Saturday, November 12, 2016

Why Democrats Lost White Working Class Votes: Blame Romney

One of the big questions going around on my side is why so many members of the white working class, particularly in the Midwest, vote for Obama in 2012 and Trump in 2016.  Racism can't be the answer, since they were willing to vote for a black candidate.  Nor is it likely to be economic hardship.  Economic hardship could certainly explain their willingness to vote for Obama in 2008, since he was the candidate of change during an economic disaster.  But in 2012 he owned the economy.  And the economy was in considerably worse shape in 2012 than it is today, so that can't be the answer.

The usual answer I am seeing is either that Trump was an uniquely inspiring candidate, or that Hillary was a uniquely uninspiring one.  The e-mails come in too, of course.  But I am inclined to think that the answer may lie, not with Trump or Clinton or Obama, but with Mitt Romney.  If the Republicans were trying to come up with the worst possible candidate for appealing to the working class, Mitt Romney would be a pretty good choice, although Eric Cantor might give him a good run for his money.  The problem was not that Romney was a plutocrat; Trump is that as well.  It was not that Romney made his fortune in finance, a strongly unpopular industry at the time.  It was not even that he lacked the common touch, which Trump manifestly has.  His problem was that he shared the Democrats' basic weakness with the working class.

The big reason I keep hearing why the white working class hates Democrats is that they are a liberal elite that holds the white working class in contempt.  Trump's appeal is that he perfectly returns that contempt and what the white working class feels about it. Well, about the time of the 2012 election, a whole coterie of Rand-ite Republicans in general and Romney in particular were also expressing contempt for the working class.  The difference was that Democrats expressed a cultural contempt for the working class, while Republicans expressed an economic contempt.  It wasn't just Romney's 47% comments.  Republicans everywhere were speaking of businessmen and entrepreneurs as the only productive members of society who actually contributed anything, and people who were content to let someone else sign their paycheck as a bunch of losers who never worked a day in their lives and never contributed anything to society.  They were speaking of working an 18 hour day as a sign of virtue and the desire for any leisure as mere laziness.  That is not the way to appeal to the working class!  The bartender who filmed the 47% speech was apparently outraged, less by the speech, than with Romney's general approval of the low wages, long hours and poor working conditions in China. Again, a very poor pitch to the working class!

In short, Romney was very much the candidate of the Republican donor class.  And the agenda of the Republican donor class is very much at odds with the agenda of its voting base.  I intend to address that more in my upcoming posts.

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