Democrats Seek To Regain Votes Of White Males

The Republicans have built a strange coalition. In terms of priorities,  it is primarily the party of the top one percent, but many other upper income Americans still mistakenly believe the Republicans represent their interests. This still would not give them anywhere near enough votes to win elections so they have gone after primarily two other types of supporters. For years they conned the religious right into following them while only throwing them a few bones, but in recent years the Republicans have more fully adopted their agenda. This still was not enough voters but in the past they could win elections by scaring low-information poorly educated white males into voting for them.

It made absolutely no sense for these white males to vote against their interests and vote for Republicans but this has been a group which has been easily fooled. The New York Times looked at Democratic attempts to win some of these voters back:

Some white men have proved to be within reach: single men, college students and graduates with advanced degrees, the nonreligious, and gay men. But working-class married men remain hardest to win over and, unless they are in unions, get the least attention — to the dismay of some partisans.

“You can’t just give Republicans a clear field to play for the votes of white working-class men without putting up some sort of a fight because that just allows them to run the table with these voters, thereby potentially offsetting your burgeoning advantage among minorities, single women, millennials,” said Ruy Teixeira, an analyst at the left-leaning Center for American Progress.

“I just think Democrats are having a hard time figuring out how to effectively pursue it,” he added.

What discourages Democrats is that men’s attitudes shaped over generations — through debates over civil rights, anti-Communism, Vietnam, feminism, gun control and dislocations from lost manufacturing jobs and stagnant wages in a global economy — are not easily altered.

“Democrats are for a bunch of freeloaders in this world as far as I’m concerned,” said Gari Day, 63, an Avis bus driver from suburban Detroit. “Republicans make you work for your money, and try to let you keep it.”

Michael Bunce, 48, buying parts at a Lowe’s in Southfield, Mich., first ascribed his Republican bias to fiscal matters, but quickly turned to social issues like gay rights. “I don’t see why that’s at the top of our priority list,” he said. “But you say that out in the open, and people are all over your back.”

Democrats’ gloom about white men was eased temporarily by Mr. Obama’s 2008 election when he won 41 percent of white male voters — the first time a Democrat exceeded 40 percent since Mr. Carter in 1976. But their support for his re-election fell to 35 percent, roughly what Democrats have gotten since they lost to Richard Nixon.

Republicans say Democrats’ appeals to women, minorities and gays have been counterproductive with white men. “When you’re spending 60 percent of your time talking about birth control and Obamacare, not a lot of men are paying attention to you,” said Brad Dayspring, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Another issue arose later in the article which also explains their support for Republicans–guns. While Democrats have done little, largely out of fear, to push gun control, that is an issue which is going to work to the advantage of Republicans. If this article is representative and social issues play a big factor, this also does not leave Democrats with a good opening. However, if Democrats can get them to think rationally about economics, then they could win votes if they can get past the type of misconceptions quoted above. Those who have been convinced that Obama is a socialist are seriously ignorant about both economics and current events.

Democratic economic policies both better enable working people to earn more money and Democratic taxation plans have proposed taxing the middle tax less then Republicans. Republican tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy don’t do anything to help the bus driver quoted above. Plus, while the low information white males might not care about birth control (although they could also suffer from Republican attempts to restrict access to contraception) they do benefit considerably from the changes in health care under Obama.

The article points out that, “No Democratic presidential candidate has won a majority of white men since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.” There is a significance to this date. The Democrats lost the south and the low-information white voters after the passage of the Civil Rights bill. Much of this came down to the Southern Strategy as described by Lee Atwater:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

It works just as  well in northern white states to scare low education white voters into fearing that minorities are a threat to them. Homophobic white males, like the one quoted above, are just as likely to be racists.  Such tensions decreased a little when Obama ran in 2008, but the Tea Party has helped bring about a return to old patterns. Democrats will need to make a strong pitch explaining the truth about economic issues,  overcoming considerable misinformation they have been exposed to, if there is any chance to pick up the votes of the low information white voters. While it makes sense to go after additional voters, realistically if the Democrats are going to win, it will primarily be with the votes of educated white males, females, and minorities.

Cross posted at The Moderate Voice

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Rand Paul Blocks Surgeon General Nomination For Calling Guns A Health Threat

Rand Paul has placed a hold on Dr. Vivek Murthy, Obama’s nominee for Surgeon General, because of calling guns a significant public health threat. Paul stated, “As a physician, I am deeply concerned that he has advocated that doctors use their position of trust to ask patients, including minors, details about gun ownership in the home.”

