More on Liberalism: The Democratic Party and the White Working Class Vote
Yesterday I received an e-mail about a seminar on the future of life-work balance. The seminar was being put on by the Women’s Law Caucus in San Francisco. My immediate thought was “Why is life-work balance always treated as a woman’s issue?” I’m a guy, I like work and think it is valuable but this does not mean that I want to be a workaholic who is changed to my desk for over 10 hours a day and on more weekends than not. Nor does it mean I want to go home, eat dinner, and then sit down to do more work. There is a long history of working class agitation for shorter workdays with a slogan of “Eight hours for work, Eight hours for sleep, and Eight hours for What We Will….”
Yet the work-life balance is still presented as a women’s issue and not as a universal issue of worker’s rights.
I ask this because the Democratic Party still has a problem attracting white-working class voters without a college degree. John B. Judis has the predictable rundown of the last night’s demographics. 67 percent of yesterday’s voters were over 45. The over 45 demographic mainly went for Romney in 2012 but only made up 54 percent of the vote two years ago. Judis also believes that the close elections were largely decided by white working class voters without a college degree including the near death of Warner in Virginia.
Interestingly Judis famously authored a book arguing that the Democratic Party would not need to worry about losing the white working class vote and could concentrate on upper-middle class professionals and minorities. This proved to work in 2008 and 2012 but also proved to be a disaster in 2010 and 2014.
This gives the Democratic Party two options:
1. Really concentrate on Get Out the Vote options and get likely Democratic voters to vote during midterm years and eventually we will retake Congress and hold onto to it during midterm years.
2. Find ways to work on appealing to the white working class without alienating the Democratic base or liberal ideals.
It seems to me that there are more single-issue voters on the right and the libertarian side than there are on the Democratic and left-side. Conor Friedersdorph loathes Obama’s record on spying, drones, and the NSA and I largely agree with him. The problem is that Conor is much closer to Rand Paul on economic and environmental matters than I am. In some ways, Conor feels like he is a 180-degree version of me. He writes about growing up in Orange County and grandfathers with National Review subscriptions. I can talk about New Deal grandparents who were really upset when Adlai Stevenson lost twice and when Nassau County turned Salisbury Park into Eisenhower Park. I don’t think I could ever vote for Rand Paul or a libertarian candidate because of how far apart we are on economics, the welfare state and the environment. Likewise there seem to be more single issue voters on the right when it comes to guns, taxes, and abortion.
The guns issue is tricky. The Second Amendment exists and I am willing to compromise that it does allow for individuals to own guns. Where I draw the line is with open carry though and I think there should be a general respect for how local areas feel about guns. There is a lot of talk about whether decentralization or centralization is better. The truth is that most Americans probably want decentralization when it benefits them and centralization when it benefits them and the debates about guns are a good example of this. I think decentralization works only when there is a lot of respect for local rules and customs. When in Rome basically and this means respecting that people in liberal places like the Bay Area and Portland do not like open carry. I can’t find it now but I remember a few years ago there was an incident where open carry advocates went around Portland, Oregon with heavy-duty assault rifles to “educate” liberal Portlanders about how open carry is okay and a right and nothing to be afraid of. This is the kind of stuff that causes cultural divides and makes dencentralization fail. It seems to be you respect my culture and nothing else.
There are some issues where certain things like work-life balance can be phrased in more gender neutral and universal ways but this does not mean that the Democratic Party should not fight against gender discrimination.
Thoughts? What are other areas where the Democratic Party can appeal more to whites without college degrees without giving up core identity and ideals?
Image source: Wikimedia Commons
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