I keep thinking about what Steve M. said of Pennsylvania Clinton voters:
I think the white working class has been sold a line of BS in virtually every presidential election since 1968: I’m just like you. Maybe they believe it every four years, or maybe they’re just flattered that rich, privileged guys would pretend to want to be just like them. But they generally buy one rich, privileged guy’s act, even if that guy is, say, a successful Hollywood actor or an old-money Connecticut preppie.
This year, one guy just can’t pretend to be just like them. He looks in the mirror and he knows that, so he rarely tries. And a lot of them react to that. Maybe it’s not that they don’t like the color of his skin; maybe it’s just that he can’t possibly convincingly sell them the BS they want to have sold to them. (The rich, privileged woman, on the other hand, can.)
So, yes, there’s a barrier there, and it’s racial. But maybe it’s not truly racist. These people don’t get much out of the political system — the most they get is completely phony imitation. But they want it. It’s a form of flattery.
I’m not interested in splitting hairs over racial and racist. Things are what they are, and choosing a label for them doesn’t always help us understand them better.
The bigger question is, why do white working-class, less-educated voters screw themselves by falling for this act election after election? You’d think after the George Bush debacle they would have wised up. I guess not.
Amy Chozick and Nick Timiraos write in today’s Wall Street Journal that Senator Clinton won votes by persuading white working-class Pennsylvanians that she is one of them. That she is so not one of them is beside the point; she knows how to act the part.
For some time my allegory for Senator Clinton has been Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown. I voted to send her to the U.S. Senate in 2000 with great enthusiasm. Her win that year was one of the few bright points in an otherwise dreary election. She didn’t accomplish much, to tell the truth, but I was willing to give her the benefit of many doubts until the October 2002 vote that allowed Dubya to invade Iraq. That and her subsequent support for the war — and the fact that for a long time her efforts to cover Bush’s ass were surpassed only by Joe Lieberman’s — killed my enthusiasm for kicking the bleeping football.
Still, plenty of people, including people I had thought to be clear-eyed about politics, are lined up for another kick.
If she succeeds in becoming president, you know what difference she will make in the lives of white working-class voters? Is there a word for a measurement just below squat? As a TPM diarist, Dan K, wrote,
The best Clinton will be able to accomplish in office, then, through her customary secretive, insider-based, power-broker approach, is another set of very middle of the road, incremental legislative changes: half a loaf here and there that helps us feel just a little bit good about doing just a little bit, but nothing that really solves any of the huge problems facing the country.
Yet the very voters who most need real change turn out for her, as they have turned out for so many other politicians who somehow persuaded white, working-class voters that the best candidate for the office is the one they most want to have a beer with.
This was not always true. Certainly, presidential candidates since Andy Jackson have trotted out their born-in-a-log-cabin routine to woo voters. But there were limits. Franklin Roosevelt was patrician to the core and never pretended to be otherwise. Nor do I recall that John Kennedy had to prove he had working-class connections, and the working class voted for him, anyway.
For that matter, nobody wanted to have a beer with Richard Nixon. If ever there was a man uncomfortable in his own skin, as the pundits like to say, it was Tricky Dick. Yet he won two presidential elections.
How exactly did we get to the point at which packs of highly paid media and political elite use their positions at the top of the power/communication pyramid to lecture working class folks about Barack Obama’s alleged elitism? And that the only people who notice how bleeped up that is are a few of us bloggers?
Mass media has played a part in this, but you’d think that 50 years into the mass media age people would be a little more sophisticated about media packaging. I guess not.
Elsewhere — See Josh Marshall on how the Pennsylvania primary left us exactly where we were before the Pennsylvania primary; Simon Jenkins on America’s love affair with war; John Cole on Clinton’s “vanity campaign.”