For anyone who thinks about a run for president in 2016, here’s a smart article on the White Working Class with the emphasis on working:
The key to Obama’s struggle with white working class voters is not ‘white,’ but ‘working.’
Working class white people don’t like President Obama much. According to the latest Gallup poll, only 27% approve of him. That’s 21 percentage points down since he took office in 2009.
A standard talking-point is that these voters don’t like Obama because they’re racist. But that assumes that the key word in “white working class” is “white.” In fact, the key word is “working.” After all, Obama isn’t any blacker than he was in 2009.
A few Democratic pundits seem to get this. Writing in Mother Jones, Kevin Drum observes: “So who does the WWC take out its anger on? Largely, the answer is the poor. In particular, the undeserving poor. Liberals may hate this distinction, but it doesn’t matter if we hate it. Lots of ordinary people make this distinction as a matter of simple common sense, and the WWC makes it more than any. That’s because they’re closer to it. For them, the poor aren’t merely a set of statistics or a cause to be championed. They’re the folks next door who don’t do a lick of work but somehow keep getting government checks paid for by their tax dollars. “
Given the availability of government benefits, most working-class people of any race could be on welfare if they chose. That they’re not drawing government checks means that they value work. As Slate’s Jamelle Bouie notes, government programs like Social Security and Medicare are differently received, because they aren’t seen as rewarding people for not working. When your neighbor gets welfare, it makes you feel like a sucker for going to work. Medicare, not so much.
Any candidate for president who wants to use income inequality and “fairness” as campaign issues better understand the white working class sense of unfairness and inequality when they work and others don’t while living high on the hog:
So if Democrats want to win back the white working class — and they kind of need to, if they want to win elections, because it’s an enormous demographic — maybe they need to start thinking about honoring and encouraging work, rather than talking about race or class. [snip]
And, as Joel Kotkin notes, many other Obama policies — promoting urban density, which creates fewer construction jobs; fighting oil and coal extraction, thus targeting industries that create high-paying blue collar jobs; and even opening up immigration, which drives down wages for the working class — all seem designed to punish people who work for a living, even as expanded benefits for the poor seem designed to reward people who draw government checks for a living.
That argument sounds a great deal like Reagan’s ‘welfare queens” argument because to a great extent it is. In March of 2009 we wrote that the “welfare queens” attack line would return because in large part it would be true. In 2009, two months into the Obama nightmare, we wrote:
After Bill Clinton Republicans could no longer attack Democrats as “tax and spend” wastrels. After Bill Clinton Republicans had to retire attacks on “welfare queens”. Bill Clinton enacted responsible fiscal policy and deprived Republicans of their most useful and effective epithets against Democrats.
Now Republicans are calling back to active service those ugly epithets because they describe the Obama economic “plans” with precision. [snip]
Bill Clinton understood that hard working Americans were generous and wanted to help the poor and the weak but they did not want to be taken for saps by the lazy or the rapacious.
Here we are years later and “welfare queens” as a potent political weapon is back. Indeed, the facts of economic inequality warfare waged against the white working class and the middle class buttress the perception of the unfairness as Gallup noted in a recent survey. Unfairness and inequality? Ask the white working class:
According to Gallup, thanks to Obamacare, Americans earning $30,000 to $75,000 a year are more likely to skip medical care because of cost than Americans earning under $30,000 a year.
Can the Democrats solve this problem? Sure. These are all policies that could be changed, though a lot of party constituencies would oppose it. And Democrats might choose a working-class-friendly nominee, too, if they can find one.
“If they can find one.” In 2008 Hillary Clinton attracted white working class votes. Because of Barack Obama it will be a struggle to win the trust of the white working class:
Can Clinton Win Back the White Working Class?
A measly 34 percent of this group backed House Democratic candidates in 2014, creating a gap that could sunder the party’s 2016 hopes.
Hillary Clinton’s support of deferred deportation of millions of undocumented workers might help the Democratic Party’s putative presidential nominee win over Latinos in 2016. But among the voters most responsible for the Democrats’ midterm wipeout this year, it could very well make things worse—and therein lies Clinton’s dilemma. [snip]
One of the central challenges facing a Clinton campaign will be managing to win back enough of those voters, especially in a working-class-heavy battleground like Iowa. But as her quick support of deferred deportations shows, she’ll have to do so while also motivating black, young, and Latino voters who formed the core of President Obama’s coalition in 2008 and 2012.
At times, the two imperatives will work against each other. [snip]
Once the backbone of the Democratic Party, working-class white voters have gradually shifted into the GOP’s camp since the 1970s in part because of the alienation they felt toward an increasingly urban, culturally cosmopolitan party. Democrats, meanwhile, have made up for the loss by winning over minorities and a greater share of the upscale white vote. [snip]
But in 2014, the bottom fell out, and it fell out in places where Democrats have performed relatively well with working-class white voters, even recently.
Our many discussions about the white working class, including our most recent one, have emphasized that a focus on the interests of the white working class force the party to not deviate from economic policy and jobs, jobs, jobs. “It’s the economy, stupid” works because that is what the white working class is interested in.
Deviate from the interests of the white working class and disaster follows.
That recent Gallup poll should be a red fire alarm for policy makers:
Gallup: Peak Number Of Americans Delaying Medical Care Over Costs
One in three Americans has put off seeking medical treatment in 2014 due to high costs, according to Gallup — the highest percentage since Gallup began asking the question in 2001.
