Monday, May 05, 2008


Much More than Race and Wright behind Obama’s Blue Collar Woes
Earl Ofari Hutchinson




A few days before the vote in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary, an audience member at a town hall forum in Scranton shouted at Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama “send them back.” The fellow’s blunt and grating answer cut through Obama’s thoughtful and detailed answer on how he’d deal with immigration reform. A few hours earlier at another forum Obama dealt with the prickly issue of gun control. He gave an equally, thoughtful and detailed answer that straddled the fence between defense of gun ownership and a modified gun control plan. The audience responded with polite but scattered applause. The blunt crack from the audience member on immigration and the modest applause he got from mostly working class whites on the gun issue tells much about why Obama stumbles badly with white workers.

It has little to do with race and disgust over Obama’s tie to Jeremiah Wright. Immigration and gun ownership are economic and cultural litmus test issues for many non-college educated, blue collar white males. They want plain speak not policy wonk nuanced, winded answers that conform to their beliefs and views. Obama has not learned the painful lesson that plain speak answers on their concerns translates to moral clarity on their concerns.



But it’s much more than a failure to grasp the right style and words that cause moderate and liberal Democratic presidential contenders Al Gore, John Kerry and Barack Obama to falter with white male, blue collar workers. Republicans have also played hard on the anger, frustration, and hatred that many of them harbor toward government and the blame they heap for government’s perceived failures on liberal Democrats.

The angry white male was more than a cleverly coined buzz word in the 1990s to describe the fear, frustration, and the sense that males, particularly white males, were losing ground to minorities and women in the workplace, schools, and in society. The trend toward white male poverty and alienation first surfaced in the early 1980s when nearly ten million Americans were added to the poverty rolls and more than half were from white, male-headed families. Two decades later, the number of white men in poverty or among lower income wage earners continued to expand. The estimate was that more one in five white males who voted in the presidential election in 2004 made less than $45,000 in household income.
“Liberals didn’t realize they had a whole constituency of disenfranchised people without rights who were called standard masculine men,” Harvard University social psychologist William Pollack explains. “I’m not saying that all liberal Democrats saw these men as the enemy, but they didn’t see them as the victim — but these men felt more and more victimized.”



The main culprit in the eyes of those blue collar whites that saw themselves as forgotten, and economically strapped victims was always a big, bloated federal government. It tilted unfairly in spending priorities toward social programs to the detriment of head of household male wage earners and taxpayers.

Though the tax cuts that Reagan and later Bush Jr. shoved through Congress benefited the wealthiest taxpayers, they were also the fulfillment of Reagan's promise to deliver mid-America from big government and big spending. It was more than a dream. Reagan delivered on his promise. Reagan cut inflation, boosted employment, and his tough talk on the Soviet Union (“evil empire” plain speak) and terrorism appealed to the simplicity and moral clarity that blue collar workers demanded. Bush Sr., Bush Jr. followed the Reagan script with mid-America. Bill Clinton did too. He broke the GOP White House stranglehold by masterfully hijacking Reagan’s plain speak, emphasis on middle-class pain and the disdain of many blue collar workers for liberals and big government. Hillary delivers a modified version of that message.

The sense of security and economic boost that Reagan and Clinton gave to blue collar whites stands in sharp contrast to their feeling that Democrats refuse to offer much that will make any substantial changes in their lives. And that they fail miserably to deliver even on the symbolic promises they do make to them.

During the 2004 Democratic primaries, short term Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean made a clumsy, off-the cuff quip that the Democrats must grab a bigger share of the Confederate flag-waving, pick-up truck, gun rack-displaying, white male vote to win. That brought a howl of protest from some Democrats and charges that Dean was a closet bigot from the other Democratic presidential contenders. A contrite Dean backpedaled fast, did his racial mea culpa, and promised to zip his lip on the flag and kowtowing to Southern white guys.

