Liberals’ Disregard for the White Working Class

White Working ClassMatt Bruenig wrote a very interesting article recently, Demonizing, Not Engaging. In it, he highlighted an interesting inconsistency among liberal pundits. The African American community is overall quite homophobic. The white working class is overall quite racist. Yet liberals pundits have decided the best thing is to engage and find common ground with the African American community. They mostly want to demonize the white working class as hopeless racists. Why is this?

Bruenig presents one idea from Emmett Rensin: it’s all about who is likely to vote Democratic. African Americans are part of the Democratic coalition and the white working class is not. But this strikes me as question begging. If the liberal pundit class vilified the African American community, the Democratic Party would quickly see its coalition shrink by one. We are still left with the question of why it is that the pundit class finds it so easy to vilify the white working class.

I think the issue is quite simple: shared bigotry. Although I’m sure that liberal pundits are as racist as anyone else, explicit racism has been taboo long enough that there really is no liberal pundit who has to feel queasy about having made racist statements — or even have much of a memory thinking explicitly racist thoughts.

We on the left like to laugh at the fact that the Republican Party doesn’t do much to reach out to any non-white groups. But the truth is that the Democratic Party has the same problem — just with different groups.

But being in favor of same sex marriage is really quite a new thing. So even if a liberal pundit has long been in favor of equal rights for members of the LGBT community, they no doubt have many friends who have only recently seen the light. For example: their friends Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Thus, it just doesn’t seem as much a sin to be anti-gay as to be anti-black.

All of this is quite understandable. The reason I find it troublesome is that it is part of a broader tendency among pundits of all stripes to be nothing more than representatives of their classes. This is why the Democratic Party managed to degenerate into what was once considered a conservative economic stance. The Democratic Party’s main claim to liberalism is on social policy.

A great example of this is on MSNBC where economic liberalism is relegated to the sidelines. There’s Chris Hayes when he can sneak it into his show in his desperate attemp to keep his job. And there is “crazy uncle” Ed who seems about six decades out of touch with MSNBC‘s sense of itself: young, urbane, and The Economist reading!

We on the left like to laugh at the fact that the Republican Party doesn’t do much to reach out to any groups but the white working class, religious conservatives, and the affluent. But the truth is that the Democratic Party has the same problem — just with different groups. And it is reflected in the liberal pundits and all those involved in what Bruenig calls The Discourse. Clearly, there are those who push back against this — most notably Thomas Frank. Although in this election cycle, people like Frank seem particularly marginalized as any criticism of Hillary Clinton or the Democratic Party is seen as an attack on liberalism itself.

Liberals should try to make common cause with the white working class. I try, as I have written about a lot. It’s frustrating to see weeks of conversations go to waste because of one inflammatory Fox News segment. But it is worth doing. Note, however, that liberals don’t in general reach out to the black community on same sex marriage; they just accept. When it comes to the white working class, they just reject. And this just happens to align with the upper class sensibilities of the Democratic Party and its apologists.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

10 thoughts on “Liberals’ Disregard for the White Working Class

  1. Depends on what you mean by making common cause. A great deal of the current problems is that white working class voters are very likely to balk at some program if they think it will benefit people they disapprove of.
    So you have people who normally would be okay with say a pre-K program that benefits them voting it down because non-whites have access.

    The additional problem is that it really depends on the slice of the electorate you are referring to-white working class unmarried and married women tend to vote Republican (well not for Trump but…) while the rest of the group of women, white or otherwise, vote heavily Democratic. I haven’t been able to find a break down of the post divorce number of white working class women who vote for either party but I would not be surprised if they flip because of the problems that they face after a divorce.

    And it also depends on the Democratic Party candidate recruitment-a lot of time the people who could run who would be very economically progressive are the ones who can’t afford to. So you get a lot of well established people who don’t have the same priorities as the ones who are economically hurt. Or people like me who didn’t have anything to lose by not winning an election.

    • I really liked that writer’s last sentence a lot. While I’ve long been tired of the “Clinton supporters hate racism/sexism, Sanders voters don’t” meme, it’s quite fair say any transformational politician to have a hope at bringing all poor people back into the political process needs to be someone not a white male. Who would be your suggestion? I’ll bet you know some names most of us haven’t heard of yet. A few paragraphs on three or so would make a good post subject, IMO . . .

      • Well it isn’t going to be Shaun King I can tell you that much.

        People like Julian and Joaquin Castro, Kamala Harris, Donna Edwards (although she lost her bid to be Maryland first black female senator) and others I can’t remember.

      • I doubt it. Elizabeth has been bemoaning the lack of up-and-coming political talent.

        I’ve long said that Sanders was an imperfect messenger. But I was thinking more about his age and his constituency. I doubt very seriously a black socialist will get much traction. But after Obama, I could be wrong. We are at least closer to accepting an African American that doesn’t spend a good deal of his time soothing the feelings of worried whites.

    • This has nothing to do with the article that I wrote. Or if it does, it only proves the point of Bruenig’s article: that it is all about who will vote Democratic. It’s not about the sins of any particular group. No one I know is saying that the poor are going to make common cause despite racial differences. What this article is about is how the liberal chattering classes find some sins more forgivable than others and they just happen to align with their partisanship.

      And you know that the racial divide has to do with coalition politics. You know that better than anyone around here. Do you really think Sanders would have lost this election if he had had the deep roots in the African American community that Clinton does? That was one of Clinton’s well earned advantages in this race.

      • The fact that the liberal pundit class doesn’t want to beat up on the Black community’s homophobia (which is changing fairly rapidly as did white acceptance) is more the fact that bringing it up to bash the community still seems to be unfair because it is a white person telling a black person they are wrong about something.

        I get wanting to make the Democratic Party much more economically liberal but you are not going to do that by ignoring the other problems that we face as a nation. Intersectionality is a thing.

        • But it is okay for upper class white political elites to beat up on lower class working people? As for the African American community changing rapidly on the issue, that just isn’t true. 15 years ago, blacks and whites were at the same place. Now they are widely divergent with blacks having become only marginally more accepting. The point is not to vilify the African American community. I don’t care that much about same sex marriage — it is nowhere near the top of my list. The truth is we all have prejudices and we all deserve empathy. Caring about everyone should be a given for liberalism. Making care contingent is the conservative way.

          • The Pew polls seem to confirm Ms. Rogers’ thesis on acceptance of gay marriage. Why do you wave it way?

            On the other hand, the Democratic Party can’t win without embracing greater economic egalitarianism. The evidence is clear.

            Nothing can improve unless the common interests of all people are made front and centre. Stop playing the conservative division game, and you might find that people whose views on gender and race are not particularly progressive might nonetheless go along.

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