Since the election, I’ve had discussions with various Democratic friends about the Caucasian non-college educated voter phenomenon.
While all have acknowledged non-college Caucasians’ grievances and no one has disparaged the demographic, it seems to me that even in the large shadow of the electoral impact, some have inadvertently blown off this group. The false step is the view that all working class and poor people struggle, so why should the “white working class” (WWC) set themselves apart from similar minorities and demand that their issues be separately addressed?
Ironically, I think this is the crux of the WWC’s complaints and anger – being patronizingly ignored. Frankly, the cultural issues could have been minor if the demographic felt economically secure or if government was working reasonably and steadily in advancing solutions to their concerns.
In the end, we talk about the black single mother experience, the unfairness to the Dreamers and their obstacles, the transgender challenges, now residual and even continuing discrimination and harassment of middle and upper class African Americans, and even salary discrepancies among young professional Caucasian women.
We have no problem with defining groups of people by race and accompanying characteristics when specifying public policy problems and seeking their solutions. Why not with the WWC? Especially as a group that is chafing under identity politics and struggling to be comfortable in today’s mainstream culture?
Aside from the minimum wage, on what issues for the WWC have either major party expressed the urgency and the substance in attention as with other demographic groups? Disproportionately, the WWC has been negatively impacted and handicapped by issues such as globalization, shorter life spans, dislocation, aging of the local population, and the opioid epidemic.
There exists a distinct culture experience that warrants solutions attuned to those communities – not excluding ethnic minorities, but certainly considering the unique operating environment. (I keep getting asked, if Trump is not proposing credible solutions or standing by ones favored by the WWC, why did that demographic support him so overwhelmingly? My guess: Trump spoke their language.)
Case in point, an elected Democrat in a rural area shared this: HUD announced making all public housing “smoke free.” In that rural area, drugs are the top issue. Ostensibly, any drug is easier to break the habit of than tobacco. The local head of public housing stated “there are bigger issues that face communities and public housing authorities around the country that should be the priority, such as poverty, homelessness, drug abuse and misuse issues …”
In a nutshell, DC imposes a mandate for their favored (“elitist”) issues rather than allow very limited resources to be allocated according to the needs of localities. Not to say that eradicating smoking is not a worthy campaign, but comparably in terms of priorities where does it rank? Especially considering our stereotypes of the white working class and the part smoking plays into their lifestyle. (One of the reasons why I have been a Republican – block grants in many cases allow localities to better craft broad solutions that fit their communities.)
In any case, a fatal tragedy would be for the Democratic Party not to learn from this election and instead be more responsive and thus more competitive among their historical WWC base.