America: Love It Or Be Left Behind
Continued from previous page
When did nominal Democrats decide politics shouldn’t be about delivering “stuff,” anyway? What a patrician view of self-government. We pull together to do things we can’t do alone. For most of us, at some times in our lives, that involves getting “stuff” – help with college, or health care, or becoming citizens – that we can’t do alone. Or maybe it’s not “stuff” when it goes to white men?
Even more disappointing Tom Edsall, who normally is smart about class politics, took to the New York Times to lament Obama’s committed appeal to women:
Obama’s decision to devote huge blocks of time and resources to winning the votes of women may backfire, accentuating Democratic liabilities as the party of race and gender preferences and accelerating defections among men. …. Forget race and gender for a moment: focusing on any particular demographic group is likely to revive the image of the Democratic Party as a collection of “special interests” seeking advantage, rather than a coalition supportive of a broader policy agenda. There is some evidence that the strategy of courting women may have done more to alienate males than to win over females. Obama’s tactics vis-à-vis women also risk the loss of some support among economically liberal but socially conservative Catholic voters who find the focus on contraception and abortion – under the rubric of women’s rights – problematic.
Again, Obama won Catholics, although I can’t find information that breaks out white Catholics, which is all certain centrists care about. And again, I care about Catholics as well as the white working class; those are my people. The very smart Ruy Teixiera recently called me an “old-fashioned New Deal liberal” in the New Republic, and I’m fine with that. I do believe in the centrality of economic issues to building a diverse governing coalition. But it saddens me that Edsall and Galston don’t see the extent to which women’s issues – from the contraception mandate to choice to of course pay equity – are also economic issues, and economic issues that help their families, including their husbands if they have them.
Democratic Party centrists and white working class boosters are going to have to catch up with demographic and economic reality if they don’t want to be left behind with Karl Rove and Rush Limbaugh. I say that respectfully. But with some concern.
Analysts concerned about the depressed, disappearing or increasingly Republican white vote – and I’m sometimes one of them – aren’t necessarily wrong. We should always care about those who are left out. But looking at the election results, I’ve reached some limit in my capacity to offer advice about how to win over the white voters who continue to reject Obama. The uber-rich and the Galtian weirdos don’t worry me; there aren’t many of them. I care more about the economically marginal who are for some reason anxious about racial change, but I’m not sure much can be done for them.
When I reviewed Pat Buchanan’s last book a year ago, “Suicide of a Superpower,” I marveled that Nixon’s best strategist of the white working class, who went on to work with Ronald Reagan and do some of the same things for him, was reaching the end of his life feeling like a failure, because despite his best efforts to advance the interests of white people, they’d be a minority in the not too distant future. I felt bad for Buchanan, a little, I really did. I can’t really imagine deciding that the America I love is dying if its traditions and its heartbeat pulse within people who maybe look different from me. But that’s how Buchanan feels.