America's Forgotten Majority: Why the White Working Class Still Matters

America's Forgotten Majority: Why the White Working Class Still Matters

America's Forgotten Majority: Why the White Working Class Still Matters

America's Forgotten Majority: Why the White Working Class Still Matters

Synopsis

Ruy Teixeira and Joel Rogers tackle a central mystery of twentieth-century electoral politics -- how did the Democratic party lose the vote of the white working class, which today constitutes roughly 55 percent of the electorate? And why do both parties continue to ignore the wants and needs of this critical mass of American voters?

This "forgotten majority" has played a decisive role in federal elections and policy over the past thirty years, but its experience of declining prosperity and party neglect over the last several decades has left its loyalties unstable. Teixeira and Rogers argue that it is time for politicians to realize that this group will shape the nation's political fortunes in 2000 and beyond.

Excerpt

The reader who has picked up this book may wonder at first why we have chosen to write a book focusing on the plight of the white working class. At face value, a book with such a focus could be seen as either very narrowly cast, given long-term demographic trends, or (more distressingly) as reactionary or racist in intent. in fact, the origins of this book lie in our concern that most Americans' hopes and expectations for their government have become unnecessarily limited. If one were to believe the bulk of news stories, the typical American voters these days are affluent white mothers (in 1996 they were called "soccer moms") and fathers, living in the suburbs and probably involved in the information economy (as "wired workers"), whose interest in government reflects their relatively privileged position: "No big programs, please, because we don't really need them, but small, inexpensive ones are ok, provided they target one of our few remaining problems." If this characterization is truly accurate, perhaps the extraordinarily cautious and modest nature of today's politics has a solid justification. Large social and economic problems cannot be tackled because the average voter is too far removed from them.

But if this characterization is not accurate, perhaps we are unnecessarily downgrading the role of government and selling the future of our country short. This possibility occurred to us as we pored over accounts of elections in the 1990s and became increasingly suspicious that conventional stereotypes of the American voter couldn't possibly be accurate. We knew, for ex-

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