Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Blue Collar Voters: Still Voting Away their Future

"But why would a near majority of blue-collar voters still want Bush? Millionaires, billionaires for Bush, well, sure; he's their man. But why pipe fitters and cafeteria workers? Some are drawn to his pro-marriage, pro-church, pro-gun stands, but could those issues override a voter's economic self-interest? " This question from Arlie Hochschild in her article from 2003, Let Them Eat War.

Why, indeed? Those blue-collar workers are a strange lot. She calls them NASCAR Dads. Reagan Democrats is another term for the group: they voted Reagan into the White House twice, too. Bamboozled by the slick advertising and golden tongue of the actor. Did they ever access what they gained in those eight years? Or lost? Like money, benefits and job security? Or was that all unimportant to them?

This group is always put into contention with the so-called 'elitists' in our society. Right now, Hillary Clinton wants to appear more blue-collar and often paints Barack Obama as 'elitist.' Odd that both attended prestigious universities and both are millionaires.

You have to wonder if, during the general election, the Republicans will paint the Democrat as elitist once again. And, here's the most important point, will the blue-collar, Reagan Democrat, NASCAR dad fall for it yet another time?

The obvious and common sense rebuttal to this is the simple political question: are you better off now than you were when Bush took office? Yesterday 85% of Americans said, 'No!' That ought to seal the Oval Office for the Democrats. But wait! That is logical thinking. We have seen that logical thinking and voting are not directly proportional.

Author Hockschild goes on:

"As Susan Faludi has described so well in her book Stiffed, that is what many such men feel. As a friend who works in a Maine lumber mill among blue-collar Republicans explained about his co-workers, "They felt that everyone else -- women, kids, minorities -- were all moving up, and they felt like they were moving down. Even the spotted owl seemed like it was on its way up, while he and his job, were on the way down. And he's angry."

"But is that anger directed downward -- at "welfare cheats," women, gays, blacks, and immigrants -- or is it aimed up at job exporters and rich tax dodgers? Or out at alien enemies? The answer is likely to depend on the political turn of the screw. The Republicans are clearly doing all they can to aim that anger down or out, but in any case away from the rich beneficiaries of Bush's tax cut. Unhinging the personal from the political, playing on identity politics, Republican strategists have offered the blue-collar voter a Faustian bargain: We'll lift your self-respect by putting down women, minorities, immigrants, even those spotted owls. We'll honor the manly fortitude you've shown in taking bad news. But (and this is implicit) don't ask us to do anything to change that bad news. Instead of Marie Antoinette's "let them eat cake," we have -- and this is Bush's twist on the old Nixonian strategy -- "let them eat war."

John McCain is a war hero. As a result, he automatically has gratis points. War is never far from McCain's mind nor his lips. Will the Republicans and the McCain strategists fall back on the 'let them eat war' tactic this November? And, the more important question: will the blue-collar voter once again fall for this trick?

I wouldn't bet against it knowing the level of wisdom of the American voter.

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