Saturday, May 10, 2008

White working-class voters

I laid down some text over on Blue Mass Group about the cyclical nature of Democrats' interactions with white, working-class voters. How Kerry derided Dean for courting them in the primary, then abased himself before them in the general. Now it looks like Obama is doing the same.

It doesn't help, though, that in their eagerness to attack Clinton, many of his supporters are using elitist and frankly racist language to deride her supporters. I'm sure they'll have a change of heart as soon as Axelrod/Obama tells them they have.

Anyway, the main point here is this: white, working-class voters are rational. Briefly put, they're taking Pascal's gamble. All the political solutions in the world, exercises in "framing", the books about Kansas aren't going to help, because the majority of people outside the traditional Democratic coalition believe the following:

  • Their life on this Earth will be about 80 years long;
  • Their afterlife will be potentially millions of years long;
  • The more you hew to traditional and evangelical Christianity during your Earthly life, the better that afterlife will be.

That include some sweeping generalizations, but it is at the core, true. So no matter how we phrase the message, hectoring Kansans and Texans that "Democrats will ensure that you have more money in your pocket" does not outweigh "Democrats do things that will make them burn in may as well if you support them". Heck, if I believed that claptrap, I'd never vote Democratic either.

The solution? Not political change, or framing...the best hope for the Democratic Party is movement away from these social/religious beliefs. A true Democratic program to win these voters will go beyond NASCAR and will take time and smarts. So when Obama merely plays along with Republican validation of this outlook, he's screwing himself and his party.

Of course, given the speed with which non-theism and atheism are spreading and deepening in this country, there's real hope for the future. But Democrats need to be vigilant on the score of keeping religion out of the publicly funded space of our country: schools to be sure, but also the military (the link is old, but issues still ongoing) and courts of law. We need to stop attacking unapologetic thinkers who disagree with religion.

This is the work of a generation, not a campaign of course. But it's work that needs to be done.

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