Daren Ware believes in single-payer health care. He’s also a longtime union member, voted for Barack Obama for president, and lost his house in the last recession. But he’s still not listening to anything Democrats have to say about the party’s new economic agenda.
“I did see something about their new message about creating jobs,” he said. “And I just laughed. Like, ‘Now you’re seeing that you guys are looking stupid, and the country is more against you than for you.’ So now they want to try and reverse that.”
Mr. Ware is a commercial painter in Warren, Mich., who voted for Donald Trump last year. He’s just the kind of voter that Democrats want to woo back with their “Better Deal” message, released last month in preparation for the 2018 midterm elections. It’s a play on the “New Deal” offered by iconic Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, and focuses squarely on the economy.
But some Democrats contend that it’s not just “the economy, stupid,” as Bill Clinton’s campaign strategist so famously quipped during Mr. Clinton’s successful bid in 1992.
There’s also a cultural disconnect between the largely urban and suburban party of the coasts and the disaffected voters in rural America and in white working-class areas such as Michigan’s Macomb County, where Ware lives. That county, just north of Detroit, flipped for Mr. Trump last year, and helped put Michigan in the Republican column.
Indeed, Ware, sitting inside his Ford F-150 pick-up truck at a strip-mall post office, says times are good right now. But he can’t stand the way Democrats tear down the president and he chafes against career politicians like Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi of California.
“Unfortunately, our brand is toxic,” says David “Mudcat” Saunders, a former Democratic strategist in Roanoke, Va., speaking specifically of rural parts of the country. Democrats are “branded with anti-rural culture” and are seen as wanting to take away guns, not caring about faith, and giving jobs to Mexico and China, he says. And then there’s the “patronizing,” elitist tone.
“Stone by stone, they’re building a wall [with voters] that would make the Trump wall look like a paper fence,” says Mr. Saunders. Yet he and other Democrats are pleased that they’re at least getting a message out. That they’re for something, and not just against Trump. It’s a first step on the long hike up to the…