Posts Tagged ‘White working people’

Economic anxiety and Donald Trump voters

November 1, 2016

A lot of Hillary Clinton supporters say that Donald Trump’s supporters are not white working people who are worried about their jobs and their economic future.  No, Trump’s supporters are all racists and bigots.

Trump in NH in 2015. Source: Reuters

Trump in NH in 2015. Source: Reuters

It’s true that Trump has sought to appeal to white nationalists, gun-toting private militias and paranoid conspiracy theorists.

In the primary election, he talked a lot about unfair trade treaties, industrial decline, immigration and unwise military interventions.  He still talks about immigration, but his emphasis now is on law and order, the threat of unauthorized voters and Hillary Clinton’s e-mails.

But all kinds of people support Trump for all kinds of reasons.  Some no doubt vote for him because they fear Muslim terrorists, unauthorized Mexican immigrants and illegal African-American voters.  Others see him as the last hope of making American industry great again.  And many others see him as the lesser of two evils.

If you say that all Trump supporters are racists and bigots and nothing more, then there is no reason for Democrats to try to appeal to them on economic grounds.

And if you say that, there is no political reason for Democrats to appeal to black and Hispanic working people in grounds of economic self-interest either, because Donald Trump’s candidacy provides sufficient reason for voting Democratic.

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Donald Trump and the sores of discontent

December 22, 2015

Lambert Strether, a blogger who helps with the naked capitalism web log, says college-educated liberals are making a big mistake to dismiss Donald Trump’s followers as ignorant, racist or fascistic, and nothing more

He wrote that history – the history of Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy and the reign of the Ku Klux Klan in the Old South – teaches that people turn to fascist movements when they’ve suffered damage – military defeat, economic devastation and, above all, psychic damage.

Germans and Italians in World War One, and white Southern Americans in the Civil War, suffered  military defeat, economic devastation and, worst of all, humiliation.   What kind of damage have Donald Trump’s followers suffered?

Speculating freely, I’m guessing we’ve got several overlapping subsets in Trump’s following, with damage common to them all.

  • First overlap:  The cohort described by Yves [Smith] in this post: “‘Stunning’ Rise in Death Rate, Pain Levels for Middle-Aged, Less Educated Whites”; “488,500 deaths would have been avoided in the period 1999‒2013,” had the death rate continued to fall at its previous rate of decline.  That’s a lot of organic damage.
  • whats.wrongSecond overlap: The “working class whites” whose jobs and communities were destroyed by the neo-liberal dispensation that began in the mid-70s, given that “less educated” is a proxy for working class.  More damage there.
  • Third overlap: Military personnel who were sent, by elites, to fight and lose the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, many of whom (thanks to the wonders of modern battlefield medicine) came back to their families and communities terribly wounded (not to mention with post-traumatic stress).  More damage.
  • Fourth overlap: The “bitter”/”cling to” voters (explicitly) thrown under the bus by Obama’s faction when it took control of the Democratic Party in 2008 (with results that we saw in the failure to ameliorate the foreclosure crisis, and the administration’s successful shrinkage of the workforce, as shown by the labor force participation rate).  More damage.

So Democratic apparatchiks can recycle 2008’s racism tropes all they want — identity politics is all they know, after all — but at best they’re over-simplifying, and at worst they’re destroying the dream of “uniting lower- and middle-income Americans on economic issues.”

Again, add up the decades of organic damage.  My anger would be bone deep. And justified.  Wouldn’t yours?  Trump, and maybe Sanders, are speaking to that anger.  Today’s Democratic establishment is not.

Source: naked capitalism

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What is killing middle-aged white men? Despair

November 4, 2015

imrs

We take it for granted that, in scientifically advanced countries, the death rate will decline.  But since 1999, there has been a dramatic increase in the death rate among non-Hispanic American white men aged 45 to 54, especially those without education beyond high school.

No such increase occurs among middle-aged white people in other countries or among other American ethnic groups.  Although the death rate for African-Americans is higher, it is not increasing, and, as the chart shows, the death rate for middle-aged Hispanic Americans (USH) is decreasing.

A Princeton University study indicates that the main reasons for the increased death rate are an increase in alcohol-related disease (liver disease), in drug overdoses (heroin and opioids) and in suicide—all diseases associated with depression and despair.

[Note added 11/13/2015: Some experts say the increase is primarily among middle-aged white women.]

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Can Democrats win back white working men?

December 12, 2014

From Andrew Jackson to Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Democratic Party was the party of white working men, with all the good and bad things that phrase implies.

