British Political Scandals

Related Post Roulette

92 Responses

  1. j r says:

    The only thing that helps me understand it is that the English Flag is considered partially like the Confederate Flag and has been used to express anti-immigrant sentiment.

    You are expecting that very weak passive voice construction to do a whole lot of work in that sentence. “is considered…” Considered by whom? Rightly considered? Wrongly considered? What’s the historical relationship?

    Also, there are some very relevant differences between the immigration debate happening here and the immigration debate happening in the UK and other European countries. And that is partly the result that, say what you want about the United States, we tend to have a much better model of assimilating immigrants from non-Christian, non-democratic countries. In England and some other countries, you have a small element of very radicalized people who are calling for the abolition of democracy within certain areas and the enforcement of sharia. To some extent, you have a similar thing within Hasidic communities in the United States, but those communities are very careful to play nice in the political process and to not unduly antagonize or call attention to themselves.

    In other words, the type of thing that Fox News likes to imagine happening in America really is happening, to some extent, in certain European cities.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      I didn’t want to disturb the food symposium but I will move it.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        Symposiums posts should happen alongside everything else, not replace everything else.

        Speaking of which, I am surprised no one here has written anything about the immigration kerfuffle.Report

      • I’ve been *thinking* about the immigration kerfuffle. Does that count?Report

      • Glyph in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        A couple times I have considered writing something about Bill Cosby, but it’s too freaking depressing and horrible. I never really cared about the Cosby Show (though I watched it, like the rest of the country), but his comedy albums and Himself were formative parts of my childhood and SOH.

        I had chocolate cake last night with my kids, and couldn’t even sing the “Dad is GREAT” song to them.

        Like ashes in my mouth.Report

      • Chris in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I thought about writing something about Cosby too, but in addition to being horrible, it is really, really complex. Bomani Jones and Ta-Nehisi Coates both wrote good articles on it, though.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I read the Coates piece yesterday.

        I don’t know if it’s complex though. What do you mean by that? Looks to me like ‘famous rich powerful celebrity can get away with it’. Simple enough, really.

        He’s America’s Jimmy Savile.

        I was even going to make a “Noah’s neighbor” reference when Captain David was writing about building a boat in his driveway, but…nope. It’s all ruined.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Am I a terrible, terrible person for not being all that interested in the Bill Cosby thing? Not that I condone or wish to ignore rape, but we’re Cosby not a celebrity, it’s obvious that no one would care. About the only thing that’s interesting to me is how the story exploded suddenly, and that’s one of those things that just seems to happen from time to time. As for the truth of the accusations, the facts are disputed, Cosby is presumed innocent, and the statute of limitations has passed. So what’s to be done?Report

      • j r in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I’m not that interested in Cosby either, but it’s mostly because I’m not that interesting in trying people in the court of public opinion. I think that people should make up their own mind about whether to work with him professionally or whether to continue to patronize his artistic outputs, but the idea that we all need to put our heads together and collectively decide how to feel is… well, it’s just plain illiberal. We have a court system for a reason.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @burt-likko were Cosby not a celebrity, it’s obvious that no one would care.

        I dunno dude, he’s accused of serially drugging and raping many people. I think people would care even if he was Joe Nobody.

        As for the truth of the accusations, the facts are disputed, Cosby is presumed innocent, and the statute of limitations has passed. So what’s to be done?

        Publicize it, so that hopefully if similar situations arise in the future, victims feel confident they can successfully seek justice immediately.Report

      • Chris in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Here are the components at play that I can think of:

        Historical context

        The interaction of these things further complicates things.I have no doubt whatsoever that the Cosby is guilty of the majority, if not the entirety, of what he is being accused of doing, and I have little doubt that his celebrity made it difficult for these things to come to light after the Cosby show. However, aside from I Spy, Cosby’s celebrity nationwide was relatively minor until the Cosby Show in the 80s, so it’s difficult to explain the lack of attention in the 70s by reference to it. I mean, bigger celebrities than 1970s Cosby were busted for things. Why not him? In order to understand that, we have to look at the historical context, at the level of sexism at the time, and the nature of his crime. It wasn’t, in the 70s at least, that Cosby was revered, it’s that women weren’t, at least not in the relevant sense here. I remember frequent talk in both college and high school about getting women drunk, Spanish fly, etc., as though they were acceptible. I doubt anyone who heard rumors of this in the 70s cared at all.

        What’s more, we knew that Cosby was not the faithful family man that we thought he was by the 90s, when his infidelity came to light. It wasn’t the pristine image that many of us got from the Cosby Show that kept multiple rape accusations from reaching the surface.

        Then there’s the issue of race.

        Anyway, it’s complex.Report

      • Kimmi in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        yeah, you’re a terrible person. But we all have to be terrible about most of the world’s problems, or we’ll all fall to bits and pieces.
        sure, it’s complicated. But it’s not just celebrity — it’s the “ward cleaver-esque” persona Cosby has in the public mind. You can’t say it would make the crazy sort of news it has if this happened to Danny Devito or Eddie Murphy. (not to say it wouldn’t be talked about…)Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        The Cosby accusations are a big deal because like Chris pointed out, most people perceive Cosby as this squicky clean African-American man who is not threatening to white people but not subservient at the same time. Thats a big thing. Its like finding out that Mr. Rodgers was engaged in some rather non-ethical behavior with the added element of race.

        Burt, you are thinking too much like a lawyer in your last sentence, which isn’t that surprising because you are one. Many people perceive the Cosby allegations differently because it is just another aspect of the sexual violence that permeates society and the powerful getting away with exploiting the weak. Conviction by the court of public opinion is the only form of jutice available to Cosby’s victims if the allegations are true. I am not exactly happy with conviction by the court of public opinion, its very sloppy but sometimes its the only thing you have.Report

      • j r in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        I don’t know. It’s not like there is not a very real history of various jurisdictions aggressively prosecuting black men, both judicially and extra-judicially, accused of sex crimes involving white women. If the victims were all black, you could sort of dismiss that, but they were not all black.