As I have discussed before, this position is based upon recommendations of medical organizations which are justifiably concerned about the health risks of gun violence in this country. Following the Newton shootings fifty-two medical organizations including the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, American College of Physicians, American College of Surgeons, American Academy of Family Physicians and American Academy of Pediatrics sent a letter to President Obama requesting such intervention.

The text of the letter (pdf here) follows (emphasis mine):

The undersigned medical organizations, together representing the vast majority of practicing physicians and medical students in the United States, share the nation’s grief and sadness over the recent tragic school shootings in Connecticut. As physicians, we see first-hand the devastating consequences of gun violence to victims and their families. We offer our experience and expertise in finding workable, common sense solutions to reduce the epidemic of gun violence—indeed the overall culture of violence—in America. We also urge the nation to strengthen its commitment and resources to comprehensive access to mental health services, including screening, prevention, and treatment.

The investigation into the Connecticut shootings is still continuing, and the issues surrounding such violence are often complex and can vary significantly from case to case. Strategies for preventing gun-related tragedies must also be complex and carefully considered. The relatively easy access to the increased firepower of assault weapons, semi-automatic firearms, high-capacity magazines, and high-velocity ammunition heightens the risk of multiple gunshot wounds and severe penetrating trauma, resulting in more critical injuries and deaths. Even for those who manage to survive gun violence involving these weapons, the severity and lasting impact of their wounds, disabilities and treatment leads to devastating consequences for families affected and society, and contributes to high medical costs for treatment and recovery. Renewing and strengthening the assault weapons ban, including banning high-capacity magazines, would be a step in the right direction.

Many of the deaths and injuries resulting from firearms are preventable. More resources are needed for safety education programs that promote more responsible use and storage of firearms. Physicians need to be able to have frank discussions with their patients and parents of patients about firearm safety issues and risks to help them safeguard their families from accidents. While the overwhelming majority of patients with mental illness are not violent, physicians and other health professionals must be trained to respond to those who have a mental illness that might make them more prone to commit violence. Funding needs to be available for increased research on violence prevention in general, and on the epidemiology of gun-related injuries and deaths in particular, as well as to implement available evidence-based interventions. Of equal importance is providing sufficient access to mental health services. While we strongly supported the passage of the Mental Health Parity Act of 2008, unfortunately, the promise of better access top psychiatric treatment will not be a reality absent requisite federal and state funding. This effort should be combined with an education campaign that reduces the stigma of seeking mental health services.

Newtown, Connecticut has now been added to the sad litany of recent mass shootings, including Columbine, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, Arizona, and Aurora. As we come together as a nation to mourn the most recent victims of senseless gun violence, we must make a real and lasting commitment to work together on meaningful solutions to prevent future tragedies. We stand ready to work with Congress and the Administration to make progress in protecting our communities, especially our children, from this epidemic of violence.

We would expect that a nominee for Surgeon General would support the recommendations of these medical organizations. Discussing the presence of guns in the home does not mean these medical organizations are advocating banning guns. Medical organizations recommend that physicians ask about a wide variety of potential risks. When we ask patients about use of seat belts we are not seeking to ban automobiles. When we ask elderly patients about electrical cords which could present a risk for falls we are not seeking to ban electric lights. When we discuss keeping medications safe and out of the hands of children we are not seeking to ban medications.

Think Progress has more on how Rand Paul’s view is out of step with that of the medical profession:

The idea that gun violence is a danger to public health is utterly uncontroversial among doctors’ groups, academic institutions that focus on public health, and children’s safety advocates. Although Paul criticizes Murthy’s position that physicians and pediatricians should ask patients about the presence of guns in their households, the American Medical Association (AMA) adopted a resolution in 2011 officially opposing any law that bars doctors from having open conversations about gun safety and the risks of having firearms in a household with their patients.

In fact, just yesterday, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued new guidelines recommending that households with children who are diagnosed with depression should remove guns and ammunition from their homes entirely.

Not only would Obama’s nominee for Surgeon General be making recommendations in the mainstream of medicine today, Murthy’s views are consistent with those of Reagan-appointee for Surgeon General C. Everett Koop who has written about the dangers of gun violence.

