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Obama’s problem with white working-class voters

It’s their racism, says Alan Abramowitz.

He doesn’t consider the possibility that it’s their social conservatism, which is to say their religion. Or perhaps their anti-elitism.

He does note that John Kerry had a similar problem with white working-class voters (that was what was the matter with Kansas, after all). You can’t explain that by means of race. So why bring it up now?

Discussions - 18 Comments

Dear Mr. Knippenberg: Are you kidding? This is an early salvo of a dreadful bombardment that the press will fire at the electorate: If You Don't Vote For Obama, You Are RACIST. This is the all purpose card, designed to be, and often successful in, stopping all discussion. Obama cannot afford much discussion because a) his record is thin and b) what there is has a lot of dirt attached. Already the suppression is working: how many people note that Obama, a Chicago politician all his career, yet holds himself out as a reformer? What should provoke the heartiest of laughter instead provokes solumn nods by the liars in the press. Nor has anyone noted the possibility that Michelle Obama will be as malignant a First Lady as Hillary ever was. It seems likely to me that the principal reason Obama stayed in Wright's church all these years is because of his wife. She is as greedy as Hillary ever was. Note that when Obama was elected to the US Senate, Michelle's salary from the University of Chicago's hospital system went up two and half times in one year, with no apparent squawks or blushes from Michelle. Such greed and lack of self awareness make a pardons for cash scandal only one possibility where Michelle Obama could finance her tastes for high living, all the while confident that shrieking race whenever her idiocies land her in trouble will get her out. She has two cards to play, whereas Hillary only had one. Should Obama be elected, a strong possibility (about 3 to 2 odds if you believe the Intrade prediction markets,) we are in for four years of scandal. Worse the foreign situation will go downhill at lightning speed. A sorry state, which is why I can't understand folks like Mr. Voegeli who rejoice in the downfall of the Clintons. That is like a Frenchman rejoicing that the Germans won in 1940, because after all, the Third Republic of France was notoriously corrupt. The largest difference between France in 1940 and the US in 2008 is that there is no outside power who is going to step in and rescue the US if our own folly lands us in the soup.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

The MSM will indeed try to put the white working class on trial. It may even work. But their political greed -- call it lust for power -- is so blatant that it may backfire. As for Mr. Abramowitz, he appears to represent political science at its worst. Good thing life is so easy for such people. Being a liberal in certain schools or departments means never having to say you're sorry.

Screw that. I am a proud Symbolic Racist, and the acceptance of symbolic racism as a category is just the soft soap of Marxism, and here is why: Essentially anyone who is a market conservative or believes that he earns the money he makes fair and square must believe that the social system in which he earns his keep rewards productive behavior and punishes vice, sloth and stupidity. Now to the degree that one accepts this premise to this same degree it is possible to say that poverty in general reflects a lack of ambition, or else some really bad and irrational decision making. I am also by the way symbolically racist against those who play the lottery, drink to excess, overspend budgets buying rims and SUV's they can't afford and generally partake in stupid behavior. Unfortunately such behavior is culturally more prevelant among blacks, hispanics and a lot of low income/education whites.

You can take your symbolic racism and shove it, if demographers want to know the roots of this they should look to the behavior of the lower enlisted in the armed forces. The United States Army has to spend untold amounts of money bailing the enlisted folk out of financial addition to this where do people off all races and socioeconomic groups mix together other than in the Military?

I have been on a charter bus to the Casinos in Detroit, I was the only white guy on the bus, of course I was the only poker player(since I do and can have rationally defined positive expectations I don't consider it a vice) but all these people were going to spend money playing games they couldn't possibly expect to be long term winners playing(It doesn't even take MIT mathmatics to figure out). I am also symbolically racist against anyone who plays slot machines. Of course these folk were doing it smart riding up on a bus that subsidized the cost of travel with coupons and tokens, playing within a budget and time frame with great community spirit/socializing complete with church and moonshine. But then again the Casiono isn't offering such enticements because they are acturarily bad for the Casino.

