Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Conservative Contempt for the White Working Class

American conservatives have long courted the white working class by saying that elite liberals on both coasts regard them with scorn. Now that those voters are turning away from conservative candidates and toward Trump, The National Review has unleashed its own conservative sort of scorn. Here is Kevin Williamson:
The truth about these dysfunctional downscale communities is that they deserve to die.

Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible. Forget all your cheap theatrical Bruce Springsteen crap. Forget your sanctimony about struggling Rust Belt factory towns and your conspiracy theories about the wily Orientals stealing our jobs. Forget your goddamned gypsum, and, if he has a problem with that, forget Ed Burke, too. The white American underclass is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles. Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good. So does OxyContin. What they need isn’t analgesics, literal or political. They need real opportunity, which means that they need real change, which means that they need U-Haul.
Hard to find any elite coastal liberal with more scorn than that. And here is David French:
For generations, conservatives have rightly railed against deterministic progressive notions that put human choices at the mercy of race, class, history, or economics. Those factors can create additional challenges, but they do not relieve any human being of the moral obligation to do their best.

Yet millions of Americans aren’t doing their best. Indeed, they’re barely trying. As I’ve related before, my church in Kentucky made a determined attempt to reach kids and families that were falling between the cracks, and it was consistently astounding how little effort most parents and their teen children made to improve their lives. If they couldn’t find a job in a few days — or perhaps even as little as a few hours — they’d stop looking. If they got angry at teachers or coaches, they’d drop out of school. If they fought with their wife, they had sex with a neighbor. And always — always — there was a sense of entitlement.
Is it any wonder these people feel no loyalty toward conservatism?

Matt Yglesias (from whom I got all of this) explains:
These are politically explosive thoughts because the basic political reality is that Republicans rely on heavy majorities among white working-class voters to win elections. Back in 2012, 62 percent of non-college white people voted for Mitt Romney — a larger majority than the GOP got with better-educated whites, only 56 percent of whom backed him. The good news for Barack Obama was that only 57 percent of non-college white people voted at all, a far lower percentage than college graduate whites or African Americans. The great conservative hope for 2016 was to reactivate those "missing white voters" — voters who, it turns out, like Trumpism more than they like conventional conservatism.
Neither libertarians nor moralists have much use for actual white people in the working and under classes, and neocons only like them when they join the military. These people vote conservative more by default than because of anything Republican have done to earn their support. This makes them a potentially volatile block. Bernie Sanders would love their support, but I don't see them turning to the left under his leadership. I continue to think, though, that the right sort of liberal nationalist might turn them back toward big government and a fair deal for all.


Unknown said...

Hear, hear. Perhaps a locally-based Democratic movement in favor of a guaranteed minimum income might, in some number of years, lead to a real shift in voter loyalties and a new balance in Congress, which could actually get such a thing passed (as opposed to Sanders' rather mystical sudden revolution).

Shadow said...

He goes on to say they should stop complaining and instead rent a U-haul and move. If it's any consolation, the scorn heaped upon him and other NRO contributors on twitter has been something. Here's a tweet from Charles C.W. Cooke, NRO contributor:

I now have the stupidest people in America in my mentions, all of them outraged that Kevin Williamson “wants white people to die.”

Like I said, republicans are stuck in time. Some of Trump's supporters don't think he can win and don't care; they would be satisfied smashing the party down around them. This is one big reason Trump is impervious to criticism. Unfortunately he is the wrong person to make this or any other populist appeal. His brand of populism and tough guy, alpha male, school yard antics never lasts. I don't want DOJ in his hands (or Christie's).

I don't see them ever joining the democratic party. They see themselves as the out group over there, the group the party points a finger at and blames everything on.

Republicans, enough with absolutes and Reagan economics. And throw Grover Norquist overboard. He has hurt you badly.

I admit to enjoying watching Christie lie prostrate in front of Trump. I am always a bit delighted (and saddened) watching one bully humbly playing second banana to a bigger bully. Carson too. "Oh, he promised me a job in his administration." Come on, if you two can sell out your core principles that easily, how hard can it be to raise a tax to get something in return for your constituents or admit that funding a new technology has worked in the past and could work in the future?

It's only mid-March, and this year is already brimming over with priceless memories.

G. Verloren said...

Sometimes I enjoy daydreaming about what the world would be like if instead of having politicians run our country, we had the most qualified people in the world take charge.

People with crisis management and conflict resolution skills, diplomatic training, legal scholarship, and at least a moderate grasp of economics, physics, logic, history, and foreign cultural studies.

Could you imagine if someone thoughtful, educated, patient, and eloquent was president? Someone with the knowledge and personal comportment of Carl Sagan or similar?

Unknown said...

Thoughtful, educated, patient, and eloquent--sounds like our current president to me.

