Blue-Collar Blowback?

Just an idle question I’m curious about: does the rush to bury Barack Obama via vast attention to his alleged disrespect for business owners create a danger that Republicans will accidentally produce some blowback among the non-college educated white voters that are essential to the GOP coalition?

Sure, there are a goodly number of small business owners without college degrees, and yes, it’s possible the endless hammering of Obama for what James Taranto calls his “ressentiment” (using the Nietzschean term that tells us a lot more about Taranto than about Obama) could cut into the incumbent’s popularity with upscale voters. But there remain quite a few actual blue-collar workers who are unhappy with the economy and/or sympathetic to GOP cultural positions, but who are not exactly inclined to look at employers as a class and weep bitter tears of sympathy for the pain they feel when the president suggests they didn’t earn every penny from their own hard work.

In a recent and fascinating analysis of the “white working class” over at The Democratic Strategist which tries to get beyond the usual stereotypes, Andrew Levison talks a lot about the existence of a small but critical group he calls “working class moderates” who are open to Republican arguments, particularly on cultural themes, but don’t much like or trust big business. These are precisely the kind of voters the GOP needs, but aren’t going to attract if they come across as the party of John Galt, demanding not only lower taxes and less regulation, but unconditional respect. American white working-class voters may not be the Horny-Handed Sons of Toil of ancient lefty myth, but they’re also not fond of singing hymns of praise to The Man. Conservatives are in danger of forgetting that in their rush to make out Obama as the eternal enemy of the almighty Job Creators.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.