But I will go even further, the trully racists folk are probably academics who pontificate from a distance, and businessmen who exploit what the demographics tell them are weaknesses inherent to particular demographics. I don't think the racist people are on the front lines, but it is convinient to have uneducated white folk like Dog the Bounty Hunter say key words like "Nigger" so that fire alarms can go off and everyone can pontificate. But who the hell is collecting debt in neighborhoods ravaged by crack? Who sees the problem first hand? Is dog the bounty hunter the real problem simply because he is associating from the ill effects of drug use, bad budgeting, loose morals to a sort of racism, while the demographer who studies the data and draws the same conclusions veilled in technical jargon covers his ass? What would happen to the insurance industry if it wasn't allowed to be symbolically racist?

Mr. Koster, the downfall of the Clintons would simply be a relief. Not having those people bray in our faces all the time, by right and necessity if they were president again, would be as the peace that passeth understanding. Ok, I exaggerate, but I would really like not to have to then anymore. I dream of a day when my grandchildren say, "Hillary who?" I know. Dream on.

As to Obama as candidate, he could only succeed if he did NOT play up the race issue to the general population. His white supporters are those folk who love to be told of the evils of whiteness, flaunting being non-judgmental in a self-righteous way. There was not enough difference between his policies and Hillary's for the race between them to have been about that. Within their party, identity politics carry weight and make a difference.

For the rest of us, white people get tired of being told they are racist, when they don't think they are. Obama as president beyond race, because of the content of his character, would have been one thing. Obama the candidate because of race, will not fly. "The man must be president, because he is black." has not worked before and will not work now and will probably never work. "Elect Hillary because she is white" will not work, either. There is too much at stake for the election to the presidency to hinge on skin or sex.

If Obama were only just as conservative as McCain, I would happily vote for him even if he were a Democrat, assuming he was running against McCain or someone just that conservative. It would be really nice to live in a post-racial America. I would gratefully be an affirmative action voter, all other things important to me being equal between candidates of different races. I don't care about skin and I get so tired of hearing about it. If I could just vote for someone and that issue would be dead.

It would almost be worth voting for Obama to have that issue be dead, except that his campaign and he, himself, has made it clear that a vote for him will not change anything in our political discourse about race. I expect what you expect of an Obama presidency. I also expect that if Obama is the Democratic candidate, it will not be hard to make that clear to the electorate. I think it is great that McCain can rise above the issue of race. Obama can't. If he thinks the can dope-slap the American electorate into voting for him because he is black, he will fail. He has to prove, by November, that he has more than that. What he has, a bunch of expensive promises, is not enough. He will lose.

John Lewis, your comment wasn't up when I began writing.

in addition to this where do people off all races and socioeconomic groups mix together other than in the Military? The only other places I know are in church or in Christian schools.

That doesn't always work, either. My daughter is walking wounded this weekend because her favorite girlfriend (mixed race) ditched her (again) at the school picnic in order to hang with the black girls. One of that group demands racial solidarity. But that was just their grade and social situation. Usually, usually, integration is taken for granted.


I'd add sports.

There is more racism going on with Michelle Obama than with the American electorate. She's the one oozing entitlement, like she was some plantation class maven. She's the one damning all of American history until such time as her husband started closing in on the Democrat nomination. She even damned the Clinton years en passant, and the tenure of Jimmy Carter, who appointed whacked out Andrew Young to the UN.

And David Frisk is dead right, the msm will try to use this campaign to put on trial the Caucasians of America, and "the system" they created.

This campaign is going to get real ugly; and there's no way to avoid it.

7: If only McCain were up to the task. I fear he may not be. The ecological niche of country-club Republicans is to be "classy" in the fact of Democrats -- and ultimately, to lose with "grace" and "honor." It occasionally occurred to me even in 2004 that we Republicans were not fighting this campaign for George Bush (though many loved him), but rather for ourselves. Same thing this year, and more so. Whether we win or not is far more significant to us than to the candidates themselves.

For "in the fact of Democrats," read: "in the face of Democrats."

I am a white, middle-class female. Put Clarence Thomas on the ballot and he has got my vote for President of the United States.

David is right, Republicans are OVERFOND of appearing "classy." This is particularly problematic when they've lost any idea they ever had about what true "class" consists of. They've confused a flinching from political confrontation with class, when in fact that's just plain moral cowardice. They've confused being agreeable with class, when in fact being agreeable is often a mask for moral cowardice. Furthermore they've CONFLATED bipartisan accord with class. Bipartisanship is neither good nor bad, not in and of itself. Sometimes it can be good, sometimes bad, depending on the policy agreed upon and the goal in mind. But it's not something that is ALWAYS and everywhere a good.