Now a majority of white Americans vote Republican and the Republicans are especially strong among blue-collar white working men with high school educations—people who in FDR’s time would have been the backbone of the Democratic Party.

which-side-are-you-onI think there is a very obvious way that the Democrats (or, for that matter, the Republicans) could win the votes of the majority of white working people, and it is the same way they could win the votes of the majority of black, brown, yellow and red working people.

It is to put the United States on the path to a full employment, high wage economy.   I admit I do not have a blueprint on how to accomplish this, but there are a number of obvious things that would be both popular and beneficial to the vast majority.

Public opinion polls show a majority of Americans favor (1) a higher minimum wage, (2) prosecution of financial fraud, (3) breakup of “too big to fail” banks and (4) higher taxes on millionaires and billionaires and lower taxes on middle class and working people.

Polls also show a majority of Americans are opposed to (1) NATA-style trade pacts and (2) chipping away at Social Security and Medicare.   In all these cases, the American people are wiser than the decision-makers in Washington.

I think the AFL-CIO has some good ideas.  But I don’t think the problem is lack of good ideas, or even the inability to convince the public of good ideas.

The problem is that certain financial institutions and corporations are so entrenched in the federal government, in lobbying and in the political parties’ nominating process that they have the power to block good ideas.

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Hillary Clinton Presidency Could Have the Same Problems as Obama’s by Norm Scheiber for The New Republic.

Can We Talk?  Here’s Why the White Working Class Hates Democrats by Kevin Drum for Mother Jones.

Have Democrats Failed the White Working Class? by Thomas Edsall for the New York Times.

Our real white male problem: Why Fox News beats Bruce Springsteen and liberal moralizing every time by Jim Sleeper for Salon.

Obama giving up on white blue-collar voters?

November 29, 2011

Thomas B. Edsall reported in the New York Times that President Obama has given up on trying to win the votes of white working people in 2012.  Instead, according to Edsall, he hopes to win re-election based on the votes of a coalition of educated white people and poor people who are mainly black and Hispanic.

For decades, Democrats have suffered continuous and increasingly severe losses among white voters. But preparations by Democratic operatives for the 2012 election make it clear for the first time that the party will explicitly abandon the white working class.

All pretense of trying to win a majority of the white working class has been effectively jettisoned in favor of cementing a center-left coalition made up, on the one hand, of voters who have gotten ahead on the basis of educational attainment — professors, artists, designers, editors, human resources managers, lawyers, librarians, social workers, teachers and therapists — and a second, substantial constituency of lower-income voters who are disproportionately African-American and Hispanic. … …

Now none of this comes from President Obama himself.  It is based mainly on a report by John Halpin and Ruy Texiera, two academics who work for the liberal Center for American Progress.  As a description of political reality, it seems on the mark, but not especially new.  A majority of white blue-collar voters turned against the Democrats in the days of George Wallace and Richard Nixon, and no Democratic Presidential candidate has been able to win them back.

As a practical matter, the Obama campaign and, for the present, the Democratic Party, have laid to rest all consideration of reviving the coalition nurtured and cultivated by Franklin D. Roosevelt.  The New Deal Coalition — which included unions, city machines, blue-collar workers, farmers, blacks, people on relief, and generally non-affluent progressive intellectuals — had the advantage of economic coherence.  It received support across the board from voters of all races and religions in the bottom half of the income distribution, the very coherence the current Democratic coalition lacks.

A top priority of the less affluent wing of today’s left alliance is the strengthening of the safety net, including health care, food stamps, infant nutrition and unemployment compensation.  These voters generally take the brunt of recessions and are most in need of government assistance to survive.  According to recent data from the Department of Agriculture, 45.8 million people, nearly 15 percent of the population, depend on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to meet their needs for food.

The better-off wing, in contrast, puts at the top of its political agenda a cluster of rights related to self-expression, the environment, demilitarization, and, importantly, freedom from repressive norms — governing both sexual behavior and women’s role in society — that are promoted by the conservative movement.

Source:  NYTimes.com.

Democrats for decades have failed to win a majority of white working people.  President Obama in the 2008 election won 43 percent of them, slightly more than John Kerry in 2004 or Al Gore in 2000.

The only way that President Obama could have reconstituted the New Deal coalition would have been to actually do something to put people back to work, stop the squeeze on wages and do something about abusive bank foreclosures.  Or, failing that, to be seen to be fighting for these goals against the opposition.

This he has not done.  He won’t even defend Social Security and Medicare.

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