Democrats' white-vote dilemma
LAUGHLINTOWN, Pa. — Sitting on the back of his truck, a homemade turkey wrap in one hand and a bottle of water in the other, Mark said the Democratic Party he grew up with is vastly different from the one that exists today.
Mark, who didn't want his last name to be published, works on a Western Pennsylvania farm from March to November and runs a snow-removal company in winter. He last supported a Democrat for president in 1996, when Bill Clinton ran for re-election.
“From Al Gore to John Kerry to President Obama, I found their policies and tone very similar,” he said, explaining that they cater to urbanites and elites “and not enough to the rest of the country.”
He staunchly supported Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania's 2008 presidential primary “but I worry she's become part of this divisional politics that drives up urban votes ... and makes the rest of us just want to stay home.”
White male voters haven't felt that the Democratic Party has their best interests at heart since Lyndon Johnson, the last Democrat to win a majority of their presidential votes. The further left the party pulls, the more each successive candidate or president loses white male support.
That is particularly true in the industrial Midwest, South and West. The only white males whom Democrats tend to attract are elites in urban areas — and, of course, in Hollywood.
Republicans have a minority problem and a woman problem. Yet, in midterm elections, minorities and women do not vote as much as white men, and they voted more Republican in 1994 and 2010. (They slipped back to Democrats in 2006.) Both former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and former President Bill Clinton recently expressed frustration over the lack of organized Democrats trying to win back the white working-class vote.
Dean is particularly dismayed that state legislative chambers have swung Republican in historical numbers. Gone are the majorities he helped to build as the Democrats' national chairman, when he targeted values voters through ads on farm radio programs; Democrats hold majorities in only 40 of the nation's 99 state legislative chambers, and they hold both legislative houses and governorships in only 13 states.
A well-regarded Democrat strategist privately acknowledges that the party probably will lose legislative control in Arkansas and Iowa in November.
Part of the problem for Democrats is that they used divisional politics and class warfare so well to suppress Republicans that it backfired and suppressed white males from turning out for them, too.
“Gore, Kerry, Obama — all three made me dislike not just their rivals but them as well,” Mark, the worker with the turkey sandwich, said.
Obama lost white voters by the largest margin for a Democrat presidential candidate since Walter Mondale. But that 20-point loss to Mitt Romney didn't matter, because white male voters like Mark didn't show up for Romney, either.
So, do Democrats continue to write off the white male vote? Do they even need them in the future?
After all, the white vote, as a part of the whole electorate, has declined in every election since 1992; while still the dominant majority in the country, it has been turned away and turned off by today's Democratic Party, and has become the lost vote for the party of FDR.
White middle-class Christian men once were the backbone of the Democratic Party. They are your neighbors, they volunteer as firefighters, they serve as your kids' or grandkids' baseball coaches; they are the next largest plurality in the electorate behind women.
They are descendants of the Scots-Irish who forged this country in the 17th century, and of the European immigrant wave that landed in the early 20th century.
And they are caught between the politics of division.
In hindsight, Mark said, Mitt Romney lined up with everything he believes in: “But what he was proposing was drowned out by the image Obama gave of him being a rich guy out of touch and tone-deaf to the needs of the country.
“Turns out Obama was that guy, not Romney,” he said, jumping off the back of the truck and heading back onto the farm field with his crew.
Salena Zito covers politics for Trib Total Media (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Starkey: What are Penguins, Pirates up to?
- Capitals dominate overmatched Penguins in win at Verizon Center
- Police stop car in Beltzhoover, find body in back seat
- UPMC, Highmark disagree over payment of medical claims for children
- Police review board finds officer acted appropriately in Pridefest arrest
- Lapierre eager to make mark with Penguins
- Twisted Vine celebrates with grand re-opening, new merchants
- Coal truck, another hauling beer crash on Route 22
- Digital Age reboots foreign language instruction in Western Pa. schools
- For Penguins coach Johnston, it’s a matter of substance over style
- IRS scam snares another Westmoreland County resident