Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Winning Elections: (R) Establishment Message Is Wrong

Interesting essay on the topic from Henry Olsen; a few excerpts follow.

One of the most talked about groups in recent elections has been the white working class. Although the group has declined as a share of the nation since World War II, it is still very large at nearly 40 percent of the national electorate. Understanding its views and values is essential to political victory, so it isn’t surprising that politicians of all stripes are working hard to gain such an understanding....

Let's define the term a bit more closely:
...Census data, for example, demonstrates that white working class voters earn less and work more in physically demanding jobs than do more educated whites. Working class men and women are very likely to work in jobs that pay them an average of $21,000 (women) to $31,000 (men) a year. At these wages, it would take two full-time average jobs for a family to earn the median American family income

...All members of the white working class are not alike, of course, and it is essential to look carefully at their differences. The most important but overlooked traits are religion and region.

...There is a very large difference between how southern and non-southern working class whites vote, one Levison indirectly points toward. He finds, as one might expect, that evangelicals hold more conservative views on most issues than do mainline Protestants, especially those dealing with morality and religion. But on core issues of the size of government or the need for government to help the poor, both branches of Protestantism are largely in agreement, only slightly favoring a smaller government and largely supporting more help for the needy even if it means going further into debt....


OK.  So what's the message being sent?

Conservatives currently rely on three primary messages to reach these non-evangelical white working class voters. First, delegitimize government by arguing that it is unable to help them get ahead and raise their families whereas the private sector can. Second, argue that when government does act, it too often does so on behalf of undeserving groups, usually illegal immigrants and those who refuse to work. Third, emphasize that conservatives stand on the side of religious liberty and traditional moral values. However, data show that the white working class is not nearly as receptive to these messages as many conservatives hope.

I quibble:  I don't think the word "conservative" means what the author(s) think it means.


...The data show that the white working class does not like government, but has serious questions about whether it can get ahead in today’s economy. A 2011 Washington Post poll found that 43 percent of whites without college degrees believed that hard work was no longer a guarantee of success. Nearly half thought they did not have the education or skills to compete in today’s job market. Attitudes like this strongly suggest that many working class whites do not instinctively see personal benefits flowing from an untrammeled market.

Many members of the white working class are particularly suspicious of the idea that business leaders and financial experts have their interests at heart. Levison cites data for the white working class from a 2011 Pew survey, Beyond Red vs. Blue, that shows that well over half believe that business makes too much profit and that Wall Street does more to hurt than to help the economy. Three-quarters believe that a few large companies hold too much power. These voters do see government as a problem, but they also believe that big government is not the only obstacle in their paths.

Working class whites also hold more nuanced views on immigration and government’s role to provide for the poor than conservatives usually surmise. Levison shows that large majorities of working class whites think increased immigration is bad for America and favor increased border security rather than immigration reform. But they also strongly oppose free trade agreements. Pew found that the poorest and least-educated part of the white working class, labeled “Disaffecteds,” think free trade agreements are bad for the United States by a two-to-one margin. These people are being pressed by competition from foreigners at home (immigration) and abroad (free trade), and they don’t like it. Conservatives therefore often do not gain the political advantage on immigration that they seek because their free trade views convince working class whites that conservatives are not on their side.

Anyone who has read Tim Carney's work on rent-seeking crony capitalism "gets that" right away.  For that matter, those grafs are a condemnation of the Romney candidacy from the get-go.

On the other hand, what you see above validates the TEA Party's popularity.  The TEA Party is far more populist and anti-Establishment (see, e.g. Codevilla's work) than is the (R) brand; their opposition to "Too Big to Fail" bailouts hits a home run, too.  The TEA Party's forceful (but not absolute) condemnation of wholesale immigration 'reform,' crony capitalism, and 'managerial class' claims to superiority are in down-the-line accordance with the white working-class concerns.

The essay also points to a very strong 'moderate' approach to social issues, by the way.  Since the TEA Party has not really played in the social issues sandbox, its approach has been politically effective, although disappointing to more traditional 'conservatives.'

Another substantial point:

...Levison draws on ethnographic studies to show that for the typical white working class person, family and stability are more important than career and upward mobility. They saw their middle-class bosses as people who “worried all the time,” were “cold and snobbish,” and as “arrogant, very arrogant people.” They saw their work as “just a job,” not a rewarding activity of itself. As befits people who work in teams and do heavy labor, they saw collegiality and practical knowledge to be of greater worth than individual striving and theoretical knowledge. Levison describes this combination as a “distinct combination of viewing work, family, friends, and good character as central values in life while according a much lower value to wealth, achievement, and ambition.”...

That's aimed directly at Limbaugh-ism--and it's worth knowing.

A fellow named Muttart, a Canadian, saw all of this several years ago.

...Muttart expressed nearly identical sentiments in an extended interview he gave me in 2010. Working class whites, he told me, are fiscally conservative (low taxes) but economically populist (suspicious of trade, outsourcing, and high finance). They are culturally orthodox but not generally concerned with social issues because their lives won’t change much no matter the outcome. Most importantly, they are modest in their aspirations for themselves. They do not aspire to be “Type A business owners”; they want to go to work, do what’s asked of them, not have too much stress in their lives, and spend time with their families. They want structure and stability in their lives so that things they need are taken care of and they don’t have to worry....

Of all the aspirants to the (R) nomination, it seems that Paul Ryan is the one who comes closest to what Levinson (and Mutter) suggest, although Ryan's immigration stance is vaguely suspicious.  Perhaps it's Janesville.

...A conservative approach would emphasize that help would only go to those who help themselves and to those who need it. That means strong work and behavior conditions attached to entitlements and welfare policies, and sharply reducing corporate welfare and tax deductions for the well-to-do. A conservative approach would reduce where possible government’s monopoly provision of services and let people choose from among providers competing for their favor. A conservative approach would recognize that citizenship means more than voting, and accordingly do more to help people whose lives are unduly stressed because of economic dislocation....

One final thought:  that "family" thread is critical to messaging on the national debt's threat to children and grand-children--which also is a TEA Party message.

Dinosaurs like McCain and the oleagenous McConnell, not to mention Boehner, haven't gotten the memo.

Did Paul Ryan?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Did Paul Ryan?"

Hell, no. That is why Dad29 must run for office, to prove he is not a "girly man". He now has plenty of time on his hands.