        What I find interesting is that the stories all seem to involve Cosby giving these women a drink and a pill. This was pre-Rohypnol, so it’s got to be not that easy to disguise the taste of a valium or a quaalude or whatever. So, from a contemporary point of view, the question becomes “why are you taking a strange pill?” Of course, from the contemporary point of view, we are much more aware of drink-spiking.

        So the question from me is: was there a culture of taking random pills? And does that put these women in a situation of not wanting to go to the police, because they have to explain why they are taking random pills?Report

      • Chris in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I don’t know. It’s not like there is not a very real history of various jurisdictions aggressively prosecuting black men, both judicially and extra-judicially, accused of sex crimes involving white women. If the victims were all black, you could sort of dismiss that, but they were not all black.

        Like I said, it’s complex.

        Every time I think I know what to think about it, something else comes to mind and I realize I don’t have a clue what to think about it. Other than that Cosby did horrible, horrible things over and over again to many, many women.

        Also, there are the issues of art and the artist. I will almost certainly still love The Cosby Show, but I know a lot of people won’t even watch it anymore.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @j-r If the accusations are to be believed, in some instances he didn’t need to disguise the pill because he claimed it was for something else (herbal stress relief, or headache, or whatever).

        In the instances in which he supposedly spiked the drinks, I have no idea how easily the taste might be masked.

        @chris – Although Cosby Show in the 80’s was a megahit, I think you undersell his ’70’s celebrity. That’s when I was listening to his records, made in the ’60’s and ’70’s. He also had Fat Albert from ’72-’79, was all over kids’ TV (“Picture Pages” etc.) and had two series, one of which (The Bill Cosby Show, two seasons right at the beginning of the decade) was a decent-sized hit (though The New Bill Cosby Show wasn’t a hit). He was a big deal, and the women he allegedly offered to “mentor” knew that.Report

      • @tod-kelly

        I wrote up a very short OTC Open Thread prompt on the immigration stuff, but the computer froze & ate it. I don’t have much to say, because I think there is just a ton of great stuff out there being said now. I was kind of leaning against putting it up because I thought it might step on a post someone might have in them. But if you want it up to be timely, I can go ahead and recreate it and do that…Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        We also haven’t talked about shirtgate. Unless I missed that completely. I would be interested in your risk manager take on shirtgate because I am all for casual work environments but:

        1. Matt Taylor’s shirt went well beyond a casual work environment.

        2. Who let Taylor on TV while wearing that shirt?Report

      • Glyph in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @saul-degraw That shirt definitely wouldn’t fly at my office for sure. And yeah, having it on TV…bad idea.

        That said, I remain bemused that I have heard as much about a shirt, as I have about the fact that they landed a freaking probe on a freaking comet.

        An interview with the woman who made the shirt:

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        Don’t you work from home? I think I remember you writing that once.

        I don’t think Taylor was being malicious. I think he was just not quite thinking in the way guys (especially geeky guys) tend not to want to think about their clothing. I’ve known a lot of guys who openly talked about how they hate having to think about what to wear. The problem is that this kind of guileless non-thinking can lead to a hostile work environment or being off-putting. The message that you want to convey is not necessarily the message that gets conveyed (I know this from experience). Sometimes you can’t help it and sometimes you can.Report

      • j r in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        1. Matt Taylor’s shirt went well beyond a casual work environment.

        2. Who let Taylor on TV while wearing that shirt?

        and 3. When did contemporary progressives turn into re-constituted Victorians?Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        You have some very strange politics. The re-constituted Victorian charge reminds me of the old PC vs. anti-PC debates where the anti-PC tribe seemed shocked, shocked that they had to be mindful and considerate towards others especially those that were different than them.

        I’m all for a casual work environment. One firm I worked for let you wear almost anything you wanted unless you were going to court or a depo. If I ever start a law firm I would like to think that this how I would handle it. I still wouldn’t let anyone where a shirt like this or a lot of other t-shirts.

        The shirt does send a message about how women get viewed primarily as sexual objects even instead of for their academic accomplishments. Suppose Taylor was a buddy of yours and he always wore that shirt on first or second dates and wondered why he was striking out.
        Would you suggest that maybe he put on a different shirt?Report

      • j r in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        You have some very strange politics.


        The re-constituted Victorian charge reminds me of the old PC vs. anti-PC debates where the anti-PC tribe seemed shocked, shocked that they had to be mindful and considerate towards others especially those that were different than them.

        There is a whole lot of room between being mindful and considerate of others and being PC; they are not the same thing. Personally, if I owned a business or where in a management role, I would not let employees wear such things, but since I’m not, I’m not going to be the guy to complain. I’m not a hall monitor.

        The shirt does send a message about how women get viewed primarily as sexual objects even instead of for their academic accomplishments.

        Only if that is the message for which you are looking. Once you move from saying that the shirt is not really appropriate for work to saying that it actively sends nefarious messages and offends sensibilities then you are firmly in pearl clutching and fainting couch territory.

        Suppose Taylor was a buddy of yours and he always wore that shirt on first or second dates and wondered why he was striking out. Would you suggest that maybe he put on a different shirt?

        I know enough to know that if Taylor is striking out, it has almost nothing to do with the shirt.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @saul-degraw I don’t often go into the office; but when I do, I don’t wear a bowling shirt with a pinup-girl mosaic on it.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Is the shirt’s designer sexist?Report

      • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @glyph …and Mussolini made the trains run on time (note, I know he actually didn’t make the trains run on time).

        Just because somebody is part of a team that has a great accomplishment, doesn’t mean that he’s free from criticism.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @jesse-ewiak – See, the reason the “trains run on time” thing stings, is because Mussolini did all that OTHER stuff, that kind of…outweighs something like (apocryphally) punctual rail arrivals and departures.

