Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Pundits: Please start paying attention to white people again!

The success of the Southern Strategy for Republicans can be chronicled by the narrative that developed in the 1980's which suggested that the only way for Democrats to win the White House was for them to nominate a Southern governor (i.e., appeal to southern white people). Then along came Barack Hussein Obama - a black man who came from Illinois and Hawaii. All of the sudden, everyone was talking about the Obama coalition and the way the country's changing demographics benefited Democrats.

And so its been interesting to watch pundits try to change the narrative that developed after the 2008 election based on the 2014 midterms - in which we saw the lowest voter turnout in 40 years. What I hear when I listen to people like Charlie Cook and NBC's First Read is: "Please start paying attention to white people again!"

It probably shouldn't surprise us that Cook (who recently wrote that passing Obamacare was a horrific choice) feels vindicated by Sen. Schumer's recent comments. But what IS amazing is that he can go on to talk about how - in the Obama era - Democrats have lost support among white working class voters without ever once mentioning the impact racism has had on that reality. Given the constant challenges to this President's legitimacy coming from the backers of the confederate insurgency, any rational discussion simply has to put that one in the mix. The failure of Cook to do so is a classic example of white privilege.

And, of course, the white folks who write NBC's First Read picked right up where Cook left off.
Earlier this week, our friend Charlie Cook made a great point: While Republicans are struggling with minority voters, Democrats have a problem with working-class whites. In the 2014 midterms, they made up 36% of all voters, and they broke Republican, 64%-34%. Yes, long-term demographic trends are in the Democrats' favor -- the minority population in this country is growing and growing. But ask yourself what is more likely in the immediate future: Republicans winning Minnesota and Wisconsin in presidential contests, or Democrats winning Arizona and Georgia. You've got to go with the former, right? In 20 years, with the country's growing Latino population, the presidential map appears tilted toward the Democrats. But in the short term, the Democrats could find problems in states with lots of white voters.
That one prompts me to make a "new rule:" Any pundit who even suggests that the 2014 midterms can be used to predict what is going to happen during a presidential election has just declared themselves an idiot.

But what those authors also fail to mention is that - while "the minority population in this country is growing" - the group of people they think is so determinative, working-class whites, is on the decline. One way demographers define "working-class" is to track those who do not have a college education. In 1940, only 5% of the population had a four-year degree. That number has grown steadily over the years and by 2007, it was 29%. Those with some college (but not a degree) added an additional 25%.

Given all these trends, its not like we are going to wake up 20 years from now and all of the sudden notice that the political landscape has changed. It is in the process of changing right now! But the good-ole-white-boys that populate so much of our media just can't/won't see it.

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