Sept. 2014 article anticipating Nov. 2014 midterm elections and how working class white men will vote notes that powerful forces have reduced working class wages around the world: "Whichever approach is taken by the political parties to lure the
white working class, it’s going to have to go up against powerful forces that have reduced working-class wages around the globe."...(subhead, "Hard Hats Are Long Gone")
9/25/2014, "Why Working-Class White Men Make Democrats Nervous," Newsweek, by Matthew Cooper
"Democrats Are Nervous"
"Working-class white men
used to go with the Democratic Party like hot dogs and mustard. And now?
Well, not so much. The complex political allegiances of noncollege
voters—and particularly noncollege white men—get less attention than the
rise of the Hispanic voter. The white working-class percentage of the
electorate may be on the decline, but white working-class men remain a
voting bloc neither party can afford to ignore....
White noncollege voters aren’t all cultural conservatives, but they
often lean that way—and Obama’s progressive politics have pushed them
further away from the Democrats....
The story of what makes white working-class men vote and in which
direction is a complex one. They’re not monolithic by region or
religion. And it’s not easy to measure them by occupation either, so
pollsters use the index that’s easiest to measure and less prone to
error, even though it’s less than perfect: whether they went to college....
this might conjure up the image of a construction or factory worker,
these days most noncollege white males are more likely to be found in
low-end office jobs or in retail sales as cashiers—two of the fastest
growing job categories in America. But what a disproportionate number of
noncollege white men seem to have in common, according to polls, is a
profound sense of aggrievement....
When asked whether government should do more to solve national
problems or leave more to individuals to decide, Americans overall
split, 45 percent in favor of more government intervention to 51 percent
against. By contrast, a full 62 percent of white working-class men said
government should do less.
“You look across the board and they’re
outliers. That is really powerful, and once their income started declining, they became very receptive to Republican arguments that [the
government was] taking your money and giving it to others,” says Ronald
Brownstein of Atlantic Media, an expert in white working-class voting
who mined the data and used the results of a Pew poll in June.
sense of aggrievement also has a cultural element. Today it's socially acceptable to poke fun at "white men" or "white guys." For working-class
white men who have seen their wages and wealth drop as the economy has
come to value “brain” workers more than manual laborers, there’s no
feeling of white privilege, even if their lot is far better than being a
minority in poverty. Indeed, with women now more likely to enter and
finish college than men, and enjoying better health and longer life
expectancy, the frustration of poorly educated white men is
“If you’re a white male and you don’t have a
college degree, you’re struggling and frustrated; and often you’re not
going to blame yourself,” says Ed Sarpolus, a nonpartisan pollster in
Michigan who has studied working-class voters.
“No group has declined more in standing,” notes John Lapin of the Center for American
Progress, who has studied the working-class vote. Indeed, the white
poverty rate is accelerating much faster than the minority poverty rate,
and the white working class is among the most pessimistic groups in the
country—more even than poor blacks or poor Hispanics.
Declining union membership...
But working-class whites are not the same as they were even 10 years
ago. With family breakup accelerating, they’re more likely to live in
single-parent households and have out-of-wedlock births at rates higher
than in 1965, when Daniel Patrick Moynihan, later a U.S. senator, issued
The Negro Family: The Case for National Action, his controversial report about the breakup of black families.
there are important regional differences. Working-class whites in the
South are much more estranged from the Democratic Party....An even
closer parsing of data shows how the collapse of Democratic support
among white working-class voters extends beyond the South to the
mountain West and Plains States. The president garnered a majority in
Maine and Vermont....
The big question is how Hillary Clinton might fare with these voters,
should she run for president in 2016. There are some indicators in her
favor. She’s part of a Clinton brand that won two presidential elections
in part by minimizing the loss of noncollege white men....Whether the narrow pool of Democratic primary voters will prove
representative of voters as a whole is a question that will occupy
Democratic strategists between now and 2016.
staffers in Hillaryland had a saying that, among women, you could tell a
(white) Hillary voter by her shoes, specifically whether they’re worn
out from standing much of the day, as would be those belonging to a
waitress, a teacher or a nurse. But a new Quinnipiac University poll,
Brownstein notes, shows her with only 27 percent of the white noncollege
male vote—behind even Obama’s 31 percent.
Of course, Hillary
wouldn’t need to win these voters; she would only have to stop the
hemorrhaging of them to the Republicans. “She’s not going to carry
[white] noncollege voters. It’s not like they have to get these voters
to love them,” says Ruy Teixeira, author of several books on how the
white working-class votes....
Reihan Salam of National Review and Ross Douthat of The New York Times have written, in their book Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream,
that far from cultural issues being bait and switch, as Democrats
charge, they are essential to working-class survival:
“Public disorder, family disintegration, cultural fragmentation and civic and religious
disaffection...breed downward mobility and financial strain—which in
turn breeds further social dislocation, in a vicious cycle that
threatens to transform a working class into an underclass.”
Hard Hats Are Long Gone
Whichever approach is
taken by the political parties to lure the white working class, it’s
going to have to go up against powerful forces that have reduced working-class wages around the globe. An economy that values more
education and higher skills needs to make a special effort to assist
those left behind.
The pollster Stanley Greenberg was a key
architect of Bill Clinton’s 1992 election. He studied white-majority
Macomb County in Michigan, which had drifted from the Democratic fold.
He found what’s now a familiar pattern of alienation among working- and
middle-class whites from the Democratic Party over everything from taxes
to the death penalty.
He’s more sanguine than many about the
Democrats’ prospects with white working-class voters and sees them, at
least outside the South, Border States and parts of the Mountain West,
as persuadable. “It’s where race and religion meet,” he says of those
uncompetitive areas. But he thinks that when Democrats stop thinking of
working-class whites as factory-floor hard hats—“They’re long gone,” he
half jokes—and more likely cashiers and customer-service
representatives, they’ll be able to compete more effectively for their
Andrew Levison, author of The White Working Class Today: Who They Are, How They Think, and How Progressives Can Regain Their Support,
shares Greenberg’s view about how many persuadable working-class voters
remain. But he thinks a populist appeal isn’t enough....
It may be that, in time, demographics will
settle the matter, as women and minorities vote in ever larger numbers,
making the working-class white male less relevant to elections and to
the economy. But no voice in American life should be ignored, even if it
lacks the punch it once had.
Franklin Roosevelt lauded “the
forgotten man.” (Conservatives have used the phrase, too, and did so
even before Roosevelt, who popularized it.) In an ideal world, each
party would engage in a contest of ideas to help working-class voters.
Election Day is close, but that day is a long way off."