Slow growth, declining real wages, stagnating living standards, high and variable inflation, and high home-mortgage interest rates were battering them economically. The great postwar escalator to the middle class had basically stopped. And the response of "activist" government was tepid.Here's Henry Olsen of National Review, looking at the same set of facts earlier this week.
Or, worse, instead of honoring and encouraging core American values such as equal opportunity for all, fair reward for effort, the centrality of hard work and individual achievement, and social responsibility and order, the Democrats seemed to be focused on liberal social programs to promote the particular interests of gays, women, and minorities. This view was easy to cultivate among white working-class voters in the late 1970s, since many of them believed even prior to those years that the Democrats, owing to their perceived association with extremist elements of the civil-rights and anti-war movements, were out of touch with mainstream values. Thus, even as most white working-class voters were personally moving to adopt much more liberal values with respect to race, gender, and lifestyle, they embraced a pragmatically conservative judgment on government and its priorities.
Whether they are the academic, media, and entertainment elites of the Left or the political and business elites of the Right, America’s self-appointed best and brightest uniformly view the passions unleashed by Trump as the modern-day equivalent of a medieval peasants’ revolt. And, like their medieval forebears, they mean to crush it.Messrs Rogers and Teixeira recognized that "blue-collar" might have been misleading, even then.
That effort is both a fool’s errand for the country and a poisoned chalice for conservatives and Republicans. It is foolish because the reasons the peasants are revolting will not fade easily. Ignoring and ridiculing their concerns, the way European elites have done with their own electorates for most of the last two decades, will simply intensify the masses’ rage and ensure that their political spokesmen become more intransigent and radical. If you want an American version of Marine Le Pen tomorrow, ignore the legitimate concerns of blue-collar Americans today.
Of course, these non-college-educated whites are not the white working class of yesteryear. They are more likely to be doing low-level white-collar and service work than blue-collar work. They are much more likely to work in an office with a computer or at a similar service-sector job than to work in manufacturing. They are also likely to have more education than the old-style working class -- perhaps some college, maybe even a two-year associate's degree. And those in the work force are much more likely to be female. But in economic terms they are not so different from the white working class of previous generations.And the challenges those voters faced were different, Rogers and Teixera argued, from those confronting either the gentry or the urban poor.
The conventional view of the suburban electorate -- affluent soccer moms, executive dads -- is drawn from a few relatively wealthy towns like Bethesda, Maryland, and Fair Lawn, New Jersey, and it doesn't come close to reflecting reality. The suburban electorate is in fact composed mostly of members of the forgotten majority: two-earner families of low to moderate education and income, generally working in low-level white-collar, service, and skilled blue-collar jobs.And those two-earner families might be so construed because of the workings of the Say Aggregation Principle rather than because of great ambitions to the partner track or in order to look affluent. Sixteen years later, Dan Gorski of American Thinker, in a polemical way, suggests that the Democrats got dizzy with success and could take lower middle-class white folks for granted, because the votes would come from the gentry and the new ethnics. But that "part of America that counts" is precisely those lower middle-class white folks.
In sum, the white working class remains numerically dominant, even if its form has changed. Sure, many of its members qualify as wired, in the narrow sense that they work with computers and information technology. Many also qualify as soccer moms, in the narrow sense that they have to juggle job and family, including driving their kids to and from athletic contests. And certainly many qualify as suburban independents, in the narrow sense that they live in the suburbs and lack a strong identification with either party. Nonetheless, they are members of a white working class whose economic interests and experience diverge fundamentally -- in terms of culture, class, and history -- from those of soccer moms in Bethesda, suburban independents in Fair Lawn, and wired cyberprofessionals in Silicon Valley.
