UPDATED November 22, 2014. From Mother Jones: Here's Why the White Working Class Hates Democrats
"There’s a coalition available to Democrats that knits together working class minorities and college-educated voters and slices heavily into the GOP’s margins among the white working class....The basis of the coalition isn’t a retreat from social progressivism, but making economic populism the party’s centerpiece."
Meaning, taking up causes like Elizabeth Warren's — things that matter, not just to the poor, but to the white working class as well — such as wages and Social Security. The article goes on to ask:
"Why does the white working class continue to loathe Democrats so badly? I think the answer is as old as the discussion itself: They hate welfare."
Then article goes on to give reasons why this perception is wrong: the white working class believing that the government is taking their hard-earned money to give to the undeserving poor, while doing very little for them. Then the article concludes with:
"The Democrats' problem with the white working class is far worse in the South than anywhere else."
(* Writing about anything that’s race-related can be like walking into a mine field. But this has been nagging me for a long time, so I decided to write about it.)
In 2008 the American people had spoken when they elected Barack Obama to be our 44th President, giving him a clear "mandate". But did the Republicans respect that mandate, or that the American people had spoken?
According to the Washington Post, in an interview that appeared in the National Journal on Oct. 23, 2010, Senator Mitch McConnell said, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." After the mid-term elections that year, while at the Heritage Foundation, McConnell had said, "Our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term."
Obama defied Mitch McConnell and the GOP's "priority" and won re-election in 2012 to become a two-term President. Again, for a second time, the American people had spoken, giving Obama yet another "mandate". But all during his presidency, the GOP has obstructed, filibustered, blocked appointments and withheld bills from going to the House floor for a vote (denying the American people their voice). The GOP has never given Obama his "mandate", even though the American people had spoken.
Since Obama was first elected, the GOP has gerrymandered congressional districts and passed numerous voter suppression state laws, depriving many American people the ability to ever speak again. How many Vets, who risked their lives and fought to promote democracy and to defend the right to vote for others, were then denied their own right to vote?
In 2014, after the Republican "wave" in the last mid-term elections (with only 37% of the people voting), Senator Mitch McConnell is now claiming that it is they who now have a "mandate" because "the American people have spoken" — and that it is Obama who should respect their wishes. But when has the GOP ever respected the America people's wishes after they had spoken up before in 2008 and 2012?
Before I was laid off in the Fall of 2008 (just before Obama was first elected), ever since the days of Ronald Reagan I have always thought of myself as a Republican. Like most people today (at least, for the Millennials it would seem), when I was younger I wasn't all that involved or interested in national politics. When I was in my twenties and thirties, maybe I was just too busy working and trying to pay the bills. (Of course, back in those days, there wasn't 24/7 cable news, the internet and smart phones either).
So after I lost my job during the Great Recession, and after failing to find another job, at first I had blamed the Democrats. I used to watch Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly on Fox News all the time, and at first, I thought they used to make a lot of good arguments. Back then I didn't realize that, as multi-millionaires themselves, they were also pushing an agenda that mostly benefited the very wealthy, not regular "white" folks like me (let alone those "others", like black or brown people).
Fox News once had me convinced that Obama was very bad for the country. For me, it wasn't because Obama was black — or half black (although, when he was running for President, I did suspect he might have been a "Manchurian Candidate" or a Marxist); but because I had believed everything Fox News had told me about the Democrats — so that meant Obama was bad too.
While unemployed and job searching, I began to do a lot of research. I read a lot about U.S. history, politics, economics and the labor movement. I wanted to understand why I couldn't find another job, because rarely did I ever have such a difficult time finding work in the previous 35 years (and I have lived all over the country.) Sometimes I'd get two jobs whenever I wanted to pay off credit cards. But these days I found myself not even being able to find one lousy low-wage, part-time job.
