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Posted by on Mar 4, 2014 in Politics | 16 comments

Democrats Seek To Regain Votes Of White Males


The Republicans have built a strange coalition. In terms of priorities,  it is primarily the party of the top one percent, but many other upper income Americans still mistakenly believe the Republicans represent their interests. This still would not give them anywhere near enough votes to win elections so they have gone after primarily two other types of supporters. For years they conned the religious right into following them while only throwing them a few bones, but in recent years the Republicans have more fully adopted their agenda. This still was not enough voters but in the past they could win elections by scaring low-information poorly educated white males into voting for them.

It made absolutely no sense for these white males to vote against their interests and vote for Republicans but this has been a group which has been easily fooled. The New York Times looked at Democratic attempts to win some of these voters back:

Some white men have proved to be within reach: single men, college students and graduates with advanced degrees, the nonreligious, and gay men. But working-class married men remain hardest to win over and, unless they are in unions, get the least attention — to the dismay of some partisans.

“You can’t just give Republicans a clear field to play for the votes of white working-class men without putting up some sort of a fight because that just allows them to run the table with these voters, thereby potentially offsetting your burgeoning advantage among minorities, single women, millennials,” said Ruy Teixeira, an analyst at the left-leaning Center for American Progress.

“I just think Democrats are having a hard time figuring out how to effectively pursue it,” he added.

What discourages Democrats is that men’s attitudes shaped over generations — through debates over civil rights, anti-Communism, Vietnam, feminism, gun control and dislocations from lost manufacturing jobs and stagnant wages in a global economy — are not easily altered.

“Democrats are for a bunch of freeloaders in this world as far as I’m concerned,” said Gari Day, 63, an Avis bus driver from suburban Detroit. “Republicans make you work for your money, and try to let you keep it.”

Michael Bunce, 48, buying parts at a Lowe’s in Southfield, Mich., first ascribed his Republican bias to fiscal matters, but quickly turned to social issues like gay rights. “I don’t see why that’s at the top of our priority list,” he said. “But you say that out in the open, and people are all over your back.”

Democrats’ gloom about white men was eased temporarily by Mr. Obama’s 2008 election when he won 41 percent of white male voters — the first time a Democrat exceeded 40 percent since Mr. Carter in 1976. But their support for his re-election fell to 35 percent, roughly what Democrats have gotten since they lost to Richard Nixon.

Republicans say Democrats’ appeals to women, minorities and gays have been counterproductive with white men. “When you’re spending 60 percent of your time talking about birth control and Obamacare, not a lot of men are paying attention to you,” said Brad Dayspring, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Another issue arose later in the article which also explains their support for Republicans–guns. While Democrats have done little, largely out of fear, to push gun control, that is an issue which is going to work to the advantage of Republicans. If this article is representative and social issues play a big factor, this also does not leave Democrats with a good opening. However, if Democrats can get them to think rationally about economics, then they could win votes if they can get past the type of misconceptions quoted above. Those who have been convinced that Obama is a socialist are seriously ignorant about both economics and current events.

Democratic economic policies both better enable working people to earn more money and Democratic taxation plans have proposed taxing the middle tax less then Republicans. Republican tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy don’t do anything to help the bus driver quoted above. Plus, while the low information white males might not care about birth control (although they could also suffer from Republican attempts to restrict access to contraception) they do benefit considerably from the changes in health care under Obama.

The article points out that, “No Democratic presidential candidate has won a majority of white men since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.” There is a significance to this date. The Democrats lost the south and the low-information white voters after the passage of the Civil Rights bill. Much of this came down to the Southern Strategy as described by Lee Atwater:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

It works just as  well in northern white states to scare low education white voters into fearing that minorities are a threat to them. Homophobic white males, like the one quoted above, are just as likely to be racists.  Such tensions decreased a little when Obama ran in 2008, but the Tea Party has helped bring about a return to old patterns. Democrats will need to make a strong pitch explaining the truth about economic issues,  overcoming considerable misinformation they have been exposed to, if there is any chance to pick up the votes of the low information white voters. While it makes sense to go after additional voters, realistically if the Democrats are going to win, it will primarily be with the votes of educated white males, females, and minorities.

Originally posted at Liberal Values

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  • JSpencer

    It made absolutely no sense for these white males to vote against their interests and vote for Republicans but this has been a group which has been easily fooled.

    “Easily fooled” is right. White males need to take responsibility for being easy targets of bad information (Hannity, Beck, Limbaugh, Reagan, O’Reilly, Fox, etc.). It’s easy to blame the snake oil salesmen, but there is no excuse in this day and age for being so gullible.

  • Rambie

    The Democrats let the Republicans set the mis-information agenda and hardly challenge them; “Dems are weak on defense”, “Tax and Spend liberals”, “They want to take our guns!”, etc.

    A long explanation of how the GOP’s tax policy is only enriching the top one-percent is boring and you’ll loose. What the Democrats need is a short to the point slogan, “Republicans are for the rich”, “GOP wants to cut your medicare”, etc.

