Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Identity politics and the white working class

E.J. Dionne, Jr. notes that the recent squabble between the Clinton and Obama camps leaves white working class voters on the sidelines. I’d refine that a little. While identity politics is, to some degree, a middle class luxury, Obama obviously can reach out to African-Americans and Clinton to working women. (Unmarried women have historically accounted for a large portion of the so-called gender gap.) But the dispute leaves white working class men on the sidelines.

This is an opening for Republicans, if only they can figure out how to take it.

They’d do well to reread this article and get hold of this book, when it comes out.

Discussions - 3 Comments

In a sense, this is what Gingrich did with the "Contract for America" in 1994 -- it brought into focus a crisp set of things that he and the Republicans around him stood for. I don't have the voting numbers, but I'd guess white working class men found the presentation appealing.

I'll confess at this point I have no idea what the Republicans stand for, what "conservatism" is any more, or even what "limited government" means. It's a muddle ... and that's why the party suffers.

Here's the key -- and this is what Gingrich seized on in 1994 -- the message cannot be a 40 page position paper with dense language. It would need to be something presentable in a few 30-second spots, something that makes good common sense without drifting to extremes, something that appeals to the average person's sense of what's right and proper.

Oh, and they have to actually believe in it ... not just say it.

Anyone have such a message? Because if so, I haven't seen it.

The white working class is made up of what were called the "Reagan Democrats", people who are patriotic on the national level and conservative on social issues, but who had voted Democratic out of habit and economic intertest.

That still describes their interest pretty well, but the modern GOP has lost the desire, if it ever had it, to cater to them. It is not a socially conservative party in its upper echelons, and it is not a nationalistic party any more, as it was in Reagans day.

Of course, any effort to cater to such people tends to be described as "populist pandering".

As Hayek put it, probably nothing has done as much harm to the conservative cause as the wooden insistence by some conservatives on certain rough rules of thumb, above all the principle of laissez faire. But who reads Hayek any more?

This is anecdotal, but I live in an area where the union is still important. I have heard from several that outside of Edwards (who speaks their concerns), they cannot support Obama or Clinton. These union members say they'll pull the trigger for a Republican in November.

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