The dinosaur left, drunk with the success of conning America into twice electing an incompetent, Marxist stooge for President simply because was black, is totally surprised and is coming unhinged. They believed that traditional America was down and out. In their detached world of the beltway, green room and faculty lounge, they had assumed that anyone who would support Donald Trump was part of some marginal fringe group -- which to their horror turns out to be most of America, or at least the part that counts. Their “playing the race card” to squelch any inconvenient truth that intrudes into public consciousness is not working anymore. None of their slogans of the past apply anymore. They can’t rail against “the man” because they are “the man.” They own this mess and no amount of lying by the incredible shrinking news media can hide it.Here's Mr Olsen, suggesting the same thing, albeit in a lower voice.
Patriotism has also been a blue-collar-white staple for decades. Blue-collar whites may not be particularly hawkish (their sons and daughters are often our “boots on the ground”), but they are not isolationist or pacifist, either. They are proud of America, favor effective measures to protect our security, and do not like to see America humiliated by her enemies.But "Solid Liberals" are dues-paying members of the Gentry Establishment, otherwise known as "very stupid people."And Messrs Rogers and Teixera saw the discontent, sixteen years ago.
Blue-collar whites remain more friendly to traditional religion than other, more educated groups but are not as motivated by social issues as they were 30 to 40 years ago. Whites without a college degree who remain motivated by these issues are already staunch Republicans. Those who remain independent tend to be open to candidates’ espousing traditional social values but do not prioritize those values highly when choosing whom to vote for.
Today these voters are most animated by a sense that they are being left behind by a changing America. They have good reason to think so: Americans with less than a college education have seen their incomes stagnate or decline for more than 15 years. Inflation-adjusted median incomes peaked for these men and women in 1999, during the Clinton administration (expect to hear a lot about that if Hillary is the Democratic nominee). Neither the Bush nor the Obama years have been good for them.
This has not made them want to overhaul America’s private sector. Polls show that blue-collar whites still believe in free enterprise and distrust government solutions. They do not believe, however, that the current economy is serving them well.
These developments have led them to be among the most pessimistic of all American voter groups. Pew Research broke the American electorate into eight groups in 2014, and the one that contains blue-collar white swing voters — “Hard-Pressed Skeptics” — was solidly down on their own future and on America’s. Sixty-one percent said America’s best years are behind us, and 65 percent said that hard work and determination are no guarantee of success.
These voters also do not trust either Wall Street or the American economy more generally to provide for their future. Seventy-four percent say that our economy unfairly favors powerful interests, and 54 percent say Wall Street hurts America’s economy. In each case, only “Solid Liberals” expressed more negative, anti-business views.
A disjunction between economic experience and values has fundamentally shaped the political behavior of the forgotten majority. The economic experience has already been described. The values we have in mind are deeply held and broadly shared: opportunity, fair reward for effort, the centrality of hard work and individual achievement, and social commitment. As we have argued, over the past quarter century these values have repeatedly been contradicted or called into question by the tremendous slowdown -- and reversal of direction for some -- on that escalator to the middle class. The failure of activist government to get that escalator moving again, together with its apparent concentration on the problems or rights of others (minorities, the poor, gays, even criminals), has persuaded forgotten majority voters that government is more a part of this values-experience disjunction than the solution to it. The direct and long-lasting result is the sour and skeptical attitude toward government that has become so common today.It's now a bipartisan failure. But Our President has been playing to the "minorities, the poor, gays (plus the hermaphrodites), even criminals" for the past eight years. But sixteen years ago, that could be foreseen. Here's their take on the Democrats.
Democrats prefer to target various fashionable voter groups as supplements to their base in unions and minority groups and hope that they manage to outpoll the Republicans, as they have in the past two presidential elections. The Democrats also lack a program for uniting the values and economic experience of the forgotten majority; they simply hope that the current economic expansion will last forever, a scenario that cannot happen. And even now the expansion is doing little to solve long-term problems such as health security, retirement security, and education reform, which are crucial to the forgotten majority's economic future. These problems demand bold policy interventions -- interventions that the Democrats are reluctant to propose, given their born again commitment to fiscal prudence and modest government.That "born again commitment" is a faculty lounge dig at President Clinton's triangulations. I recall colleagues of the era referring to him as a very good Republican president. Now comes Mrs Clinton, and her theme is more "Bring back the good old days" than "Happy Days Are Here Again." Between national greatness conservatism and Hope and Change, there has been nothing resembling fiscal prudence and modest government in the past four presidential terms.
