Skip to comments.Working-Class Whites a Barrier to a Democratic House
Posted on 06/27/2012 11:14:11 PM PDT by neverdem
Unlike Obama, House Democrats will have trouble forging a majority without that demographic.
Former House Speaker Tip ONeill famously remarked that all politics is local. But this year, its the rhetoric of John Edwards that rings truer--in assessing the House race landscape, there are indeed two Americas. President Obama believes the way to win a second term is by rallying elements of the party base, but House Democrats trying to take back the majority face the added burden of winning the votes of increasingly disillusioned white working-class voters.
When looking at why Republicans are likely to retain their 25-seat majority--The Cook Political Report now says the possibility that Republicans will gain seats is greater than the possibility Democrats will retake the majority--its worth keeping the demographic divide in mind. Democrats are likely to run very competitively in suburban swing districts and regain a number of seats that they lost in 2010. But House Republicans are still putting Democrats on the defensive in rural and working-class confines, threatening to pick up additional seats they didnt win in the midterm wave.
Of The Cook Reports 19 Republican-held seats ranked as toss-ups or leaning the Democrats way, at least 11 are in urban or suburban congressional districts. Of the 11 Democratic-held seats in play, most are working-class districts or contain significant rural populations.
Democrats are well positioned to pick up seats in the Chicago suburbs (Reps. Joe Walsh/Robert Dold), Denver (Rep. Mike Coffman), and around Las Vegas (Rep. Joe Heck), but could give nearly as many seats back in areas spanning from working-class southwest Pennsylvania (Rep. Mark Critz), coal-producing southern Illinois (retiring Rep. Jerry Costello), rural Little Dixie (retiring Rep. Dan Boren of Oklahoma) and the expansive countryside of upstate and western New York (Reps. Bill Owens/Kathy Hochul).
This isnt a trivial matter. If Democrats struggle to broaden their brand, they will need to thoroughly dominate in the Democratic-trending suburbs to win back control. In 2010, the National Republican Congressional Committee focused on largely white, conservative districts held by veteran Democrats as the gateway to a majority, and succeeded beyond their expectations. A GOP-dominated redistricting process and untimely retirements from Blue Dog members, such as Boren and Rep. Heath Shuler, have offered up fresh opportunities to go on the offensive.
For a telltale sign of how far Democratic fortunes have fallen with working-class voters, just listen to Critz, who sounded like a Republican in rebuking President Obama after his Ohio jobs speech last week. President Obama and others in Washington need to realize that we cannot spend our way to prosperity, he said.
As Thomas Edsall noted in The New York Times on Sunday, The correlation between support from working-class whites and Democratic victory suggests the party takes a great risk when it downplays the importance of this segment with the electorate. While the white working-class share of the vote is declining, it makes up a disproportionate share of voters in battleground House districts. When Bill Clinton headed his partys ticket in 1992, Democrats carried 52.7 percent of the white noncollege House vote; in 2010, that number plummeted to 34.7 percent.
On the national level, Obama can get reelected even if he loses badly with working-class whites, thanks to the rapidly diversifying electorate. But at the House level, Democrats will have trouble forging a majority without them. Consider this: After redistricting, there are now an outright majority of 221 congressional districts with a Cook PVI rating of R+3 or greater. The next Democratic House majority (if it occurs this decade) will have to be built on the backs of Democrats who hold an appeal well beyond the base. That will be all the more difficult, thanks to an increasingly polarized Congress.
That reality is making things difficult for Democrats to gain a net of 25 seats to regain the majority. On the top of Democratic target lists are vulnerable Republicans representing white working-class districts, such as Rust Belt freshmen Reps. Bill Johnson and Jim Renacci (Ohio), Sean Duffy (Wisconsin), and Dan Benishek (Michigan). Democrats believe the members votes for Rep. Paul Ryans budget give their opponents a potent line of attack on entitlements. But complicating their prospects are Obamas weak approval numbers, which in those districts are considerably worse than his middling national approval ratings.
Meanwhile, in the redistricting process, Republicans paid careful attention to shoring up the districts of vulnerable suburban Republicans, who regularly faced tough reelection campaigns. Members such as Reps. Steve Stivers (Columbus, Ohio), Steve Chabot (Cincinnati), Jim Gerlach (Philadelphia), Pat Meehan (Philadelphia), Daniel Webster (Orlando), and Kevin Yoder (Kansas City, Kan.) are now favored to win another term. The gains have largely offset the new opportunities Democrats have in California and Illinois.
The Democrats challenge is amplified by Obamas campaign strategy to design policies appealing to elements of his base, but which offer diminishing returns to down-ballot Democrats. By ordering his administration to stop deporting illegal immigrants who came to the country as children, Obama illustrated the importance of mobilizing the Hispanic vote. But many Hispanic voters are gerrymandered into safe Democratic House seats, making the congressional payoff less fruitful. The presidents push to help college students pay off their loans was designed to help him get them to the polls, but most large college campuses are in noncompetitive seats. And his support for gay marriage helped him with fundraising, but it did little to move the Democratic needle in swing districts.
As the election draws closer, expect to see many Democratic candidates in working-class districts balance their loyalty to the president against the necessity of doing whatever it takes to win. Because whats good for the goose isnt necessarily good for the gander.
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It occurs to me that Hispanics are not Irishmen. They dont see the worth of voting even in districts where they dominate, at least in those places where they are not long established.
The thing that gets me Wa Wa’d up is the name Democratic! There is nothing Democratic about the Democrats. What is a Democratic? Hannity drives me crazy always saying “The Democratic Party”. The liberals use this term all the time. We should refer to them what they are. The Undemocratic Party, or what they really are. Communists, Socialists,Idiots, Facists, or whatever. Thank You. D
I agree with you. Every time I vote I always make a lot of noise about the sign being wrong - the two parties are Democrat and Republican - and ask to talk to the “person in charge” about the error. Never gets me anywhere, particularly when the person in charge that day happens to be someone who is a member of our Republican Women’s group but I still do it.
The true name of the Dems would be the “Teachers Union Political Action Committee”; they are 100% owned by the teachers’ unions. They don’t represent the teachers’ unions; they are owned by them.
They are democratic Socialists. Call ‘em what they are, their heads will explode.
Democratic is an adjective
Democrat is a noun
“the white working-class share of the vote is declining”
Focusing solely on this demographic is a surefire path to success - rolls eyes.
Elections are won in key districts and key states—all of the rest is background noise.
If it’s good enough for Republican it’s good enough for democrat.
"Rapidly diversifying electorate is code for making illegals legal... Democrats would cheerfully turn our country into a third world hellhole IF it would keep them in power.
True, look at the cities in which they dominate.
I think of them as Social Democrats. That is the European (except in England) name for Socialist parties.In England they are Labour. The Bolsheviks in Russia came out of the Social Democrat Party and were not its leftmost faction at the time.
Where’s the link?
I guess, “insufficient numbers of unemployed blacks to ensure Democratic house”, didn’t appeal to the base...
Thanks for the ping!
I'm sorry. I goofed. Please pardon my omission.
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I used the original title, but unique text is often better because titles often change, especially with syndicated essayists.
The period was omitted for clarity.
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That's how you can retrieve the URL. What if I dropped dead in the meantime? I just about did with Robert's consent to Obamacare.