By the end of 2010 (when the Tea Party took over the House), I had come to the conclusion that it wasn't the Democrats' fault that I couldn't find a job, and that most of my woes had dated back to my former hero, President Ronald Reagan and "trickle down economics". Because of all I had read and learned in those previous two years leading up to the 2010 election, I had did a complete turnaround in my political way of thinking. My resentments, suspicions, frustrations and anger with the Democrats had dramatically changed to disbelief, betrayal and outrage at the Republicans for duping me for all those years (It wasn't until much later that I also blamed myself for being so naive).
So knowing what I know now, I wouldn't have voted against Democrats during the past mid-term elections, just because they were being obstructed by Republicans from getting anything accomplished over these past four years. Although, the Democrats are not without blame. Many democrats have done and said a lot of things that I haven't agreed with. I was angry that they considered compromising with the GOP by using chained-CPI for Social Security COLAs. I am furious that Obama might make a deal with the Republicans on TransCanada's Keystone pipeline. I am outraged that Obama is promoting trade deals (like the TPP) that benefit multinational corporations, but do not benefit US workers.
I was disappointed that in 2010 Obama was forced to extend the capital gains tax cuts for billionaires in exchange for extending jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed. But the GOP held the unemployed hostage in order to provide tax cuts for the wealthy.
But at least the Democrats have been much less harmful than the GOP to the unemployed, the abject poor, the working poor and the middle-class. And the Tea Party wing of the GOP adds a layer of cruelty to the economically disadvantaged — and "whites" compose the majority of the economically disadvantaged.
"The mood of the country, if it’s possible to generalize, is sour, anxious and suspicious — and many, particularly the white male voters whose overwhelming backing pushed Republicans over the top, hold President Obama responsible. And yet there’s no evidence at all that these same voters actually support the things that Republicans want to do."
It’s my opinion that many white people vote AGAINST Democrats only because they see so many black and brown people vote FOR Democrats — and assume (for whatever reasons) that what's good for "them" couldn't also be good for the white voter as well.
Is it possible that many poor and working-class white people don't understand that there are more poor whites on food stamps than there are minorities on "the government dole" — and that it's not black or brown people bringing white people down, but their steadfast belief in the GOP's "trickle down" economic policies that had created a greater need for government assistance (Hint: Trickle down doesn't). For example, Walmart earns billions each quarter and also saves billions each year by not paying a living wage, which forces workers onto food stamps to have enough to eat.
But no matter what evidence is presented to them, many poor and working-class white voters have this misplaced belief that voting for the GOP is voting for their best interests. These same voters are in fact voting against their own best interests. The GOP leadership fully understands that misplaced belief and deliberately exploits it to gain power. The GOP voter is constantly left wondering, “what happened?” when their economic situation continues to deteriorate.
"Nationally, voter turnout in 2014 has been estimated at 36.6 percent, the lowest level since 2010 ... Across the country, the electorate was older, whiter and more conservative than in 2008 and 2010, which is exactly what Republicans wanted. The new voting restrictions contracted an already-minuscule electorate."
The same can be said for labor unions. When white voters see all the black and brown faces (usually not in equal proportion to the actual demographics of the country), many whites today (especially in Southern states) might assume that labor unions are a "minority thing". The GOP also uses the Hollywood image of "union thugs" to paint labor organizers in a bad light, when unions are as American as mom and apple pie (and is not a Socialist agenda).
This doesn't necessarily make most of these white voters "racists". Races of all groups of people tend to feel more comfortable with each other by having history, culture, language and family in common with one another. I personally saw this in employee cafeterias, where usually people in the same departments (or those who held the same jobs) would congregate together — but also, non-whites in different departments (who held different jobs) would also congregate together. This is only human nature.
I've also witnessed this is geographical circumstances, where a white man and black man from a small town in the South would have more in common and congregate together if they were both visiting New York City (whereas they might not keep each other company back home) — the same way Americans will congregate together at a hotel lobby bar in Europe — or the way they do in retirement communities in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean — or the way retirees might in Florida. And the same thing applies to young people in the nightclubs as well. That is nature (birds of a feather flock together.)