        I agree that doing a cool thing doesn’t make one immune from criticism for an uncool thing; but AFAIK, no one here (and at a lot of places) was discussing *the probe/comet* at all. Which is most assuredly a Very Cool Thing.

        Yet here we are, talking about a shirt.

        Just strikes me as…funny, is all.

        And though I wouldn’t wear such a shirt to work, some pin-up art is quite nice IMO.Report

      • dhex in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        “That said, I remain bemused that I have heard as much about a shirt, as I have about the fact that they landed a freaking probe on a freaking comet.”

        outside of the esa’s presumably stoned pr crew, who went to all that trouble to set this up and then hit the couchlock and took a nap rather than spend five minutes during media training on proper clothing standards for tv appearances, let’s be muy serioso – how many people have anything to say about landing on a comet beyond “huh, ok, i guess?”

        the vast majority of anyone in the world, pro or con ugly shirts, is not going to have much of an opinion about landing on comets because space stuff. it’s pretty far outside most of our bailiwicks.

        having an opinion about a shirt is a lot easier to grasp conceptually, especially when it’s so stunningly tacky. that said, i do like the alternate universe in my brain where he wore the same style, but it was a tom of finland style pinup shirt. much of the sports bar would be on opposing sides.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        the vast majority of anyone in the world, pro or con ugly shirts, is not going to have much of an opinion about landing on comets because space stuff. it’s pretty far outside most of our bailiwicks.

        DIDN’T YOU PEOPLE SEE ARMAGEDDON?! (Full disclosure: I didn’t).Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        You’re a Deep Impact man?Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        Well, @glyph does have three kids….Report

  2. Will Truman says:

    The white working class demographic is, I think, more crucial there than here. Even if you consider just English whites. I’m not sure there’s as much room for an “everybody else coalition”.Report

  3. Murali says:

    I always understood labour to be far more popular among working class whites in the UK than the democratic party is among a similar demographic in the US. In fact, working class whites if I understand correctly has been their traditional base. Their enthusiasm was somewhat dampened by a post Thatcher neoliberal shift by the party (which explains the flight to nativist neo-fascists). The more bourgeois left of centre folk have preferred to vote for the liberal democrats.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Murali says:

      My perception is that the LibDems are closer to the technocratic wing of the Democrats, and Labour to the more populist. Cuomo vs Warren.

      We need MattY to comment.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Murali says:


      I’ve always heard that England was right-leaning and most of Labor’s support came from Scotland and Wales. Hence David Cameron pleading with Scotland that it wasn’t worth leaving the Union, just to give the Tories a kick in the pants.Report

      • Scotland and Wales are less than 20% of the UK. Nobody can win elections relying mostly on them.Report

      • Chris in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        The political map of the UK is a bit complex, in part because the Age of Labor (and New Labor in particular) appears to be on the wane, and outside of England (e.g., dense urban areas like inner London and parts of Manchester), is being largely replaced by the Lib Dems on the center-left.


        Much like the U.S., there is a rural-urban divide, and class divides are much more clear there, and economic mobility is terrible (though the U.S. has been working on acheiving UK-levels of mobility for a while now). There is also a clear national divide, but that’s not surprising given the way political representation works in the UK.Report

    • greginak in reply to Murali says:

      It is true Labour was/is far more popular in Scotland and Wales. However that shoots a hole in the “liberal parties can’t appeal to working class whites” thesis. Labour does/did appeal to just those white, it just wasn’t in the most conservitve part of the country where they did that. If is wasn’t for the SNP, Labour would still be by far the majority party in Scotland. Liberal parties can and have won over working class whites.

      I don’t have the stats handy but there is a big regional difference in white working class and white voting in general. Whites in the South vote overwhelmingly R in the other regions much less so allthough still with a tilt to the R’s.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to greginak says:


        You are generally right. Obama did reasonably well with white working-class voters in almost every single region in the United States except the South in 2008 and 2012.Report

  4. Chris says:

    My political biases and preferences make it hard to see why supporting urbanism, environmentalism same-sex marriage and other social liberal policies aimed at increasing inclusion, and a more robust welfare state are snobby.

    That you think those are the things they find “snobby” is why you have a hard time understanding it and at the same time suggests they are right, you are a snob.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Chris says:

      To be fair, urbanization is a part of it.Report

      • Chris in reply to Will Truman says:

        On that I agree. Given that unionization, both in the U.S. and in England, is less popular these days among the working class, it’s easy to understand hwo the liberal middle class’ insistence on the importance of organizated labor for the working class can be seen as condescending. “We know what’s best for you, even if you don’t. Just listen to us!”Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Chris says:


      That statement was a bit snobby and perhaps I am a bit snobby but I still have yet to see a good reason why the Democratic Party should focus on recapturing more of the white-working class or small business owner vote. The small business owner has traditionally been a force in conservative politics. This has been true for a long time before either of us were born.

      As an example, San Francisco is considering legislation which would require employers to give part-time workers “predictable” schedules. I am working on a larger piece about this legislation. I think this is good but support for this legislation tends to be the type of stuff that the GOP hammers the Democratic Party for.

      What is wrong or unethical with the Democratic Party supporting worker-friendly legislation like predictable schedules for part-time workers and opposing clopening over being more small-business friendly. The GOP will always be able to be the part of business more than the Democratic Party. I don’t see what the Democratic Party has to lose by going full force on worker and employee rights and talking about how predictable schedules help the health and opportunity of people. You can go to school if you know what your schedule is like or arrange for child-care for your kids.Report

      • Chris in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        That statement was a bit snobby and perhaps I am a bit snobby but I still have yet to see a good reason why the Democratic Party should focus on recapturing more of the white-working class or small business owner vote.

