White Voters and the Democrats

Thanks to my friend Jack McDonald for passing along this Politico piece summarizing a new research paper published  by the Democratic Leadership Council.  I’m reminded of 1995, when Newt Gingrich had just pole-axed the D’s with his Contract with America, leading President Clinton to bang his fist on the podium and declare, “I.  Am.  Still.  Relevant.”  Only in this case, substitute Al From for Bill Clinton.

Poor Al From.  Just think–Evan Bayh and Joe Lieberman could have been VP nominees, and he’d have been resurrected.  Instead, he’s putting out research papers reminding us of the trouble D’s have with non-Hispanic, white, working-class voters.  Not exactly “stop the presses!” stuff.

Still, it doesn’t mean From doesn’t have a point.  Unless D’s can more effectively reach white male working class voters, the Presidential electoral math continues to be tricky.   White working class women are even tougher, as they tend to be more resolutely pro-life.   And working class whites in the South–let’s just say that there aren’t many pictures of Lyndon Johnson gracing the mantels of working class white families in Dixie.

But maybe the DLC should stop wringing its hands (unlikely) and focus elsewhere (highly unlikely).  As the study points out–and this is a little breath-taking–Democrats haven’t won a majority of whites since 1964.  It’s been almost two generations, even as the the 1964 result was an anomaly of a grieving nation and a fringe Republican candidate.  Certainly Eisenhower and Nixon carried whites in 1952-1960, and Strom Thurmond muddied the waters in 1948.  Let’s just oversimplify and say Democrats have been a minority party among white voters in what rounds to all of the post-war era.  Perhaps it’s just not to be, at least in the near term.  And almost certainly not if, a la Gary Hart, D’s do not wage a more concerted effort at winning over white working class voters in the West. 

On the lighter side of the news, Daily Kos reports a major break toward Obama in the new ABC/Washington Post poll, with independents favoring Obama 53-39.  If those numbers are anything like real and sticky, Obama wins in a walk.  Here’s hoping that however smart Al From is, a foul, cynical campaign run by a desperate candidate more than makes up for a heap of demographic challenges.

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