White voters (not wealthy voters, who are mostly white) have to realize that the Democrats' political policies (regarding most things that benefit poor and working-class Americans) has little to do with such things as "red lining" by the banks (forced segregation), but that other issues such as school busing and affirmative action plans are on the peripheral of other, more broader issues — such as job creation and fair pay for everyone (no matter what their color or race). Specifically, white Republican voters should realize that they are being hood-winked by the same people who (just like some Democrats) are also putting their own personal interests above the interests of their constituents (both black and white) — and are primarily catering to their largest campaign donors.
Voters shouldn't vote for (or reject) individual candidates based only on their looks or the way they talk — but on the policies that they and their party actually represent. I've watched many Democrats say and do some very moronic things (such as Alison Grimes in Kentucky, a Democrat, who refused to admit she voted for a Democratic President). But as a Senator in Congress, so long as she voted for such things as raising the minimum wage, expanding Social Security, taxing the rich their fair share, fixing our infrastructure, bringing down the cost of college tuitions (etc, etc, etc) who cares if they shoot themselves in the foot once in a while (or puts said foot in their mouth), so long as they vote on the issues that make average American lives better.
Poor and working-class whites have to realize that it isn't just "race" that divides us, but that wealth and power divides us far much more. And those at the very top of wealth and power use our primal instincts and religious beliefs against us in their "divide and conquer" strategies all the time (white vs. black, old vs. young, North vs. South, gay vs. straight, pro-life vs. pro-choice, etc.) — when it really should be the mega-rich and large corporations (represented by the Republicans and Fox News) vs. the working-class (represented by the Democrats and labor unions, both in the public and private sector).
Believe it or not, what's good for black, brown, yellow and red people in America is also good for white people too! We all want the same things: Good jobs that pay a living wage, proper health care, a safe and clean environment, a fair tax code, educations for their children, less inequality, an old age income when we can't work any longer, less government corruption ... (the list is endless).
"It was [Democratic] candidates’ failure to win the votes of the elusive white swing voter. They also failed to motivate the 63 percent of eligible voters, who stayed away from the midterms ... Here’s one idea why the Democrats lost swing voters and failed to attract many new ones: because they didn’t say anything of substance. White voters want something more than bromides, and the voters of color whom the Dems have come to take for granted deserve it. What would have been the outcome yesterday if Democrats had directly spoken to working-class and impoverished voters being crushed by the economy and by harsh policies that penalize poor people?"
The GOP has constantly perpetuated the myth (usually in very subtle and discreet undertones, so that they can't be called out for fear-mongering and race-baiting) that those "other" people are somehow making their lives more miserable. Actually, the GOP has very cleverly (on a few occasions) used "reverse psychology" by pointing the finger at Democrats and accusing them of playing the race card, when anyone with half a brain knows that to be utter nonsense. It's usually the Republicans who are using "dog whistles" — those harmless sounding words that connotes racial resentment. Newt Gingrich was especially well known for this. (Also see: The Southern Strategy) Southern whites voted four times for a progressive democrat in FDR. If today’s democrats had a more populist message would the GOP still have almost total government control in the South?
Now it's the mega-rich people who don't want anything at all to do with the rest of "us" — the poor and working-class people of all colors. A very wealthy black man might prefer having a rich white man over to his house for dinner (rather than a poor black man) — and vice versa for the old rich white guy too. Birds of a rich feather flock together. The working-class people of all colors should also stick together. It was the very rich that has waged this "class war" on everybody else — and the Republicans (on the local, state and federal level) are their political representatives.