        Umm… because a big part of what Democrats and political liberalism have traditionally stood for is helping the working class? Because they are people, and their opinions not only count but are important? I mean, if you want to be the party of rich white urban liberals and minorities (you think women, too, but I think if you look at the voting stats you’ll find that working class white women are not voting for you in the droves that you think they are), that’s cool and all, but I think you will find out rather sooner than later that a lot of black and Hispanic and Asian people are poor or working class, and they share many of the values and concerns and interests that white working class people do, and the more you alienate the white working class people in favor of what rich white urban liberals want, the more you will alienate those other groups. Now, given the problems that the Republicans have with minorities, particularly black and Hispanic people, I don’t think we’re at risk of a majority of either group voting Republican nationwide anytime soon. However, what we are at risk of happening is the Democratic party reaching a crossroads: it can either support the working class generally, or it can be the party of rich urban folk, and it can’t be both, because as you yourself demonstrate time and time again, rich white urban folk are not particularly in tune with anyone but themselves. I have little doubt that rich white folk will win, and what you’ll find is that the economic interests of the working class, white, black, brown, male or female, are completely unrepresented in our political system.

        You know what, nevermind. That’s already happened.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        I am not so sure. I am talking about something very explicit which is protecting the rights of workers to have decent and stable working conditions and having the sort of regulations free atmosphere that people seem to think is conclusive to have small businesses.

        There are a lot of minorities who want to own and run their own small businesses. There are also a lot of people who just want to have a somewhat decent job where they are treated like human beings or at least given predictable work schedules and not required to close up at 10 PM and then be back up between 3-5 AM for opening.

        This is a good and pro-working class platform and as far as I can tell you are simply accusing me of being snobby and condescending simply because I don’t come from the working-class. Well neither do you.

        The Democratic Party trying to do the neo-liberal, we are the party of small business thing has not worked out really. The Democratic Party always gets kicked when they try to be a Republican-lite party as happened in 2002, 2004, 2010, and now 2014. When we try to be more left we win as can be seen in 2006, 2008, and 2012.

        So how do you think the Democratic Party should handle the needs of workers vs. allegedly regulation free attitude that this needed to encourage small business because treating people decently is such a burden man? I thought you were a socialist. Now you sound like a Matt Y kind of neoliberal.Report

      • Chris in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I’m afraid where I come from, and who I come from, is a little more complex than that. I’d be happy to tell you about it, though I can’t imagine why you’d care. It’s certainly not relevant.

        My only point is that if you ignore the white working class’ interests, it’s only a step or two to ignoring working class itnerests altogether. The Democratic party has, for some time, won black and Hispanic voters largely by default. Look at Baltimore in the 90s: run by Democrats, but incarcerating half, that’s 50%, that’s one in two, of its black residents. It was a prisoner mill for black residents. Poverty was rampant. But the people of Baltimore still wouldn’t vote for Republicans. This should tell both Democrats and Republicans something. The former that working class minorities are not voting for you because of what you do, and the latter that you are so bad that even when Democrats are screwing black people over in horrible ways, they still won’t vote for you.

        Democrats and the progressive movement have, by and large, become completely divorced from the working class, black, brown, or white, and while they remain the only party who will actually do anything at all for the working class, they are not a party that is actively looking out for the working class. This is important, and it will hurt Democrats politically. Focusing on middle class women and hoping the Republicans stay racist will only take y’all so far.Report

      • @chris @saul-degraw

        Neither of you has been very clear about what it would mean for the Democrats to try to serve the interests of the working class generally, so there may be some disagreement there. But I get the impression there has been a major miscommunication here, and that there is in fact no significant strategic disagreement here.

        I get the impression that you both think the party should focus on serving the working class more. I suspect you two would not disagree much on the specific measures it should use to do that, though you could have that conversation and find out if you wanted.

        There is a further suggestion that has been floated elsewhere that the Democrats need to additionally focus on shoring up their difficulty getting members of the specifically white working class by somehow tailoring political efforts to win their votes back not just as working class people, but as white working class people.

        Saul has an opinion about those suggestions, and we’re finding out a bit about Chris’ opinion on the subject as well. There’s some departure here, but still I think less than it might seem. Saul says that it’s probably not a good move for Democrats to make those efforts because 1) they probably won’t work, 2) they could alienate the diverse coalition, and 3) if the party focus well enough on the working class generally, that should work among the white working class just enough for the minimum amount of shoring up.

        It’s not clear exactly what Chris’ position on efforts specifically aimed at connecting with white working class voters is, but it’s clear he also thinks that efforts to serve working class voters’ interests should be effective across the board demographically. The implication would seem to be that he wouldn;t think that the race-specific efforts should be necessary. It’s not at all clear to me that that view is pin fundamental tension with Saul’s view. The difference would seem to be in how successful each man thinks that general efforts to serve the working class’ interests would be at winning the votes of the specifically white working class. (And potentially in what measures should be used to try to serve working class interests generally.)

        Not answered in either of these views is the critique of Democratic strategy over recent decades that has it that the problem for Democrats, and why Democrats are so often stumped as to why the white working class doesn’t vote for them, is that they fundamentally don’t understand either 1) the economic interests of the constituencies whose interests they seek, and claim, to serve, or 2) the way that economic interest does and doesn’t play a role in determining people’s voting decisions. I.e., that they first misunderstand what it is the working class actually wants from the government vis-a-vis its economic interests, and then 2) even if they got it, or if they don’t, how these voters apportion credit and blame for that, or even whether they allow it to be a driving factor in how they vote at all.Report

      • j r in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        What is wrong or unethical with the Democratic Party supporting worker-friendly legislation…

        Worker-friendly is the perfect term for that brand of liberalism. Hey Mr. Worker, let’s be friends. I mean, I don’t want to hand you the keys to the place or anything, but I would certainly like us to be on amenable terms. Don’t forget to vote Blue!Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        Thanks for stepping in and mediating 🙂 I think you are probably right that there is not too much substantive distance between Chris and I and what I am largely reacting against is the idea floated elsewhere that the Democratic Party needs to focus on the “white” part of “white working class”.Report

      • Chris in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I’ll put it this way: largely cultural issues have given Democrats and their progressive supporters a wonderful excuse not to try to convince recalcitrant working class and lower middle class voters that their economic policies would help them make ends meet, and perhaps increase their economic mobility, than Republican policies. That is, Democrats have conveniently convinced thsemselves that the reasons certain demographics vote Republican are entirely cultural: they hate gays and they hate abortions, and that’s what they vote on, so they’re lost to the Democrats! I have no doubt that such cultural issues do sway some voters to the Republican side. I bet there are a lot of votes to be had, however, if Democrats didn’t write them off for cultural reasons and instead tried to sell economic programs.

