I AM UNNERVED by the Democratic Party's scramble in the wake of its stunning defeat in November's presidential election.

As a black man who is part of the loosely linked coalition of voters that has fueled the Democratic Party for decades, the party's direction is troubling.

That's because the party has not sought to reward or reassure its strongest demographic - black voters, 88 percent of whom voted for Hillary Clinton. Rather, Democrats have sought to kowtow to the white voters who abandoned the party in droves.

Some will deny that Democrats are abandoning blacks to pursue voters who have already left the party, but the proof is in the pudding.

Let's start at the national level, where, in their most vulnerable moment, Democratic strategists and leaders spoke unabashedly about returning to prominence by chasing down white working-class voters.

Bernie Sanders, the popular Vermont senator who ran as a Democrat in the presidential primaries, was among the first to jump on the white working-class bandwagon.

"It is not good enough to have a liberal elite," Sanders said on CBS this morning only days after the election. "I come from the white working class, and I am deeply humiliated that the Democratic Party cannot talk to where I came from."

I think that's interesting, given that Sanders - who is an independent and not a Democrat - is in many ways part of the very liberal elite he now chooses to deride.

It was Sanders who ran on a platform that included many of the socialist ideals he has long held dear. Free college, free health care, attacking corporate interests and shutting down big banks are liberal, elitist policies that work well in theory, but not in reality. That's part of the reason Sanders spent decades in the U.S. House and Senate pushing those ideas and achieving none of them. It's also part of the reason Sanders lost to Clinton in the primaries.

But Sanders isn't the only one who is now crowing about his "white working-class" roots.

Tim Ryan, the 43-year-old Congressman from Ohio - one of the Rust Belt states that Clinton lost - spent weeks after the presidential election trying desperately to tout his white working-class credentials. He hoped to use those credentials to put a political knife in the back of his onetime mentor, Nancy Pelosi.

He tried to replace her as House minority leader by claiming he could better reach "working-class" voters. That's code language for white people.

Ryan lost his bid to replace Pelosi, and, if the Democratic Party is not careful, it will lose on every front going forward.

That's because Donald Trump didn't win the white working class with some conventional economic message. He won by appealing to racism and bigotry.

Trump convinced white working-class voters that Mexican immigrants are taking their jobs, that Muslims are threatening their communities and that refugees are terrorists in waiting. He stoked their belief - in the wake of the 2008 election of the first black president - that black progress equals white regression.

In short, Trump convinced white voters that all their problems are someone else's fault. And he did so brilliantly.

Democrats now have a choice. They can reach out to a dwindling white population with a similarly race-based message. Or they can go about the real work of shoring up support among the voters who form the base of their party.

That means addressing the needs of the party's most loyal demographic - black people.

Democrats must go beyond the nickel-and-dime political patronage that rewards a few black political operatives for keeping the status quo in place.

Democrats must go beyond the political deal-making that gives plum seats to a few black politicians while refusing to address the systemic racism that keeps blacks unemployed at twice the rate of whites.

Democrats must untangle the party from the discriminatory unions and contractors that keep black workers off the construction sites that are funded with our tax dollars.

To put it bluntly, Democrats must stop the lip service because black voters can't afford to wait anymore. Not with Trump taking office on a platform driven by bigotry. Not with Jeff Sessions dragging a record of racist statements into the Attorney General's office. Not with chief strategist Steve Bannon bringing a rebranded version of racism to the White House.

Yes, Democrats must appeal to the white working-class voters they'll need to bring back into the fold.

But in doing so, they'd better not forget the black people who are already there. Otherwise, they'll lose us, too.

Solomon Jones is the author of 10 books. Listen to him mornings from 7 to 10 on WURD (900-AM).

@solomonjones1