As the media becomes consumed with the 2016 presidential election and begins to (as President Obama said back in 2004) “slice and dice” the electorate, I’ve started to notice a pattern. The group of voters that seems to fascinate them the most is working class whites – mostly men. Even though they are a shrinking part of the electorate (from 1/3 in 1980 to 17% in 2012), countless articles have already been written about how the Democratic Party has lost them and what they can do to win them back. Former Democratic Senator Jim Webb is even considering a candidacy based almost solely on his appeal to them.
But what’s even more interesting to me is how, in talking about what might have motivated white working class men to leave the Democratic Party, journalists seem to have decided that it’s important to avoid talking about one set of issues at all costs: racism/sexism/homophobia.
For example, Politico recently published a story by Larry Sabato, Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelly titled: Clinton’s Real Opponent: Barack Obama. Interestingly enough, the article wasn’t about how Clinton’s platform was at odds with the President (because it isn’t). It was actually about how his approval rating in states with a large white population was lower than would otherwise be expected. Not once in the entire article did they mention that racism might be a factor. But a more appropriate headline might have been: Clinton’s Real Opponent: Racism Against Barack Obama.
Doyle McManus also took up the cause with the appropriately titled: Democrats’ Hunt for the White Working Class Male Voter. When it comes to why this group has abandoned the Democratic Party, he identifies a couple of reasons.
Almost by definition, identity politics is one source of the problem; some white noncollege voters have come to view Democrats as a party that cares about women and minorities more than it cares about them…
The biggest driver of white working-class disaffection, however, is clearly economic insecurity, combined with a sense that big government hasn’t done much to stand up for the little guy.
All of that is fairly accurate. But it totally avoids the very well-documented history of the Republican’s Southern Strategy and their more recent attempts at dog whistles (sometimes fog horns) to gin up the racism/sexism/homophobia of white working class males.
I’d suggest that we are now in an era where “political correctness” has been turned on it’s head. Due to all the fear-mongering and backlash, it has become unacceptable to name all that for what it is and instead focus all our energy on protecting the feelings of racists/sexists/homophobes.
McManus goes on to quote Stan Greenberg on what Democrats can do about the problem.
But Greenberg has proposed adding another piece to the Democrats’ message: a more serious commitment to both campaign reform and a leaner, more efficient federal government — an updated version of Bill Clinton’s 1996 pledge that the era of big government is over.
Part of what Greenberg is suggesting is that Democrats need to adopt the Republican message of a “leaner” federal government. In other words: stop giving away those “freebies” to blacks/women/gays.
I’d like to propose an alternative solution. We should listen to this guy.