        What’s more, if Democrats felt they had to win working class votes, rather than getting their working class constituents’ votes by default because those constituents are mostly black or Hispanic and there’s no way they’re going to vote Republican (for good reason, I believe), they might work harder on them. As it is, Democrats don’t have to really work on their working class-supporting policies all that much anyway, because they’re electorally irrelevant, so not only do they not try all that hard to sell them (remember how little the adminstration was selling health care reform in the summer of ’09?), they don’t produce very good ones either, because they don’t have to.

        Snobbery has real world consequences.Report

      • I guess I’m looking at a different Democratic Party from the one you are, Chris. I see a party whose main effort is to try sell its economic program to the working class and the middle class, but has only mixed success generally and little success with the white working and middle class. So it has focused more and more on particular slices of them (women, people of color, immigrants, etc). The issue for me isn’t trying to convince the party it needs to do focus on selling its economic program to the working & middle classes, but the party trying to figure out how to do it – and in what combinations (i.e., I don’t think the working class votes as a bloc; I think there are demographic categories that divide it voting patterns). And how to do it means two things: what policies to embrace, and then how to present them (to different parts of the working/middle classes). That’s what Saul is getting at with assessing whether the “neoliberal approach” (which I differ with him about whether that has been the focus for Democrats in recent cycles) is the right one for this purpose moving forward.

        If you don’t think the party has been focused on at least trying, even if incompetently, to focus on serving the interests of the working and middle class, what is it you think they’ve been trying to do? Or is it that they’ve been focused on the middle class rather than the working class? If that’s the case, then I don’t think you’re really talking about strategies for electoral success.

        If you’re a mainstream party, you want to be competitive with the working class, but you MUST be competitive with the middle class. It’s bigger and it votes in larger percentages. Now, I’m okay with an analysis that more or less conflates them, since I think divisions within the working & middle class are more salient for politics than divisions between the working and middle classes. I.e., I think working class white women probably vote very much like middle-class white women, and working class Latino men vote very much like middle-class latino men, and so on down the line. This is not to say I don’t want the parties to address them more to their class/economic interests than their identities. The focus must be on voters’ economic issues. But I think politicians wouldn’t want to seek to focus on working class issues that are working class issues exactly because they are not middle-class issues. That’s not going to be a winning strategy. Divide the working class and the middle class and you’re dead. Divide the upper-class from the other two and focus on limiting your losses in the demographic areas inside those classes that you lose and running them in the demos you win, and you win.

        So the Democrats need to present middle class interests and working class interests as … whaddya know… complementary, and then do just not-bad enough among white voters, and they’ll win (or can). Focus on the working class in ways that alienate the middle class, and they’ll never do so well among woking class whites that it’ll matter. Again: they’re largely strongly inclined to vote Republican. A working-class-not-middle-class strategy will leaves the Democrats largely reliant on working class minorities alone. That’s just not a winning coalition. That doesn’t mean you give up on working class whites, but you limit how much you rely on them by expanding your target to the middle class more broadly as well as the working class, and to expanding the voting pool through outreach to particular demography groups who have been alienated from politics, but whom you think you can motivate to become engaged.Report

      • …Maybe the pithy way of saying what I’m saying is that it’s not evidence that someone has not been trying to convince you of something if, after trying to convince you of it for years and years, they stop and say, “You know, I think he just doesn’t want to believe what I’m telling him because he doesn’t like me because I’ve got better taste than him and he knows it.”

        Saying that *does* let himself off the hook, and it *is* snobby. But it doesn’t really say anything about whether he’s been trying to convince you of the thing.

        Then there’s the issue of why he’s been failing. It might be that that underlying attitude that allows him to say he has better taste than you is something that makes it impossible to craft an argument that wins you over. Or it might be that he’s failing to craft that argument for reasons that have nothing to do with that underlying attitude. Or it may be that the thing he’s been trying to convince you of is false. Or it may be that he has better taste than you and that causes you not to like him and not want to be convinced of anything by you. There are many possibilities about that. But if he’s been trying, he’s been trying, and him pausing to make an assessment of why he’s failed to convince you isn’t evidence that he wasn’t trying to convince you.Report

      • Chris in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        As far as I can tell, Democrats have basically been selling their economic program, particularly job creation and health care, the same way since Clinton. If the voters I described as recalcitrant are in fact recalcitrant after all this time, why is that? I know the two books I’ve read by progressives trying to explain their recalcitrants have blamed the culture wars and republican framing. How many have looked at the actual message?Report

      • Chris, I agree with that. You seemed to be saying that you thought they have thought that cultural issues make getting the votes impossible, so they haven’t really been trying on the economic message. I don’t think the cultural diagnosis shows they haven’t been trying. I think it shows they have been trying fruitlessly and are starting to throw their hands up about hitting on the right economic message. There’s no doubt they haven’t had the right message, but to my eyes they’ve clearly been trying. And I doubt many of them think there is any option but to keep trying.

        That said, that’s not in itself an argument against absolutely any realism about prospects for turning around their numbers with the white working class. Just because concluding that you shouldn’t try to sell your economic program to them at all would be completely wrong-headed doesn’t mean the cultural diagnosis is 180 degrees wrong and that there’s no reason to be even a little bit realistic about how well you can do with them with a better economic message.Report

      • Chris in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I’d bet you a lot of money that if we had a party that was actually a party of labor and the poor, you’d get the votes of labor and the poor. That is, if you had a party that represents their interests first, and in clear, unambiguous ways.

