Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Looking out for the white guys

-- by Dave

I guess Tom Schaller should have expected a strong visceral reaction to his superb Salon piece about the decline of the white male voter's influence:
I'm talking about the white male voter, or at least a certain long-coveted variety thereof. He is variously known as "NASCAR dad" -- that shirt-sleeved, straight-talkin', these-colors-don't-run fella who votes his cultural values above all else -- or "Bubba," as Steve Jarding and Dave "Mudcat" Saunders affectionately call him in their book, "Foxes in the Henhouse." Start looking on milk cartons for Bubba because he has vanished, and not a moment too soon: The Democratic obsession with the down-home, blue-collar, white male voter, that heartbreaker who crossed the aisle to the Republicans many decades ago, may finally be coming to a merciful end.

This is of course the real hot-button stuff on which the conservative movement has thrived for the past couple of decades and more. It's their red meat. If there's been anything that the GOP has been about -- since the arrival of the Southern Strategy, -- it's been about defending the interests of white males. Even Bill O'Reilly said as much, when he decried the "liberal" New York Times and "the far left" for what he says is their agenda "to break down the white, Christian, male power structure, which you're a part, and so am I, and they want to bring in millions of foreign nationals to basically break down the structure that we have."

Naturally, who should leap to the rostrum but the ultimate defender of white maledom, the OxyCon Artist himelf: Rush Limbaugh:
I don't even know if this guy understands how elitist and arrogant this guy sounds. (paraphrased) "Get rid of those hicks! We don't want them in the Democrat Party! It's a waste of time to try to go get 'em," is what he's saying. "The simplest explanation for Bubba's absence to date..." I want you people to know this, you Bubbas out there -- as defined by this guy and other Democrats. You NASCAR-types, you Southern hayseed hicks, this is what they've always thought of you. They don't like you. They don't want to you in their party. They are embarrassed to have you amongst them, and this guy's letting it be known.

That's been Limbaugh's basic storyline for the past 18 years and more -- liberals hate white males and want to take their privileges their way of life away from them. It's an old schtick. And you know what? I don't think it's going to really work anymore.

As Schaller goes on to explain (though I guess we can predict that few if any of Limbaugh's listeners or readers will go on to actually read this far):
Tens of millions of white men still vote Democratic, of course, and not just Prius drivers, eggheads, grunge-band leaders or Warren Beatty's Hollywood buddies. Most notably, working-class white men who are current or retired union members cast their votes for Democrats, in the stubborn belief that only Democrats will protect and promote their economic interests. "The 2004 CNN exit poll data shows that [John] Kerry lost white males by 31 points if they weren't in a union, but won them by seven points if they were -- a 38-point difference," says Mike Podhorzer, deputy political director of the AFL-CIO. "It's no accident -- union members understand that their votes make a difference, for their wages, their healthcare and their pensions. If, as they say, 'there's something the matter with Kansas,' there's nothing the matter with union members."

Well, those are the people Limbaugh's been trying to pry away from the Democratic circles for many years now, and he probably succeeded to some extent in the past two elections. But after two terms of right-wing rule, there are a lot more working men who know the real score now and will be voting accordingly -- Limbaugh's appeals notwithstanding.

And as Schaller observes, trying to chase these voters is exactly what Republicans want us to do:
Republican pollster Whit Ayres has a clear preference. "I would dearly love for the Democrats to spend millions of dollars trying to persuade NASCAR fans to vote for the Democrats," Ayres chirped last summer. "They tend to be disproportionately southern, disproportionately white and disproportionately male, which pretty well defines the core of the Republican Party." In other words, it's a waste of time and resources for the Democrats to pursue them -- a classic sucker's bet.

Has anyone noticed that this approach is at the heart of the Beltway Democratic strategist worldview? All that well-meaning advice about how Democrats need to be about civility and moderation and reaching out to NASCAR dads and being bipartisan -- well, it's Republican advice.

When Republicans begin to follow their own advice, maybe Democrats can do likewise. Until then, we're probably best off listening to advice from people who actually have all our interests at heart. I'm not worried about it including white males like me -- we'll always get a place at the table because of who we are and the power we possess, now and for the forseeable future. But making a seat at the table for everyone else seems a lot smarter to me.

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