Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The LuLac Edition #1204, June 9th, 2010



A huge part of the success of the Democratic party through the years has been its success with men. Jim Gibson of the Colorado Democratic Leadership Council explores the reasons why the Democratic party has lost the typical American male as a base of support and how Democrats can win them back.


Polls confirm that the long-term prognosis for progressive political prosperity is, at best, very shaky. That is bad news for the middle class and those less fortunate, who are sure to slide further behind if Democrats get thrown out of power. The Democratic National Committee's
$50 million initiative to motivate youth, African-Americans, Latinos and first-time voters to turnout this November is a great start. These parts of the electorate made a big difference in President Obama's election and, if enough of them turnout, might help turn the tide. However, they will not be nearly enough. While black and young voters set turnout records in 2008, both groups disproportionately stay at home in off-year elections and Obama will not be on the ballot this fall. Gallup reports that only one-half of the youth electorate is enthusiastic about voting this year, compared to two-thirds of those over 65. Only 30 percent say they "definitely will be voting" in the 2010 election. That is about half what it was in 2008. Besides, many of these Obama-base voters are concentrated in congressional districts that are already safe for Democrats. They do not live proportionally in the places where Republicans are more competitive. While these voters are important, Democrats must start thinking outside the box if a lasting, sustainable progressive majority coalition is to be built. For too long, progressives have ignored or even dismissed the possibility of attracting white males to the Party.That has been and remains a tragic mistake. Without more of them on our side, the political pendulum will only continue to swing between the parties. Because it is already so high, dramatically increasing the Democratic share of the women vote is very unlikely. The gender gap between women and men has historically been viewed in our favor but, strangely enough, its flip-side - losing men by huge margins - has been almost completely ignored. In his book, "The Neglected Voter: White Men and the Democratic Dilemma," author David Paul Kuhn quotes national pollsters Stan and Anna Greenberg, "To make real gains, Democrats will have to re-open the channels of communication with white men." Famous Democratic consultant James Carville has called the tome "a must-read for Democrats that want to win."It is true that the country is becoming increasingly more racially and ethnically diverse. Nonetheless, as DLC CEO Bruce Reed is quoted in Kuhn's book, "It will be a long time before it will be mathematically possible to be the majority party without being competitive for the white vote."
White men were actually more loyal Democratic voters in the 1950s than white women. They began leaving the party in droves when the 1960s version of liberalism focused on taking on the very real racism and sexism that had plagued America since its founding. Fighting discrimination was and remains the correct call. Democrats were right, regardless of the political consequences, to take on and win this fight. However the target in this battle, as can easily happen with mass movements, was not nearly focused enough. The left unfairly conflated elite men with those who were not at all powerful and charged all of them as responsible for holding back minorities and women. Forget about helping white men, they were the problem. Progressives began to see and speak of all males much more for their vices than their virtues. Middle-class males have not been having an economic picnic for the last thee decades. For example, the percentage of men and women making between $30,000 to $45,000 a year is almost exactly the same. The feminization of poverty is frequently cited but progressives hardly, if ever, mention that almost seventy percent of homeless people are men (according to the
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development). The solution, championed by Thomas Frank in his book "What's the Matter with Kansas?" is that Democrats should ignore cultural issues and become full-throated economic populists. Such thinking believes that advocating income redistribution and holding the rich responsible for the working man's plight will capture more of the white male vote. However, for as many times as it has been tried, economic populism has never commanded a majority of the American electorate. The national psyche has been and remains deeply rooted in an optimistic brand of upward economic mobility, even in tough times. Humorist Will Rogers once said, "You can't lick this prosperity thing. Even the fellow that hasn't got any is all excited over the idea." White males have especially demonstrated a very strong unwillingness to "blame up." They simply do not want to point the finger at a group that they someday might have the opportunity to join. Besides, "Man does not live by bread alone." Lately cultural populism has been much more likely to trump economic populism. Kuhn quotes Jim Wallis, a leading progressive Christian evangelical, "In the end, shopping doesn't satisfy the deepest needs of the human heart. People long for meaning and connection. They long for moral purpose bigger than themselves. When the Democrats become just the party of rights, the rights party, they've lost something, a moral appeal. There's no longer a common good." No wonder white males view today's Democrats as advocates for every other demographic and socioeconomic group but them. Not surprisingly, only 32 percent of them identify themselves as Democratic voters and only 16 percent self-identify as liberals. Democrats have been fighting the right fights for decades to ensure that African-Americans, Latinos and gays are made full and equal partners in the American Dream. That important work must go on, including reminding everyone about the troubling, dark side of U.S. history and loudly noting when discrimination occurs to this day. Nevertheless, the days of stigmatizing and broad-brushing all middle- and working-class white males as part of the problem should end. White males will not gravitate back to the Democratic Party unless progressives start taking on the tough issues that alienated men in the first place. For example, they would especially take notice if more Democrats followed President Obama's lead and based college admissions more on class than race. Phasing out mandatory racial and gender preferences in government while reinforcing voluntary affirmative action by private employers would also be attention-grabbers. Of course, there are many more policy fronts to consider and Democrats will disagree on what the party must do to get white males back into the fold. But all Democrats should agree on getting the debate started. They should also agree with Kuhn about a simple but unfortunate reality - working-class folks have been taking it on the chin ever since Democrats lost the working-class vote. In the end, "Republicans meet white man's noneconomic desires, while Democrats offer no clear economic cure, and culturally aggravate whites males in the process." Neither party is a comfortable fit. The United States is the only western nation where the political party of the right consistently wins the votes of men, regardless of income. Getting rid of that dubious distinction should be our top priority.
Jim Gibson is a native of Kingston, a graduate of King's College and Carnegie Mellon University and is associated with the Colorado Democratic Leadership Council.