        That is not the Democratic Party, though.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        I somewhat agree with you. I do think one problem that the Democratic Party has is that it has become the party of people who feel isolated from the Republican Party for one reason or another and those are usually social issues. I have friends who are much more economically conservative than I am but they stay with the Democratic Party because of the GOP stances on social issues and foreign affairs. The biggest examples of this are usually abortion and LGBT rights.

        That being said, truly working class parties have taken hard hits. Mondale was a true old-school Democratic guy. He was probably the last Democratic nominee to run as an unconditional New Deal and Great Society liberal. He was beaten and beaten badly by Reagan. The UK Labor party ran a true socialist/working class/labor platform in their 1983 General Election and they got burnt. The Labor Party platform from that election has since been called “the longest suicide note in history” especially because it refused to scuttle Clause IV (which called for the nationalization of all industry and has been part of Labor since 1945).Report

      • Well, now you’re adding another category – labor. Labor is certainly mostly a working-class institution, but its not at all clear that the working class is broadly associated with labor anymore (unfortunately). (Maybe you have a whole narrative about how the Democratic Party brought that fact into being.) And we’re basically talking about whether a different party than the actual one whose fortunes I thought we were discussing would a) get the votes of certain classes of people, and b) be a viable contender to hold power nationally very often.

        There’s no doubt that the Democrats made a bid to expand their appeal to the middle class more broadly rather than the poor and labor starting at least with Clinton. Yeah, maybe if they hadn’t they’d be getting some more working-class votes. But would they be a viable national contender for power? And if not, what;s the point of your argument?

        Also, if making the bid for the middle-class caused a significant number of working-class people to jump ship for the Republicans (Reagan Dems ostensibly), what exactly does that say about the cultural identification/basic political inclination thesis for why Dems have a hard time with the white working class? It’s pretty strongly supportive of it from where I sit, but maybe you think the GOP really has made a better pitch for their votes on their economic interests.

        This is not to say you’re wrong that a party more exclusively committed to “the poor and labor” wouldn’t do better with the poor and even the white working class. It’s just to say that there’s evidence it’s a tough job for Dems to hold on to the white working class no matter what they do, and especially if they aren’t single-mindedly committed to doing it (i.e. whether culturally adjusting their pitch, or not making the bid for the middle class). That they occasionally write a book trying to figure out why that is is not evidence that they’re not trying to make the sale.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        I think the bigger issue is that a lot of upper-middle class professional types (like me) did a long slide over to the Democratic Party. As far as I can tell, most of this happened because of social politics. The upper-middle class professionals were turned off by the hard-right turn the GOP made on social politics especially by embracing the moral majority and Falwell brigade. These were boomer-hippies who later became well-to-do yuppies but never learned to embrace social conservatism even with their own kids.

        It is hard to be a party for Labor while also being the party of upper-middle class social liberal/economic moderates.

        The Crazification of the GOP has just turned the Democratic Party into being a really disparate group of people who think the GOP has gone bonkers over issues.Report

  5. Jaybird says:

    In The Penultimate Paragraph: At this point, I need to wonder whether the Democratic Party and UK Labor Party should just abandon courting white, lower-middle class voters and focus on the newer coalition of women, minorities, professionals and the young.

    In the Final Paragraph: I admit that I find it very fascinating but also perplexing that the centre-left parties across the world are often easily tarred with being snobby and elitist. Report

    • Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

      Precisely. “Look, those people don’t really matter, and we should just ignore them. It still baffles me why they don’t like us, though.”Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Chris says:

        @chris @jaybird

        From a tactical standpoint, I am not saying anything different than Amanda Marcotte or Jamelle Bouie did after the 2014 rout. The white vote seems to go overwhelmingly for the Republican Party and if this is based on social issues, I don’t see why the Democratic Party should give up a more inclusionary vision to go after the vote of white people without college degrees. “Yeah, we sold women and LGBT-people down the river but we did pick up one Southern Senate seat!”

        To go for the white without a college degree vote would seemingly to be give up liberalism and a belief in the welfare state and environmental protection and social liberal inclusion. Again, being Republican-lite is no path to victory for the Democratic Party.Report

      • greginak in reply to Chris says:

        @saul-degraw But you are assuming going after WWC means hurting other minority groups. Oddly and ironicly that is the Conservtive framing. Yeah on social issues there may be some truth to that. But social issues aren’t everything by any means. The needs of working class people are largly the same regardless of race or gender. In the needs of the poor are largley the same as the working class. The D’s need to focus on helping people, poor and working and middle class. And they need to be loud about the things they do which help those groups like the ACA instead of running like R lites.Report

      • Chris in reply to Chris says:

        From a tactical standpoint, I am not saying anything different than Amanda Marcotte or Jamelle Bouie did after the 2014 route

        You make my point for me, then (see above). Marcotte, for example, is not known for her awareness of race issues, for example. Remember her book cover?

        To go for the white without a college degree vote would seemingly to be give up liberalism and a belief in the welfare state and environmental protection and social liberal inclusion.

        No, it wouldn’t. What it would mean is actually trying to sell those things to the working class, rather than accepting, as you have clearly done, that they are strictly urban upper-middle class and non-white issues.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Chris says:


        I think it is complicated and I think there are big debates in the Democratic Party about what it means to support the working class. The debate is roughly between the neo-liberal set and the set that wants to go back to old-school unionism and worker-friendly policies.

        The Matt Y/Neo-Liberal school seems to think that the best way to help the working class is to lower regulations and have more small-business opportunities. His prime example are the regulations that don’t allow dental hygenists to have their own businesses or license laws. I semi-agree with him. Some license requirements are way too burdensome but I would lower the amount of training hours rather than getting rid of the license requirement entirely. There are good consumer protection reasons to have licenses. I don’t understand the neo-liberal/libertarian love of a caveat-emptor kind of commercialism where the consumer takes a risk about the level of health training that their barber or stylist has. If you are going to put a razor to someone’s neck for a living: you should know how to use it and how to keep it clean. This can probably be done with less than 2000 hours of training though. Same with using chemicals and hot wax on peoples faces and bodies for aesthetic purposes.

