Why don’t white working-class voters recognize where their economic interests lie? Somewhat self-righteously, Democrats keep asking themselves that question.
A better question would be: What has the Democratic Party done for these voters lately?
At work and at home, their lives are worse than they were a generation ago. Their real incomes have fallen, their employment opportunities have diminished, their families have crumbled and their ties to society are fraying.
This is how daily life feels, to many in the white working class. Unlike blacks and Hispanics, whites are not the beneficiaries of affirmative action programs designed to open doors to higher education and better jobs for underrepresented minorities; if anything, these programs serve only to limit their horizons.
Liberal victories in the sexual and women’s rights revolutions – victories that have made the lives of many upscale Democrats more productive and satisfying — appear, from the vantage point of the white working class, to have left many women to struggle as single parents, forced to cope with both male defection from paternal responsibility and the fragmentation of a family structure that was crucial to upward mobility in the postwar period.
This bleak view emerges from two recently published works, “Labor’s Love Lost,” by Andrew Cherlin, a professor of public policy at Johns Hopkins, and “Was Moynihan Right? What Happens to the Children of Unmarried Mothers,” a research report by Sara McLanahan and Christopher Jencks, sociologists at Princeton and Harvard, respectively.
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—Thomas B. Edsall
Thomas B. Edsall, a New York Times contributing op-ed Writer, covers American politics, inequality, campaign strategy and demographics.