Cross posted at The Moderate Voice

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Rand Paul Provides A Useful Lesson When Discussing Government Help For Unwed Mothers

Rand Paul says a lot of stupid things and justifiably often comes under attack from the left (not to mention all the times he comes under attack from fellow Republicans when he is right on some foreign policy issues). This week he is under attack for something which, after some clarification, he has a broader point worth looking at. This has significance as it shows something which applies to anyone, left or right, who desires to talk about difficult issues we face.

Rand Paul has discussed the problem of unwed women receiving government assistance and continuing to have children. While there are legitimate problems faced by the poor which Rand and other Republicans seem oblivious to, in this case it is worth discussing whether government funds have the desired results. This is a tricky issue to talk about, and Paul did later clarify his views, backing away from the idea of supporting any actual policy to cut financial assistance:

The Republican senator from Kentucky said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he didn’t “come up with a policy prescription,” such as limiting government aid, but rather said it’s up to communities to resolve the problem, which he called the No. 1 cause of poverty in the country.

“I mused about how you’d have a government policy, but I actually came down saying it would be very difficult to have a government policy,” the potential 2016 presidential candidate said.

“I mostly concluded by saying it’s a community, it’s a religious, it’s a personal problem, but it is a problem,” Paul said.

While I think it is a typical conservative cop-out to simply say it is something to be handled by the community without saying how, I do have some sympathy for Paul in trying to discuss a real issue where there might be no ideal solution. Potential presidential candidates typically try to avoid such discussion, limiting our political discourse. Efforts at helping the poor cannot be abandoned as many on the right might prefer, but we must also keep in mind that there can be adverse consequences from government actions.

There are often problems where we would like to act but there is no ideal solution. In some cases there might be nothing government can do. For example, I think that the misinformation spread by Fox and the right wing media does pose a serious threat to democracy in America, but government cannot solve this without creating more serious problems by infringing on First Amendment liberties. In this case, government cannot do anything.

In many other cases, government can try to act even if there is no ideal solution. We must do something about gun violence, but efforts are limited both by the need to respect the right bear arms (regardless of whether the Bill of Rights was ever intended to include this as an individual right) and consider the limited efficacy of many policy recommendations. This even applies to recent issues over implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Our health care faced serious problems which simply could not be left unchanged. Obamacare has provided tremendous advantages over the past, including expanding access to health care, providing coverage of preventative studies, getting rid of policies which fail to actually provide health care coverage, and preventing denial of coverage due to developing serious medical problems. There are also some negative consequences as there is no ideal solution, and some adjustments are needed in the law, with the right wing greatly exaggerating the problems and denying the far more significant benefits.

In the end, Paul is right in realizing that there is no simple solution such as cutting off  financial assistance, with such attempts in the past failing to have the effects predicted by conservatives. I’m glad Paul didn’t respond with the typical conservative/libertarian bromide that private assistance could totally replace government programs when this is clearly not possible. Perhaps some government programs could be made to work better if we had a serious conservative opposition which does raise real problems with liberal programs, and the two sides could get together to find a solution that works. At present this is not possible because of the knee-jerk opposition to government programs from the right. Many problems are best solved by individual actions and by the market. Other problems can only be solved by the type of organization provided by government, even if the outcome is less than perfect.

Update: I should also clarify that this not intended to agree with Paul that on the whole welfare results in mothers having more babies due to the economic incentive, just that it could happen in individual cases and that government policies do not always work out perfectly, even if beneficial. As is often the case, conservatives greatly exaggerate  potential problems. Past attempts at capping benefits has not provided the benefits which conservatives have claimed they would, but at least Paul did back away from advocating this. There have been some edits from the original version which gave more credibility to Paul’s argument than deserved. The post is intended more to be about dealing with the fact that government programs are often necessary even if the results are not perfect than about welfare for unwed mothers.

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The New American Center Is Socially Liberal

I would take the exact numbers in this NBC News-Equire Poll with a grain of salt but the overall trend is what we would have expected. The country is more liberal on social issues and conservatives are losing the culture wars. Results are more mixed in some other areas. From their summary of results:

The new American center has a socially progressive streak, supporting gay marriage (64 percent), the right to an abortion for any reason within the first trimester (63 percent), and legalized marijuana (52 percent). Women, workers and the marginal would also benefit if the center had its way, supporting paid sick leave (62 percent); paid maternity leave (70 percent); tax-subsidized childcare to help women return to work (57 percent); and a federal minimum wage hike to no less than $10 per hour (67 percent).