        The other wing of the Democratic Party seems to want to protect the interest of the working class by developing laws, policies, norms, and regulations that give workers decent and reasonable working conditions. This is the fight for higher wages, insurance, more vacation and sick leave, and against wild and unpredictable work schedules and cloopening.

        When I posted about clopening earlier this year after a Times expose, I got into a debate with Conroy about “What if someone really wants to work clopening?” I don’t think he or anyone else was ever able to provide a satisfactory answer about why it is better to support the worker who wants to clopen over the worker that does not for whatever reason. Laws and regulations requiring predictable work schedules does not prevent management from asking someone to come in because they are short-staffed but it does require management to give extra consideration including more pay potentially.

        I am firmly in the second camp. I agree with you that it can be phrased and sold in such a way that does not alienate the White Working Class. I’ve mentioned that before in my own threads (work-life balance should be a worker issue, not a gender issue.)

        In my mind, the neo-liberal path is not going to attract more votes for the Democratic Party but is simply going to do the same old Republican-lite thing. Why should people vote for Republican-lite when they can vote for Republicans? That debate has been going on in the Democratic Party since I was a teenager if not before.


        I think what I am not doing successfully is differentiating between the needs of the working-class and the needs for small-business owners who might or might not be working class.

        I do think that people who do wish to be business owners have a hard time understanding those that don’t wish to be business owners and there is hostility between the needs of employers (small or large) and the need of employees (including high-level and well-educated employees).Report

      • Chris in reply to Chris says:

        I think what I am not doing successfully is differentiating between the needs of the working-class and the needs for small-business owners who might or might not be working class.

        I do think that people who do wish to be business owners have a hard time understanding those that don’t wish to be business owners and there is hostility between the needs of employers (small or large) and the need of employees (including high-level and well-educated employees).


      • j r in reply to Chris says:

        You make my point for me, then (see above). Marcotte, for example, is not known for her awareness of race issues, for example. Remember her book cover?

        Holy Eff!!! I’d never seen that before. It is perfect.Report

      • greginak in reply to Chris says:

        @saul-degraw Yeah those are the two threads of D thinking at the moment. In some ways they are not in opposition so elements from both sides can be used. Some licensing and regs should be cut. If the D’s would push that they could do a lot to win people over and create momentum for other changes. I doubt easing licensing would create many jobs or work the wonders some people think it would but it is still a wise and correct move. But you can push for that and workers protections. One of the problems D’s get into with worker protection is fiddling at small issues while doing nothing or being unable to do nothing about big deals. Clopening sucks but it is hard to make a rule around small part of scheduling without companies finding a work around. However worker safety rules are usually a good sell and have a stronger impact. There is just so much that can be done to nibble at the edges of companies treating low paid workers poorly. If at the same time nothing is being done to address safety issues or good jobs in general then not much good is being done.

        In my experience working class people aren’t looking for gov to make their jobs great or easy, they want a fair deal and not to forked with. Wise D’s make laws that make it harder for employers to unreasonably screw with their workers and not make the Gov the ones forking around with workers.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Chris says:


        I largely agree with you. I do think clopening is a health and safety issue though. There are also issues with computer programs that can analyze for shift opitmization and this puts the burden on the worker instead of the business. Why can’t Starbucks take the hit on a midday lull in business instead of sending a barista home early?

        It seems like all these issues have things that companies are able to work around? You could mandate minimum shift laws though.

        I also think from a social prospective that there are a lot of people who have a romantic vision of the United States being a nation filled with self-sufficient small business owners and yeoman. This is a kind off vision that thinks everyone at Google, Apple, or even J.Crew and the Gap should be a 1099 Independent Contractor. The simple fact is that our current level of technology and economy requires employees but the GOP has not quite given up on their old mantra against “wage slavery”. The original Republican Party thought being an employee was almost as bad as being a slave and they did seem to truly believe that the U.S. could be a nation where everyone was his or her own boss of his or her own enterprise. This was just at the start of the Industrial Revolution and many jobs still required being a skilled craftsman. It really wasn’t until after the Civil War that technology was able to turn skilled positions (like serious iron work and molding) into unskilled positions. I think the example I remember from school was that making bathtubs used to be considered a skilled craft position until sometime after the Civil War and as soon as it became industrialized, the ironworkers lost their ability to negotiate.

        Yet the vision of everyone being a free yeoman remains even if it is unfeasible. We can do it I suppose but it requires going back to a less than industrialized economy without mass production or advanced science. And I do think that people who want to start their own small businesses do have disdain for those that just want a fair deal and reasonable pay.

        Starting a business is not for everyone but people who want to start businesses seem to not understand those that lack the desire.Report

  6. KatherineMW says:

    make it hard to see why supporting urbanism, environmentalism same-sex marriage and other social liberal policies aimed at increasing inclusion, and a more robust welfare state are snobby.

    Well, I would guess that urbanism seems snobby to rural and suburban people because it’s implying that the places where they live aren’t as good. Environmentalism, particularly in its “we should leave nature alone rather than enjoying it” form, can aggravate people whose preferred uses of nature (e.g., hunting, ATVing) are considered unacceptable by many environmentalists; ironically, these people often live closer to large natural areas than urban environmentalists do.

    In addition to that, if environmentalists want to close the town that’s polluting the river that runs through your town, but is also directly responsible for about 30% of your town’s employment (and indirectly for most of the rest) – that may be a good idea in the long view and for the population as a whole, but in the short run it’ll turn your community into a ghost town and destroy you and your friends’ jobs, so you’re not going to like the people advocating it, and you’re likely to feel that they don’t understand your town and are judging you and making decisions on your behalf from a long way off.

    Dislike for social welfare policies among working-class people can come from the (untrue) idea that they’re all directed at non-working, layabout, and criminal types, something that has been heavily propagandized by conservative politicians. In the US this view seems to have definite racial aspects.