Thirty-three percent of Americans have delayed medical treatment for themselves or their families because of the costs they’d have to pay, according to the survey. Obamacare, of course, had promised that it would help make health care more affordable for everyone, but the number of people who can’t afford a trip to the doctor has actually risen three points since 2013, before most Obamacare provisions took effect.
The hardest-hit: the middle-class. Americans with an annual household income of between $30,000 and $75,000 began delaying medical care over costs more in 2014, up to 38 percent in 2014 from 33 percent last year; among households that earn above $75,000, 28 percent delayed care this year, compared to just 17 percent last year.
The lowest-income section, some of whom can take part in Medicaid and who are more likely to qualify for significant premium and cost-sharing subsidies on an Obamacare exchange, are less likely to delay care this year. Now, 35 percent of those who earn under $30,000 a year are putting off seeking medical care, down from 43 percent last year.
It’s a remarkable shift: after Obamacare’s redistribution of wealth, the middle class is actually delaying medical care due to high costs at a higher rate than the poorest section of the country, which is highly subsidized by taxpayers.
The middle class is collateral damage in what amounts to an Obama Dimocratic Party war on the white working class:
The Obama damage is two-fold. First, his success relied on a coalition that likely will not survive, or at least survive at full strength, without Obama himself on the ticket. Secondly, Obama drove a significant portion of white voters away from the Democratic Party.
Put those two things together — smaller Obama coalition and more alienated whites — and the result could be huge trouble for whoever the Democratic presidential nominee is in 2016. [snip]
Some Democrats are confident the coalition will be back in 2016, when interest in a presidential race is far greater than during midterms. But will it return in the strength it showed in ’08 and ’12? Or will Democratic voting return to pre-Obama patterns? [snip]
It would be risky for Democrats to assume those voters will turn out at the same rate and vote in the same proportions for a Democratic candidate in 2016. Yes, it’s a lock that the Democrat will win the minority vote, but by the same margins? [snip]
Then there are white voters. Obama’s overall job approval rating among whites is a weak 32 percent, according to Gallup. Two-thirds of whites do not have a college degree, and the president’s approval rating among them is 27 percent.
The Democrats’ problem with those voters is perhaps symbolized by Obama but goes far beyond the president himself. “Given its sheer size, the working-class white population in the U.S. is of keen importance to politicians and strategists on both sides of the aisle,” Gallup wrote recently, noting “the complex set of attitudes and life positions which … have pushed this group further from the Democratic president over the past six years.”
If Democrats don’t find a way to connect with those “attitudes and life positions” of working-class whites in coming years, they’ll have a big problem.
In a recent speech, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., argued that his party made its middle-class problem worse by insisting on passing Obamacare, which imposed burdens on millions and focused its most generous benefits on a relatively small group of Americans at a time when most voters wanted their elected leaders to focus on jobs and the economy.
“To aim a huge change in mandate at such a small percentage of the electorate made no political sense,” Schumer said in a November 24 speech at the National Press Club. “So when Democrats focused on health care, the average middle class person thought, ‘the Democrats are not paying enough attention to me.'”
The white working class forced the party of FDR to focus on the economy. Bill Clinton understood. For Bill Clinton “It’s the economy, stupid.” For Obama it was everything but fiscal probity and a focus on the economy. Obama Dimocrats have no one but themselves to blame:
Democrats Paved the Way for Their Own Decline
They have subordinated their traditional focus on helping working-class Americans move up the economic ladder in favor of other priorities. [snip]
According to Gallup Editor Frank Newport, “President Barack Obama’s job-approval rating among white noncollege graduates is at 27 percent so far in 2014, 14 percentage points lower than among white college graduates. This is the largest yearly gap between these two groups since Obama took office. These data underscore the magnitude of the Democratic Party’s problem with working-class whites, among whom Obama lost in the 2012 presidential election, and among whom Democratic House candidates lost in the 2014 U.S. House voting by 30 points.”
There are many reasons for this decline in support for Democrats among certain groups. But an argument can be made that it is because Democrats have subordinated their traditional focus on helping lower- and working-class Americans move up the economic ladder in favor of other noble priorities, such as health care, the environment, and civil rights. Whether these were the right or wrong priorities is totally subjective, but they have come at a cost. Sen. Chuck Schumer recently committed the classic case of a political gaffe, once defined by Michael Kinsley as “when a politician tells the truth—some obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say.” The Democratic Left went crazy when Schumer suggested that the early focus on health care reform in 2009 and 2010, when he says Democrats should have been concentrating on economic growth and job creation, had cost them greatly (something that I have written about for over five years).
Governing is about making choices and facing consequences. Implicitly, to focus on certain things is to de-emphasize other things. The modern Democratic Party was effectively born during President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, reacting and dealing with the Great Depression. While books have been filled with the multitude of things that Roosevelt and his New Dealers did, if you boiled it down to its essence, it was helping people get back on their feet after the great stock-market crash of 1929 and the deep depression that resulted.
A focus on the interests of the white working class keeps your head on straight. A laser like focus on the white working class’ interests’ leads to “It’s the economy, stupid.”
If you believe the #1 issue for a presidential candidate can be summed up with “It’s the economy, stupid.” Then “it’s the white working class, stupid” that should determine your policy choices.