Race, Class & Economics

Thought-provoking article in The New Yorker about the difficulties Obama is having connecting the with working class white voters in Ohio.  It is common wisdom on the Left that working class whites are either racists or too stupid to know the Republicans are screwing them over, what with all their bitterness over guns, gays and Gods.  It was never that simplistic, though.  This, I think, is the heart of the article:

‘But they concluded that social issues like abortion, guns, religion, and even (outside the South) race had little to do with the shift. Instead, according to their data, it was based on a judgment that—during years in which industrial jobs went overseas, unions practically vanished, and working-class incomes stagnated—the Democratic Party was no longer much help to them. “Beginning in the mid-to-late 1970s, there was increasing reason for working-class whites to question whether the Democrats were still better than the Republicans at promoting their material well-being,” the study’s authors write. Working-class whites, their fortunes falling, began to embrace the anti-government, low-tax rhetoric of the conservative movement. During Clinton’s Presidency, the downward economic spiral of these Americans was arrested, but by then their identification with the Democrats had eroded. Having earlier moved to the right for economic reasons, the Arizona study concluded, the working class stayed there because of the rising prominence of social issues—Thomas Frank’s argument. But the Democrats fundamentally lost the white working class because these voters no longer believed the Party’s central tenet—that government could restore a sense of economic security.’

I would add that, now that the Democrats have wholly embraced NAFTA-style “Free” Trade, working class whites have little reason to come home.


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