In any case, instead of dreaming about a post-political order or saying Republicans could never be persuaded to vote Democratic, why not try to make democracy work and change some hearts and minds by offering a constructive policy that might be of interest to the working class and might even bind much of the nation together? If not GMI, how about something else?

Shadow said...

I'll give it a try.

Republicans need to modernize and react to the country and era they live in. This is a very different country than the one Reagan ruled over. So stop with the Reagan worship and start dealing with the very real inequality between economic classes. Stop pretending (or believing) that free markets solve all problems. Reagan realized this. He offer tax credits to pharmaceutical companies that were willing to develop drugs for certain diseases that could never pay for themselves because the populations suffering from the diseases were too small?

Democrats need to stop checking off boxes on their ever growing list of identity groups. By its very nature this is divisive, an Us versus Them mentality, and a good way to divide not unite.

Both parties need to focus more on economic class differences. The current wealth distribution is unstable. More people with good paying jobs coupled with a sense of improving one’s lot over time will do more to unite a country than pointing out all the differences.

Some things off the top of my head.


Acquire political clout as a group (within or without a party). This includes lobbying, listing concrete concerns, problems, and solutions.

And I am not speaking of labor unions. The problem is where would the funding come from?

Living minimum wage

Needs to be based on cost of living, so it would be different depending on where you live.

Republicans are against this, and its just plain mean.

But Democrats keep pointing to wage differences while conveniently ignoring cost of living differences. If I make $2,000 per month but live in an area where housing, food, transportation, etc costs me 1,500 a month, then I am doing better than someone making $3,000 per month who lives in an area that costs $3,100 per month to live.

Rebuild infrastructure

Massive funding but would reinvigorate the country, and its a great working class job creator. We would all benefit from this, but taxes need to be raised to pay for it. No more borrowing, no additional debt.

The downside: All those traffic jams. :-)

Tax Reform

Lower but don’t eliminate taxes on working class and raise taxes on the wealthy.

But everyone has to pay something. Everyone has to have a stake in the game. If its hard to accept a tax increase because your net pay shrinks, its just as easy to be magnanimous when your net pay doesn’t. I don’t buy the argument that people who don’t pay income taxes still pay payroll taxes, so it's okay. Everyone needs to pay both. Or we could merge the two and have everyone pay income taxes. If payroll taxes remain a separate tax, then the cap needs to be raised or eliminated.

Overhaul Immigration Policy/System

We need targeted restrictions on low-skill labor immigrants. Reducing the size of the labor pool raises wages. And we need to penalize employers who intentionally hire illegal aliens. That Americans won’t take these jobs is only partly true, and raising the minimum wage would affect this.

Contain and control border. More border agents and clear and enforceable immigration laws, not a wall.

Take a hard look at the immigration hearing system. But in the end, if an immigration court has ruled you must leave, and all appeals have been exhausted, you must leave. No more candidates saying let them stay. Citizenship (and being here legally) has to mean something.

Finally give those who came here illegally but have lived here for years a path to stay legally.

Shadow said...

Continuing --

Tax Breaks/Credits

For businesses willing to hire and retrain workers who have lost their jobs to automation or to companies moving their workforce overseas. The problem with separate retraining programs is there isn't necessarily buy-in from employers.

Affordable and available Child Care

Preferably at or near worksite. Child care costs so much, it keeps people from taking low paying entry-level jobs.

Jobs Lost to Climate Change Regulations

Neither party mentions those who have lost or will lose jobs to climate change regulations. At least I don’t hear much of it. For example, why can’t the federal gov’t give coal miners who will lose their jobs to tightening regulations first shot at mine inspector jobs? Sounds like a good fit to me. It won’t solve the problem, but it will help and show they haven’t been forgotten.

Get Control of budget

The greater the debt the more interest we pay on it. Money spent on interest payments is lost money, and the more interest we pay the harder it is to pay for everything else. This requires raising taxes and taking a good hard look at what we fund/subsidize. The problem with government funded programs isn’t the programs themselves. Many of them address real problems. But special interests grow around gov’t funded programs and then we can’t stop funding them when they are either no longer needed or didn’t work to begin with.

All of these suggestions come with problems. For example, raise the minimum wage too much and employees in fast food restaurants could be replaced with Kiosks. Probably will happen anyway.

Unknown said...

Not a bad list by any means, but I suppose I had in mind something more in the area of a vision thing. I'd like to see a new American synthesis. Specifically, I'm looking for a vision of America that would enable working-class whites to give over--or even paper over--their ethnic hostilities, and embrace some sense of commonality with non-whites and with educated liberals--and persuade the latter to come down from our moral high horse (I speak only for myself, of course) and talk about a real restructuring that could benefit people unlike ourselves. Along with that might come a list of policies such as you advocate, or not.

My hope would be that such a synthesis could consign ideas and attitudes like those of the National Review online columnists John quotes to the securely losing side of the political equation, at least for a while.