But the center leans rightward on the environment, capital punishment, and diversity programs. Majorities support offshore drilling (81 percent) and the death penalty (90 percent), and the end of affirmative action in hiring and education (57 percent). Most people in the center believe respect for minority rights has gone overboard, in general, harming the majority in the process (63 percent). And just one in four support immigration reforms that would provide a path to citizenship for those who came here illegally.

They found the following results regarding religion and guns:

Religion is not a major part of the Center’s life, and it firmly believes that religion has no place in the public sphere. Meanwhile: Even though about a third of those in the Center own guns, an overwhelming plurality have no problem with background checks…

The Center is less religious than the Right, and—surprise!—it’s less religious than the Left, too, and here’s why: Members of the Gospel Left (the ones who broke 99 to 1 for Obama in 2012) are second only to the Righteous Right for how important religion is to them. Unlike their fellow believers on the Right, though, more than half of the Gospel Left feels that religion should not play a role in public life.

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Quote of the Day

“A great democracy does not make it harder to vote than to buy an assault weapon.” –Bill Clinton

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Republicans, Guns, and Race

An interesting, even if not surprising, finding buried in this Public Policy Polling survey on airlines:

16% of Americans think you should be able to bring your gun onto a plane. There’s a large partisan divide on the issue with 30% of Republicans but only 6% of Democrats supportive of guns on planes. We also asked about expanded background checks on this poll and a plurality of the people opposed to them also think you should be able to bring your gun on the plane.

Many Republicans have called for armed passengers following 9/11, believing this would help prevent terrorists from taking over airplanes. (Actually it might, but it might also increase the number of flights which do not reach their destination.)

Republicans have also called for more guns in the schools after school shootings. Just a couple of examples here and here.

Republicans tend to argue that those at risk of violence should be carrying guns for protection. Well, not always. I can’t find any Republicans saying that Trayvon Martin would have been safer if he was carrying a gun.

Update: Shortly after posting this I found this related article: Guns Are For White People.

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Republican Admits That Republicans Vote To Oppose Obama

When Barack Obama first took office, Republicans decided that they would oppose anything proposed by Obama for political reasons. This is one time they kept their word. Most recently we saw that background checks, supported by the vast majority of Americans, were defeated in the Senate despite majority support.

Republican Senator Pat Toomey, who co-authored the bipartisan measure, admitted why many Republicans opposed this:

“In the end it didn’t pass because we’re so politicized. There were some on my side who did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it,” Toomey admitted on Tuesday in an interview with Digital First Media editors in the offices of the Times Herald newspaper in Norristown, Pa.

The Times Herald noted that in “subsequent comments,” Toomey “tried to walk that remark part-way back by noting he meant to say Republicans across the nation in general, not just those in the Senate.”

I find that many people who do not follow politics closely believe that Washington isn’t capable of accomplishing anything due to the failure of both parties to work together. No, both parties are not the same. One party, while not always right, is at least trying to govern responsibly. Then there are the Republicans.

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Quote of the Day

“John Boehner said today he wants to take away North Korea’s missiles, but he won’t because that’s a slippery slope from there to gun control.” –Bill Maher

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Reality Check

Does Maureen Dowd realize that The American President is a movie, The West Wing is a television show, and that real life doesn’t work that way?

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Tyranny of the Red State Minority

When I first heard that expanded background checks for gun sales failed to pass the Senate on a 54-46 vote in favor of the checks, my first thought was to wonder exactly how undemocratic this vote was. First of all, there is the virtual requirement that a bill have 60 votes to pass if the Republicans desire to stop it. This allowed 46 Senators to block the bill. I also wondered about these 46 Senators who voted against expanded background checks. I figured that many would be from small population states. As each state has two votes in the Senate, voters in the small states (which are more likely to be red states) have far more influence.

Writers at New Republic and  Think Progress were thinking along the same lines and did the math:

If you assume, for sake of argument, each senator represents half of his or her state’s population, then senators voting for the bill represented about 194 million people, while the senators voting against the bill represented about 118 million people. That’s getting close to a two-thirds majority in favor of the measure.

This looks even worse when considering that polls show that 90 percent of voters support stronger background checks.

It has become a common occurrence for Senators representing well under half the population to be able to block popular legislation. The Founding Fathers did intentionally establish such a system in  a different era, when representation based upon state made far more sense than it does today. I doubt that they would be happy with how undemocratic the system has turned out to be.

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