I’d be remiss in failing to end this week of political commentary without mentioning Jonathan Chait’s fine and definitive smackdown on Republican arguments (especially those expressed by self-styled-ultra-elitist George Will) that Barack Obama or Democrats generally don’t respect the cultural views of white working-class voters:
To urge the white working class to vote on the basis of economic policy is itself considered an act of elitism. When Obama and other liberals reproach blue-collar whites for voting their values over their wallet, argues Will, they are accusing those workers of “false consciousness.” A Wall Street Journal editorial took umbrage that Obama “diminishes the convictions of those voters who care more about the right to bear arms, or faith in God, than they do about the AFL-CIO’s agenda.”
But nobody’s challenging the validity of caring more about your religion, or even your right to hunt, than your income. The objection is whether it makes sense to vote on that basis. There are, after all, stark differences between the two parties on economic matters. Republicans do want to make working-class voters pay a higher proportion of the tax burden, restrain popular social programs, erode the value of the minimum wage, and so on.
Democrats, on the other hand, have no plans to keep anybody from attending church or hunting. A few years ago, their gun-control agenda revolved around issues like safety locks, banning assault weapons, and other restrictions carefully designed to have virtually no impact on hunters or average gun owners. Now Democrats have abandoned even those meager steps. The GOP’s appeal on those “issues” rests on cultural pandering rather than any concrete legislative program.
It’s much the same point I tried to make earlier this week: it’s bad to dismiss non-economic voter concerns as irrelevant. It’s far worse to dismiss economic concerns, which by and large do have a direct connection with public policy, unlike religion and gun ownership.
The idea that Democrats as compared to Republicans are the “elitists” when it comes to working-class concerns is just laughable–particularly when the supposed anti-elitists are folks like American Tory George Will or the editors of The Wall Street Journal.