Monday, November 17, 2014

What About the White Working Class?

The liberals first turned against the white working class in the 1970s with Noman Lear's All in the Family. It featured, if you remember, a racist, bigoted, patriarchal white working class man who worked on a loading dock in the New York borough of Queens. His name was Archie Bunker.

Interesting thing about Archie. You'd think that he ought to have been an ethnic, Italian or Irish, given the time and place. But he wasn't. He was Anglo.

Since then liberals have, as we say nowadays, thrown the white working class under the bus, for the same reasons as Lear threw Archie under the bus. For their racism. For their bigotry. For their cultural traditionalism.

So I read a Slate piece "Why Democrats Can't Win Over White Working-Class Voters" by Jamelle Bouie with interest. Well why can't they do it? The reason, says the sub-head, is "The party's economic populism doesn't reach that far."

In 2010 and 2014 Democrat lost white working class voters by 30 points, and in 2012 by 20 points. So what should they do about it? Chaps like Ruy Texeira think that a dose of populism would do it, but Bouie isn't so sure.

He harks back to the 1970s when the white working class first discovered Democrats spending money on "them", the rioters of the 1960s:
Why was the government spending our tax dollars on them, working-class whites asked, when they destroy their neighborhoods and refuse to work, and we’re losing our jobs and our homes?
Racism, you see.

But couldn't the Democrats come up with "a commitment to universal policies that working-class whites like and support" as people like Kevin Drum propose? Can't they develop policies that spend money on working class whites and make them feel wanted again? Not really, says Bouie, because the Democratic Party is "a collection of disparate interests which—at its best—is nervous about economic liberalism and hesitant to push anything outside the mainstream." Anyway, the government is already spending a ton of money on programs the white working class does like: Social Security and Medicare.

In other words, the Dems won't reach out to the working class whites, because Archie Bunker.

So what is Slate write Jamelle Bouie telling us between the lines? I think he is telling us that between the urban gentry liberalism and identity politics there just isn't any room for the white working class. The problem is, as Bouie states, that the white working class is huge:
"Close to half of white men and 35–40 percent of white women in the labor force are still essentially 'working class,'" finds liberal commentator Andrew Levison in his book The White Working Class Today
You realize what it would cost, both in money and issues, to attract a chunk of the white working class back into the Democratic coalition?

You'd have to back off on the urban policy of high density and transit, the social liberal gospel of feminism and gay rights. You'd have to share the spoils of affirmative action.

And don't forget that up to yesterday, Democrats thought that they had an emerging Democratic Majority with the votes of women, minorities, youth, and the educated locked up for years.

This brings us back to Charles Murray and Coming Apart: White America 1960-2010. His argument, remember is that white America is coming apart into three pieces: the top 25% that's doing fine, marrying each other and prospering personally and economically; the middle 30% that's not doing so great, with significant divorce and income problems. And then there is the bottom 30%, where the women don't marry and the men don't work.

I don't know about the men and women in the bottom 30%, but the children of those folks hate it. They want to become part of working, respectable, decent America, and all the clever political positioning in the world isn't going to lead them astray forever.

The point is that government, any government, only has a limited amount of loot to hand out to its supporters. The rest of the people just have to go out and get a job. And the bigger the government the harder it is for ordinary folks to prosper, because all government spending and subsidy is waste; it is money that could have been doing something productive.

Eventually ordinary folks cotton on to the fact that they will never get to feast at the lord's table, no matter what the lord promises.

That's the headwind the Democrats are experiencing, and it will get worse before it gets better for them.

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