At 2:24 PM, Anonymous Harry in Wilkesbarry said...

Jim Gibson's article gives some food for thought, but misfires on many accounts. As a past Democrat, I once believed that the party was "the party of the people," meaning the oppressed, poor, minority, etc. However, I have seen a vast and powerful PR machine inflate that once glorious image for Democrats and minimize, or worse, demonize for the Republicans. I offer you a very limited summary:

The Republican party under Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves and challenged Southern Democrat segregationist policies; a democrat appointed majority Supreme Court upheld it in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) and Democrat President Woodrow Wilson called the abhorently racist film "Birth of a Nation" (1915) an accurate history of America.

Democrat President Franklin Roosevelt imprisoned thousands of Japanese-American civilians in camps during the war based purely on race.

Republican Ronald Reagan allowed massive amnesty for millions of immigrants and appointed the first female Supreme Court Justice; Republican George Bush the first African-American to the Joint Chiefs of Staff; George W. appointed the first black female to Secretary of State.

The Hurricane Katrina disaster was blamed by big liberal media on Bush because "he didn't care about poor people," but the BP coastal disaster doesn't stick to Obama because "he's got a lot of challenging issues on his plate.

Give me a break. White males--and folks of all backgrounds--are leaving the Democrat party this time because they're sick of phony PR, poor results, and identity-group politics.

If you're looking for the "party of the people" for the 21st century, I ask you to check out the Republican party, where we're all Americans regardless of your gender, ethnicity, race, sexual preference, or income level. Republicans will celebrate you as a free and individual American, not divide you from the nation because of some "grouping" to which some politician assigns you.

Mr. Gibson is stuck in a pre-interracial America. The 2010 census results will prove me right that our nation is more racially mixed than ever, and it won't preoccupy itself with the bygone race baiting of the past.

At 5:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So why does the Tea Party seem so much more appealing than ever?

Maybe because I don't think the government can fix anything? Even though it now controls more and more of my life...and can't convince me of its "noble" intent.

At 8:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gibson's analysis is incredibly brillant. Are you sure he is a graduate of King's?

At 5:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yonki, you should hang out more with this Gibson guy. Some of his smarts might rub off on you.

At 8:34 PM, Blogger David Yonki said...

Yonki, you should hang out more with this Gibson guy. Some of his smarts might rub off on you.


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