Magazine article USA TODAY

A New Republican Coalition

Magazine article USA TODAY

A New Republican Coalition

Article excerpt

BARACK OBAMA was reelected as president in 2012 without carrying some of poorest and historically Democratic states in the union (Arkansas, West Virginia, and Kentucky), The Democratic Party seemed confident with its own new-fangled coalition. Obama had won 303 electoral votes that included 242 votes from states that have not voted Republican in 16 years. In those states, the most solid Democratic vote came from the wealthy suburbs around New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, Portland, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., as well as from the inner city minority communities. The elite university communities around Palo Alto, Cambridge, Madison, Ann Arbor, Berkeley, and Raleigh-Durham are another part of the coalition. These are the clerisy, those who dominate educational institutions and the media while giving the coalition its cultural elan.

It was a bizarre barbell alliance with the very rich and very well-credentialed at one end and the poor, minorities, unmarried women, and very young at the other. It was a marriage of convenience. The rich and the well-educated want a green agenda and a liberal social environment. They are willing to support welfare programs for the poor in order to build a coalition for their environmental agenda, gay marriage, and legal marijuana. The poor were promised to have their poverty subsidized with an increased minimum wage, Medicaid funding, food stamps, disability payments, and unemployment insurance. White working-class people played a minor role in this agenda.

Few Democrats have been mourning the loss of once solid Democratic West Virginia to the Republicans. That was a willing price to pay for shutting down coal mining, a central goal for upscale environmentalists--nor was there much concern about the loss of Arkansas, Kentucky, and Tennessee. On the broader national scale, there did not even seem to be much concern about the loss of the white male working-class vote. They are a shrinking minority. The Democratic Party's future belongs to the growing nonwhite vote, young Millennials, single white females, and well-educated. Who needs the Keystone Pipeline? In fact, who needs the entire extractive industry? The future is in wind and solar. If, by stomping on the fossil fuel production, thousands of hard-hats would lose job opportunities, so what? The unspoken attitude of the party?--white working-class men are unlikely to support wind and solar dreams, gay marriage, and gun control.

In 2014, the Democratic Party paid a serious price for such smugness. In key Senate races, white men voted overwhelming for the Republican candidates: Kentucky (65%), Arkansas (69%), North Carolina (69%), and Georgia (74%). In two close Senate races outside the South, the vote was strong: Iowa (58%) and Colorado (59%). In the House races, Republicans picked up seats in such industrial areas as East St. Louis, Dl.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Bangor, Maine; and Wilmington, N.C. Nationally, the middle class, those households making between $50,000 and $ 100,000 a year, voted 55% Republican.

In their own coalition, Democrats saw some serious deterioration. As Democratic strategist Ruy Teixeira admits, "The powerful Obama coalition amassed for 2008 and 2012 needs maintenance and upkeep. …

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