Harold Meyerson has an interesting piece in Wednesday’s Washington Post that examines the Dems problems with a key sector of the electorate. Noting an analysis that first appeared here on Donkey Rising, Meyerson asks the key question: “how do the Democrats win back the allegiance of the white working class?” Here are a few excerpts:
The redoubtable and unpronounceable Ruy Teixeira, Democratic poll analyst par excellence, has been rooting around in the raw data newly released from the 2004 exit poll and has come up with one morsel that should cause Democrats everywhere to gag. It’s not just that John Kerry got clobbered by working-class whites. It’s that 55 percent of white working-class voters trusted Bush to handle the economy, while only 39 percent trusted Kerry.
… I think the Democrats kid themselves if they think this problem is Kerry-specific. To begin, de-unionization has taken a huge chunk out of Democratic vote totals. Unionized working-class whites tend to vote Democratic at least 20 percent more than their nonunion counterparts, but with private-sector unionization now fallen to less than 8 percent of the workforce, there aren’t enough unionized whites to put a state such as Ohio into the Democratic column.
… on a broad range of economic matters, Democrats have alarmingly little to say to working-class Americans. For the past 35 years, as short-range share value has come to dominate our form of capitalism and the burden of risk has been shifted to the individual employee, far more manufacturing jobs have been sent abroad from the United States than from any other advanced industrialized nation. As the middle fell out of the economy, the Democrats advocated job retraining and, eventually, some form of managed trade, but these policies were too little and too late.
Today’s working class isn’t found largely in factories; it’s in nursing homes, on construction sites, in Wal-Marts. Republicans talk to its members about guns, gays and God. Democrats often just stammer. And given the imbalance of power in today’s de-unionized workplace, Democrats couldn’t do much better than Bush when it comes to boosting wages in this raise-less recovery.
Democrats win when they deliver prosperity and security for working Americans, and in today’s capitalism, those have become increasingly unattainable goals. Which is why, as they only now gear up their think tanks, Democrats need to promote alternatives to the kind of shareholder-driven capitalism into which our system has descended, to the detriment of millions of underpaid, insecure workers. They need to side with Main Street over Wall Street. Like the conservatives 40 years ago, the Democrats need to offend their own elites to build an America that reflects their best values, and in which working people can and do count on them for support.