Friday, June 16, 2017
PLEASE, ENOUGH WITH THE FORGOTTEN MAJORITY RANT
Again and again, I read, in liberal publications, that progressives have abandoned the white, working class. Somehow, swollen with vanity and oozing contempt, we’ve relegated this long-suffering population to the sidelines while heaping largess on undeserving black-and-brown city dwellers. Make no mistake, this is Ronald Reagan’s fried-chicken eatin’ welfare queen elevated to basic principle, a starting point from which rejection of the Dems by abandoned whites automatically follows. The basics have been developed in two recent, best-selling books: Arlie Hochschild’s Strangers in Their Own Land, and J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy. And it’s clear that many millions of white voters, rural and suburban, embrace this belief. You can listen to them every morning on C-Span’s call-in show, National Journal.
In a poll taken in November of 2015 by the Public Opinion Religious Research Institute, 64% of Republican responders claimed that white people are the real victims of racism in America. While supremely unworthy minorities, whose poverty results entirely from a character flaw, get everything they need from the government, self-reliant and patriotic white folk are entirely shut out. They’re forgotten, neglected, abandoned, discarded, forsaken and dismissed.
I tell ya, boys and girls, their sad tale brings tears to my eyes. Or it would if it bore some resemblance to the truth, which it does not.
Let’s take a look at West Virginia. Why, you ask? Because West Virginia is more than 95% white, so the State’s poverty rate (now that the Kenyan, Barack Obama, is out of office) cannot be blamed on “them”.
Although some slight variations in the various estimates exist, the State of West Virginia receives an astounding $2.34 from Washington for every $1.00 it sends to Washington. This according to data collected by WalletHub and confirmed by The Atlantic and Mother Jones. New York, by contrast, receives $0.73 for every dollar sent to the feds. A review of all states reveals the same pattern, with richer blue states providing support to needier red states. Mississippi, for example, receives more than $3.00 for every dollar it sends, while South Carolina, king of the takers, receives almost $9.00 for every dollar in federal taxes collected from the state.
Without doubt, the 2008 recession caused great pain across the entire country. But relief did not flow evenly along the political spectrum. So, I urge West Virginians to answer the following questions. Not in a public setting, but some evening when you’re sitting alone, when there’s nobody watching, nobody to check on your personal orthodoxy.
Which party fought to extend unemployment benefits during the recession and which party made every attempt to cut them off?
Which party fought to increase funding for the SNAP (food stamp) program, and which to cut funding? Please note that 18% of West Virginians receive food stamps. That’s more than one-in-six.
Which party fought to pass the Affordable Care Act, which extended Medicaid benefits to 175,000, previously-uninsured West Virginians and which party is right now enacting legislation to take that insurance away?
Which party fought to pass a stimulus bill which sent $1,400,000,000 to West Virginia and which party voted unanimously against any stimulus?
Which party is currently trying to pass a living-wage bill and which party continues to oppose any increase in the minimum wage?
Which party passed legislation to aide homeowners about to lose their homes and which party voted unanimously against any attempt to assist?
Which party passed legislation designed to prevent a future bank collapse and which party opposed that legislation?
Which party wants to provide free college tuition, at least for the first two years, and which party wants to cut Pell grants and increase interest on student loans?
White, working-class men and women (along with white Southerners, African-Americans and progressives) were critical elements of a New Deal Coalition organized by a Harvard-educated billionaire from New York. This coalition prevailed for the next thirty years, but has since fallen apart. Can it be put back together? In my opinion, not by any positive act on the part of the Democratic Party. We wrote the most progressive platform in the party’s history in 2016. Very few people, and certainly not Trump voters from West Virginia, even noticed. True, Bernie caught their attention when he railed against trade pacts, but Trump easily matched him, adding misogyny, racism, xenophobia and a willingness to turn every river in American into a sewer.
Trump won, by the way.
Night before last, Virginians held gubernatorial primaries for both parties. The Democratic turned out 540,000 voters, the Republicans 360,000. MSNBC called on Larry Sabato to analyze this discrepancy. A former Republican pollster, Sabato now heads the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. Republican moderates, Sabato declared without hesitation, are deserting the party in droves. Trumpians (his word) now form the party’s base, not only in Virginia but around the country. These Trumpian diehards, it should be noted, are the very folk the Sanders wing of the Democratic Party hopes to reach.
Face it, the Democratic Party has become, by default, the mainstream party. The Radical Republicans are the ones out of touch. We need to make this point, and continue to make it at every opportunity. As for those white, working-class voters in West Virginia? They won’t come back until Republican policies finally drive them back. But Republican moderates? Well-educated and well-off for the most part, they appreciate stability and are drawn to the center. Democrats occupy that center, whether they know it or not. Whether they like it or not. The real issue is whether or not they choose to exploit this advantage.