of misog­y­ny, racism, and cor­rup­tion, and the Repub­li­can Par­ty’s cur­rent feal­ty to him, Wheel­er iden­ti­fied sev­er­al fac­tors that influ­enced white women to vote for Repub­li­can candidates.

These fac­tors includ­ed eco­nom­ic anx­i­ety, feel­ings of social insignif­i­cance, racial resent­ment, and neg­a­tive atti­tudes towards trans­gen­der individuals.

The insights shared dur­ing the pan­el under­scored the impor­tance of under­stand­ing the intri­cate dynam­ics at play when build­ing win­ning coali­tions across race and place. The speak­ers did an excel­lent job empha­siz­ing the need for polit­i­cal cam­paigns to reassess their mes­sag­ing prac­tices and word choice.

Flip­ping the nar­ra­tive and refram­ing could prove instru­men­tal in help­ing cam­paigns res­onate with a broad­er spec­trum of voters.

The folks who came to this pan­el had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to deep­en their under­stand­ing of the com­plex­i­ties sur­round­ing vot­er behav­ior. Hope­ful­ly, atten­dees will become ambas­sadors for the idea that a win­ning coali­tion must be built on a foun­da­tion of empa­thy, inclu­sion, and an unwa­ver­ing com­mit­ment to address­ing the eco­nom­ic con­cerns that impact the lives of work­ing people.

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