  • Willwright

    Ron is on the right track stressing education as an issue. Certainly this is a big factor in the ability of the peddlers of misinformation to play to this groups fears and prejudices. The problem is more obvious in certain parts of the country like the Deep South where education and incomes tend to trail the rest of the country. How you could change this thinking is a real challenge. At the present time I think the Democrats might be better off going after moderate GOP voters of which there many.There are a lot of people who have traditionally voted Republican who are alarmed or turned off by how far to the right the party has gone. The potential for converting these votes would seem high to me.

  • I see no easy solution.

    I agree that we won’t get them to sit through “boring” explanations about the economic issues. However I also doubt that those already indoctrinated are going to pay attention to a short slogan either. As they already think that Democrats are a bunch of anti-rich socialists, and that they have a chance to become rich under Republican economic policies (what a joke) they are not going to pay attention to slogans about Republicans being for the rich.

    If we could get them to watch MSNBC instead of Fox (or change which radio shows they listen to) it would help, but they would already have to be convinced about the issues to get them to make such a switch.

    I certainly don’t disagree with Democrats who want to go after such a large group of voters now voting Republican, especially as that is a group which should definitely be voting Democratic if voting based upon their economic interests. It just won’t be easy.

  • sheknows

    It looks like the parties of the future will be confined to the “lower classes”, who can elect representatives to speak on their behalf, but the power will be firmly in the hands of the top 1%.
    People may petition the government for changes, but will have no real effect on their decision, at least not the way profit does. Oh wait…..that’s what we have now.

  • slamfu

    The problem with Democrats getting votes from white guys rest largely with the fact that most of them are idiots who wouldn’t know how to connect with people if they chained to them. At the end of the day Democrats are about getting re-elected. Sure, their overall positions on things are in the right place, but so few of them actually pursue the agenda with gusto. For every Clinton, Obama, Warren, you’ve got a dozen Harry Reid’s screwing things up.

    The Democrats should be mopping the floor with the GOP for one very important reason. They have a MUCH better track record. Their message should be direct and simple: Our policies work, the Republican policies don’t. You look at any metric and the liberal policies work better for this country, EVEN THE 1%. This should be an open and shut case, but even with a staggeringly better track record the Democrats are too uncoordinated to get that message across. If the GOP even marginally gets its act together the Democrats are taking a long trip to the electoral woodshed. It’s only saving grace has been that they are not the GOP, which is where their votes come from.

    • “The Democrats should be mopping the floor with the GOP for one very important reason. They have a MUCH better track record.”

      True. Want to make more money (and live like a Republican)? Vote Democratic. The economy and stock market do much better under Democrats. Putting money in the hands of the middle class works far better to stimulate the economy than trickle down economics.

      • Also true that Republicans do a much better job with messaging even though Democrats do a much better job of governing.

  • JSpencer

    For every Clinton, Obama, Warren, you’ve got a dozen Harry Reid’s screwing things up.

    Harry isn’t all bad but the role of Senate Majority leader is wasted on him.

    The Democrats should be mopping the floor with the GOP for one very important reason. They have a MUCH better track record.

    Oh wait, you mean the record actually matters? What a wild concept!!!

  • slamfu

    The problem is apparently record doesn’t matter.

    • In many ways the record doesn’t matter. Many polls show people agreeing with Democratic positions but voting Republican. Recent polls also show people trusting Democrats more on a number of issues but planning to vote Republican.

  • slamfu

    Harry isn’t all bad

    Well, if by not all bad you mean he doesn’t punch babies or anything I agree. But if we are talking about not being a major part of the dysfunction of his party I would absolutely disagree. Anything the dems have accomplished with Obama as President has been done in spite of Reid and not because of him. He exemplifies the problems in the Democratic party. Everytime I hear him speak he says something that just proves to me he doesn’t get it. There was in interview on The Daily Show with Reid’s Chief of Staff. When asked what makes a successful politician, the man’s answer was “winning elections”. He had to be prompted by the interviewer to remember to say something less honest, but eventually realized how tone deaf it sounded. That sums up Reid and many of his fellow Democrats.

  • JSpencer

    Part of the problem with Harry Reid is that he never seems focused, dynamic or passionate (even when he’s trying). That is a major liability in a Senate Majority “leader”.

  • The right-wing men I know take great emotional comfort in traditional conservative policies. So, making an intellectual appeal will probably not be effective. Trickier still in trying to communicate with them is most won’t acknowledge that their attachment to GOP policies is primarily emotional, preferring to remain in the right-wing media bubble where their counter-factual views are never challenged.

    This is a determinedly non-self-aware group of guys. Their lack of insight means many discussions are nominally about one thing (politics) but actually about something else (emotions). Good luck communicating effectively with this sort of man.

  • JSpencer

    This is a determinedly non-self-aware group of guys.

    That certainly explains why repeated debunking can have so little effect.

  • Yes it is far more emotional than intellectual, which is why I’m pessimistic about these efforts (which again doesn’t mean that the Democrats shouldn’t try).

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