What they saw the Republicans doing back then is where the surprise lies.
Republicans are similarly reluctant to recognize the centrality of the forgotten majority, even though their recent electoral successes have depended on support from this group. They have had similar difficulty articulating a program that could reunite forgotten-majority values and economic experience. They remain committed to an anti-tax and antigovernment rhetoric that is out of step with the forgotten majority and provides no compelling vision for its economic future. Of course, there has recently been some softening of this rhetorical position (Bush's "compassionate conservatism"), and it is at least possible that anti-tax politics might regain some traction in the event of an economic downturn. But for now the real swing voters in politics are waiting for someone who understands both their values and their economic experience, and the Republicans do not appear to qualify.Until now? There's apparently been some back-and-forth among the Republicans about whether "New York" is about Woody Allen and the avant-garde or if it's hard-boiled cynics. John Podhoretz sums it up for Commentary.
Indeed, the Trump voter may represent a potentially new Republican base—and one that embraces Trump’s version of “New York values.”But that's exactly what Messrs Rogers and Teixeira envisioned. Read on.
Those values aren’t the ones Woody Allen was teasing. Nor are they the values of 9/11. They are the values of the New York of caricature—the Walter Winchell–Ralph Kramden–Archie Bunker–Andrew Dice Clay–Spike Lee New York, the city of pushy, obnoxious, informal and unpretentious loudmouths who get in your face and “tell it like it is.”
Whether the major parties like it or not, the road to the next successful political coalition runs straight through the forgotten majority. The Democrats have to reach toward the break-even point among these voters, especially by strengthening their performance among men (while continuing to turn out their current base). The Republicans have to intensify their dominance of this group -- especially by enhancing their performance among women -- or break into the Democrats' base. These are daunting challenges for both parties, with no obvious or risk-free solutions.Mr Olsen concurs. Go read all of Messrs Rogers and Teixeira's essay, then consider this.
Trump’s opposition to immigration and suspicion of free trade have been his calling cards so far, so it should be no surprise to find that blue-collar white independent voters share his views. The Pew study found that 79 percent think immigrants are a burden on the country and 44 percent think free-trade agreements are bad for America. These voters have been hit hard by competition from foreigners, whether those foreigners live abroad (free trade) or at home (immigrants), and they want protection — now.And it might be easier for the right kind of Republican than for a Democrat.
Blue-collar whites are also more open to government action than many movement conservatives. For example, 87 percent of “Steadfast Conservatives,” Pew’s term for movement conservatives, think government is doing too much that should be left to individuals and businesses; only 44 percent of Hard-Pressed Skeptics agree. Sixty percent of Hard-Pressed Skeptics think government aid to the poor does more good than harm; only 10 percent of Steadfast Conservatives agree. Seventy-nine percent of Hard-Pressed Skeptics say that cuts to Social Security benefits should be off the table. Clearly a campaign based on cutting food stamps and reforming entitlements will not resonate with blue-collar whites.
Ronald Reagan built his career on that understanding. Writing in these pages in December 1964, he asserted that conservatives “represent the forgotten American — that simple soul who goes to work, bucks for a raise, takes out insurance, pays for his kids’ schooling, contributes to his church and charity and knows there just ‘ain’t no such thing as free lunch.’” Reagan spent the rest of his career representing that soul, and in so doing created the modern conservative movement and changed the world. We who stand on his shoulders would do well to readopt the sentiments that allowed him to attract the blue-collar Reagan Democrats and remake his coalition in our times.But when the old social order is coming apart, the outlines of what will replace it are often unclear. Did anyone really anticipate Trumpmania at this time a year ago?