Rest assured Peggy Noonan thought herself classy when she wrote that Wright didn't "hurt" her or America's soul. In fact she didn't appear classy so much as she appeared clueless.

What's been truly disastrous for our party is that many have followed the Bush family's lead in this WASP affectation of "class." How many times over the last two terms have we heard Conservative commentators defend Bush inaction by hailing that inaction as indicative of GW's intrinsic "class." Too damn often.

Remember when Carnahan's widow took the Missouri Senate seat away from Ashcroft, all because Ashcroft refused to litigate the fact that she wasn't on the ballot. And why did Ashcroft do that, all because he desired to appear "classy."

Then he compounded his cluelessness by saying he hoped taking that Senate seat would somehow ameliorate the grief of losing her husband and kid.

Now just think about that. Her husband is dead. Her boy is dead. Both died together.

Yet somehow a Senate seat is going to make her feel better............???????????????????????????

That's just bizarre. The very idea is bizarre. She lost her husband and boy, but somehow sitting in the Senate will lessen that grief???????????????????

And how many Conservatives extolled his bizarre actions as "classy."

What was classless was the actions of the Democrat party who told this grief-stricken woman that they were throwing her into the race, so that she could take advantage of the sympathy factor. That's ghoulish. Can you imagine what kind of frenzied political soul would have pondered something like that. But Republicans refused to call the Democrats on their pathological privileging of politics over normal compassion.

That type of nonsense has to stop. She wasn't on the ballot. Her husband was. The Democrats didn't go through the normal legal mechanisms and procedures to change the name of the candidate on the ballot. They just said a vote for the dead Carnahan was a vote for the widowed wife. And instead of Ashcroft saying: "No, you just can't go do something like that, that's illegal," he came out and "graciously" conceded the race.

Confusion isn't class.

And here's something else too that many a Republican and Conservative needs to take to heart. Desiring to appear "classy" isn't "classy." And endlessly concerning yourself with whether you're appearing "classy" or not, especially in a society such as this one, ------------------------ that too isn't "classy."

In a society that lauds Michelle Obama as the hallmark for class and style, in a society that glorifies Al Gore and grants him false messiah status, {besides an Oscar}, and a country where The Academy for Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences grants the best score Oscar to a song titled: "It's hard out here for a pimp," --------------------------- in such a society the whole notion of "class" is so hopelessly confused that it's best just to ignore the whole damn thing.

Far too many Americans don't have a clue what constitutes class. So there aren't too many races that will be won by a Republican because he appears the more classy of the candidates.

11-13: Mega-dittoes. I would that that "classy" political behavior, and lectures urging other Republicans to be similarly "classy," are most often a cover for two things: Cowardice and snobbery. Indeed the two are intimately related, although not invariably so. The snob has a tendency toward cowardice, and the coward is attracted to snobbery as an easy, relatively riskless, form of superiority. Both are very common traits among Republican "leaders."

(The snob tends toward cowardice because he is fearful of discomfort and of losing face -- perennial threats in a vulgar, demotic society like America.)

I am ignorant clueless and know nothing about the law. What I do know is that symbolic racism is pretty easy to prove from the side of the economist, then the lawyer steps in. In my second Urban Economics class we looked at how to go about demonstrating it. Urban planners and City Councils hire economists as part of pannels to do the math on data sets. I forget how it is done exactly. But what I do remmember is that you don't have time in class to question if what you are really measuring is racism. You measure, the lawyer determines. But basically if you are conservative in the way Dan it is a virtual guarantee that the math shows you to be symbolically racist.

But the thing is that what Economics student really cares? I mean if you are a good student you simply work hard on the math partner up with a few law firms and bingo, once you have it down it can become a speciality and then you are on easy street...100k-150k a year.

You guys remind me of Mencken: “No one in this world has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.” America has had a problem appreciating decent men, but to blame the decent men for their decency? What are you asking for here?

Also when I argued a while back that Clinton would have a very good demographic arguement thinking in terms of the best and highest level work of someone like Mark Penn...I forgot to assume that such work would probably run into Symbolic if symbolic racism is entering the picture... it is likely that it is intended as a deflator to Clinton's demographic number crunching(that in its scope would differ from the simplistic straw-men versions you see on the news)

In other words they are killing Clinton's last and best argument to the technocrat inclined superdelegates.

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