Many white, black and Latino Democratic voters didn't come out to vote for the mid-terms this year. Is that due in part because they didn’t know that to get anything done Obama also needed a Democratic Congress? Some might have thought all along that Obama could push his agenda with only his executive power alone. If so, it’s possible that they never heard of “Republican obstruction” and didn’t realize that Obama not only needed to KEEP the Senate, but also needed to TAKE BACK the House. Now all Obama can do is use his veto power. Now the "conservative" Supreme Court might help the GOP controlled congress in their quest to repeal ACA. Already the court is rehearing a case about the constitutionality of Obamacare.
Congress also now holds the purse strings (appropriations) and can wreak havoc with the budget — cutting all kinds of things that the poor, the working poor and the middle-class (of all colors) rely on. Obama might try to “compromise” on such things as the Keystone pipeline and sign potentially disastrous trade agreements like the TPP (something a President like Mitt Romney would surely do, but that many Democrats in Congress would oppose.)
Most Americans (not just the 47%, but the 99%) can expect very little good going forward with a GOP Congress. The very BEST they can hope for now is more gridlock for the next two years — like they’ve had for the last four. And even if someone like Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders (or even Hillary Clinton) were elected President in 2016, what good can happen with a GOP Congress? Either way, it will take years to ever get this country back on track towards more progressive values (like better wages and better jobs). So voters should expect more of the same: low wages, budget cuts, inequality, etc. etc. etc.
And it didn't help much when feckless Democrats ran away from Obama and Obamacare. They were perceived as cowards and unconvincing in their convictions – and rightfully so. They didn't spend time promoting progressive ideas (like raising the minimum wage). They looked weak and wishy-washy (like Alison Grimes). Also, I can’t help but wonder how much of the low voter turnout had to do with congressional gerrymandering and voter suppression laws. That certainly didn't help Democrats.
Now the GOP says Obama should listen to THEM, because THEY now have a “mandate” — and that "the American people have spoken". But the GOP never acknowledged that when Obama was elected (twice) — when he too had a mandate (because the American people had spoken) — but that still didn’t keep the GOP from blocking everything Obama and the Democrats had wanted. Most of the time the GOP didn’t even bring bills to the floor to be voted on. In fact Mitch McConnell’s only goal for the GOP after Obama was elected in 2008 was to do everything in his power to make Obama a one-term president. So it's no wonder we've had gridlock in Congress and nothing could get done. Then the Republicans (all those white men) lied and blamed Obama, and then all the voters (all those other white men) believed them — or at least, they wanted to believe them, because "they" were more like "them" — or at least, they thought they were. But they're not. They're just like everybody else. They're just poor and working-class folks who also just happen to be white.
From Paul Krugman, Triumph of the Wrong:
"The biggest secret of the Republican triumph surely lies in the discovery that obstructionism bordering on sabotage is a winning political strategy. This was bad for America but good for Republicans. Most voters don’t know much about policy details, nor do they understand the legislative process. So all they saw was that the man in the White House wasn’t delivering prosperity — and they punished his party. Will things change now that the G.O.P. can’t so easily evade responsibility? I guess we’ll find out."
California, with one of the most diverse populations in the country (meaning, less white people as a percentage of the population), stands as the great exception to the recent Republican wave. Not a single Republican was elected to statewide office. Poor and working-class (male white) voters should beware: According to the census, the white majority in U.S. will be gone by 2043. Why not leave today's minorities with a few fond memories when the whites no longer rule?
While democrats have their issues, it’s important to understand that the GOP is mostly responsible for government gridlock: The Washington Post: "Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem" — and this from Truth Out: "Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult" (They're older articles, but they're just as relevant today as they were then.)
White voters have to realize that who they just voted for (such as Tea Party candidates, who are just Dixiecrats, who were once Democrats) are just the opposite of today's Democrats (such as Senator Elizabeth Warren, or even the self-proclaimed Socialist, Senator Bernie Sanders). Most Democrats (especially progressives) are a lot more like FDR — and almost all white Southern men had once voted for FDR. But would those same people have voted for FDR, agreed with his policies and supported the Democratic party if FDR had been half black? I sincerely doubt it.