    Granted, these are just guesses (and heavy liberalsplaining, since I’ve lived mainly in cities and don’t hold any of these views, although overzealous environmentalists earn my eye-rolls).Report

    • Chris in reply to KatherineMW says:

      I will say that someone who has found himself thrust into the local urbanist community recently (damn you, Prop 1, damn you!), I can say this: while not all urbanists are snobs, the snob to non-snob ratio may be higher among urbanists than any other group that doesn’t use an obscure Greek name to label itself (e.g., oenophiles) or describe the art is prefers with at least three modifiers (abstract post-impressionist European expressionism).Report

  7. Jesse Ewiak says:

    How about this.

    I want to make the lifes of the white working class better via various policies. I have no need to get any more of their votes because getting their votes would require throwing various minorities and other groups under the bus.Report

    • North in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

      Well we’re gonna have to be very very patient then and have a lot of faith because right now getting at least some of their votes is necessary to have the power to enact any policy at all.
      That said I am deeply skeptical of the idea that getting white working class votes necessarily requires throwing various minorities under the bus.Report

      • Chris in reply to North says:

        Good, because it doesn’t.

        Granted, you wouldn’t know that if the only data points you were aware of were a.) exit polls and b.) Democratic party rhetoric. See Tod’s post on the internet.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to North says:

        I’m not sure I agree with “Democratic Party rhetoric”… by and large, they’re not bad at reaching out – at least rhetorically – to the white working class. This is something I very much consider to their credit. The problem lies not with the Party, for the most part, but with a lot of its fans.Report

      • Chris in reply to North says:

        You’re right, I should have substituted “progressive pundits.”Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to North says:

        Let it be known, in light of this, that above, when I am talking about what I take to be Democratic Party strategy, I absolutely do have in mind things like, “What was the substance of Mark Pryor’s campaign for reelection?”, etc. Which is the kind of thing that matters for assessing what it is the Democratic Party does to try to get itself elected, most. Everyone else is just like us, people out there telling them what they *should* be doing. If *that’s* what/who we’re talking, then that’s a really big, Oh, well in *that* case…Report

      • Jesse Ewiak in reply to North says:

        @north, I do I think getting over a certain percentage does require that, because much of their opposition to the current Democratic Party is for the same reasons as it was in 1972 – abortion, amnesty, and acid. Only now, maybe substitute anal sex for acid and it’s amnesty for brown people instead of hippies.

        Yeah, do I think with a slightly better message, we could get 40% of the white male vote during midterms instead of 34% we did in the latest midterms? Sure.

        But, as I’ve pointed out before, once you account for the South, the Democratic share of the white vote in Presidential elections isn’t too horrible.Report

      • North in reply to North says:

        Well sure MD, I’m there with you. A good question for instance: why the fish does the Democratic party not actually throw some actual money into the effort of educating americans about what the ACA actually does? Like real money/effort? The studies show that the more people know about it the more they like it and vice versa. That goes for an enormous amount of stuff. Sully calls it the reflexive Liberal cringe and that’s as good a name for it as anything. Now maybe this is just that the D’s tried a different tack (heavy emphasis on the war on women) and it simply was the wrong answer for that election so we’ll see. But it really does feel like the party has a serious communication problem.

        I don’t know if it’s even remotely that simple, alas. We’ve touched on this before: globalization is great for humanity but a much more mixed to negative for the lower quintiles of the population in first world countries. How does the modern nation deal with that? The Dems have a whole mess of answers, some ok, some bad, some useless and they don’t know which one to use (The GOP on the other hand has one shitty answer and they bark it out in lockstep unison at the ring of Pavlov’s bell). I don’t think it boils down to abortion, amnesty and acid.

        But I’m right there with you that there’s a severe messaging problem. It may even be caused by how sprawling the Dems coalition is at the moment.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to North says:

        North, I’d say that the answer to that is that in the short run the numbers are just too bad to do much with with PR campaigns. And in the long run, all that will matter is whether the law makes the case for itself, by working. You’re not going to convince people who say they don’t like “Obamacare” but say they do like its provisions to like “Obamacare” with a PR campaign insisting they complete the connection between the two in their minds. They clearly have reasons not to like the law as a grand political entity at this time. I’m skeptical that can be changed in the short run. If people wanted to make that connection, they would.Report

  8. Saul Degraw says:

    @michael-drew @chris

    This could be related to our three-way conversation above

    “Social justice” is an awkward term for an immensely important project, perhaps the most important project, which is to make the world a more equitable, fair, and compassionate place. But the project for social justice has been captured by an elite strata of post-collegiate, digitally-enabled children of privilege, who do not pursue that project as an end, but rather use it as a means with which to compete, socially and professionally, with each other. In that use, they value not speech or actions that actually result in a better world, but rather those that result in greater social reward, which in the digital world is obvious and explicit. That means that they prefer engagement that creates a) outrage and b) jokes, rather than engagement that leads to positive change. In this disregard for actual political success, they reveal their own privilege, as it’s only the privileged who could ever have so little regard for actual, material progress. As long as they are allowed to co-opt the movement for social justice for their own personal aggrandizement, the world will not improve, not for women, people of color, gay and transgender people, or the poor.Report

  9. Damon says:

    Perhaps I can help you out Saul.

    Think of it like “those rubes in flyover land”. You know that conversation you get into while talking about the keystone pipeline, and someone uses that phrase. Or maybe “redneck”. Maybe they are talking about a contractor or workman hired too.

    As someone who grew up in a rural town and then moved to the big eastern cities, it was glaringly apparent my new neighbors were snobbish, elitist, and entitled. Where you lived, what you drove, what you did. That was important. Nothing existed between coasts of any substance and the place was populated by inbred, snaggle tooth hicks.

    That picture the politician tweet sent a similar message. “This is why we lost another seat to the UKIP.” What was left unsaid was “god damn rubes!”Report