White Working Class, What Will Work & Why?

This election really dumbfounds many of us. Trying to figure out why many groups lean the way they do and how to get them to see through the clouds of misinformation and actually vote in their own best interest is mind boggling. Probably the most obvious case in point would have to be America’s white working class. Frustrated, the path to blaming Obama, Clinton and the Democrats has been paved into an expressway. The media loves to stir up the pot and see what happens, seldom actually conveying any logical clarity, much less factual analysis.  The obstacles for Clinton and the Democratic party appear stubbornly substantial and possibly growing. “To bring these voters back, we have to understand what made them turn away in the first place.”

For a good look at this dilemma and possible solutions for Clinton and other Democrats The Nation Magazine article below by Joan Walsh focusses first on trying “to understand why they (white working class) left the party” in the first place.  She looks at the historical events, citing positions such as that of Thomas Frank, known for “disdaining the political class’s turn toward ‘elites, … (saying) … Trump’s success is proof that Democratic ‘neoliberalism has well and truly failed’ the white working class’.  Walsh explores whether “the white working class fled the Democrats because the party abandoned them economically?” and other popular theories for their flight from the Democrats. Fact is “whole pockets of the industrial Midwest and South have been left out of the 21st century, and pessimism and resentment can’t help but fester.” Whatever the reason, as Frank writes, “those people may have finally found (sensible or not) somewhere else to go in Donald Trump”.

Walsh points out that a very similar frustrated white working class found “somewhere else to go 50 years ago, at least at the presidential level … Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal coalition.” This was a very progressive, socialistic time and that didn’t stop things. But today has a different set of challenges / distractions. Today this group seems to be taking a very different, almost opposite path. To better understand this, Walsh begins by diving in on the presidencies and happenings from Carter to Obama, looking for clues as to why the tendencies of the white working class seems strongly moving toward Trump. She undertakes a variety of interviews with a range of likely Trump supporters (fitting into the white working class category), looking for generalizations that may help explain the phenomenon.

The article finishes asking Democratic strategists what they are doing and what they think they can better do to re-ally the white working class voters. Citing the accomplishments of the Obama administration doesn’t seem to be working, smacking the face of supposed progressive logic. Throughout the article she poses the classic and so far unanswered, chicken vs egg question regarding this group’s seeming move toward the right and racism: “Did white working-class economic anxiety spur the group’s turn to the Republicans, as well as to racism and resentment?” With the Sanders influence now imbedded, “the resurgent populist, pro-opportunity, and anti-oligarchy left wing of the Democratic Party has pushed politicians, including Clinton, to embrace many policies—on trade, union rights, Social Security, and education—that many hope will win back” the white working class and others. Question is, can it be done?


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