Dean was right. But the rage at him from other Democrats also reinforced the deep suspicion of white blue collar males that the Democratic Party is a hopeless captive of special interests, i.e. minorities, gays, and women, and that white men especially are persona non grata in the party.

So it’s much too simple to say that race and Wright are the big reasons for Obama’s blue collar woes. Gore and Kerry had the same woes. And it had nothing to do with race, let alone with Wright.
Much More than Race and Wright behind Obama’s Blue Collar Woes
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

A few days before the vote in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary, an audience member at a town hall forum in Scranton shouted at Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama “send them back.” The fellow’s blunt and grating answer cut through Obama’s thoughtful and detailed answer on how he’d deal with immigration reform. A few hours earlier at another forum Obama dealt with the prickly issue of gun control. He gave an equally, thoughtful and detailed answer that straddled the fence between defense of gun ownership and a modified gun control plan. The audience responded with polite but scattered applause. The blunt crack from the audience member on immigration and the modest applause he got from mostly working class whites on the gun issue tells much about why Obama stumbles badly with white workers.
It has little to do with race and disgust over Obama’s tie to Jeremiah Wright. Immigration and gun ownership are economic and cultural litmus test issues for many non-college educated, blue collar white males. They want plain speak not policy wonk nuanced, winded answers that conform to their beliefs and views. Obama has not learned the painful lesson that plain speak answers on their concerns translates to moral clarity on their concerns.

But it’s much more than a failure to grasp the right style and words that cause moderate and liberal Democratic presidential contenders Al Gore, John Kerry and Barack Obama to falter with white male, blue collar workers. Republicans have also played hard on the anger, frustration, and hatred that many of them harbor toward government and the blame they heap for government’s perceived failures on liberal Democrats.
The angry white male was more than a cleverly coined buzz word in the 1990s to describe the fear, frustration, and the sense that males, particularly white males, were losing ground to minorities and women in the workplace, schools, and in society. The trend toward white male poverty and alienation first surfaced in the early 1980s when nearly ten million Americans were added to the poverty rolls and more than half were from white, male-headed families. Two decades later, the number of white men in poverty or among lower income wage earners continued to expand. The estimate was that more one in five white males who voted in the presidential election in 2004 made less than $45,000 in household income.
“Liberals didn’t realize they had a whole constituency of disenfranchised people without rights who were called standard masculine men,” Harvard University social psychologist William Pollack explains. “I’m not saying that all liberal Democrats saw these men as the enemy, but they didn’t see them as the victim — but these men felt more and more victimized.”

The main culprit in the eyes of those blue collar whites that saw themselves as forgotten, and economically strapped victims was always a big, bloated federal government. It tilted unfairly in spending priorities toward social programs to the detriment of head of household male wage earners and taxpayers.
Though the tax cuts that Reagan and later Bush Jr. shoved through Congress benefited the wealthiest taxpayers, they were also the fulfillment of Reagan's promise to deliver mid-America from big government and big spending. It was more than a dream. Reagan delivered on his promise. Reagan cut inflation, boosted employment, and his tough talk on the Soviet Union (“evil empire” plain speak) and terrorism appealed to the simplicity and moral clarity that blue collar workers demanded. Bush Sr., Bush Jr. followed the Reagan script with mid-America. Bill Clinton did too. He broke the GOP White House stranglehold by masterfully hijacking Reagan’s plain speak, emphasis on middle-class pain and the disdain of many blue collar workers for liberals and big government. Hillary delivers a modified version of that message.
The sense of security and economic boost that Reagan and Clinton gave to blue collar whites stands in sharp contrast to their feeling that Democrats refuse to offer much that will make any substantial changes in their lives. And that they fail miserably to deliver even on the symbolic promises they do make to them.
During the 2004 Democratic primaries, short term Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean made a clumsy, off-the cuff quip that the Democrats must grab a bigger share of the Confederate flag-waving, pick-up truck, gun rack-displaying, white male vote to win. That brought a howl of protest from some Democrats and charges that Dean was a closet bigot from the other Democratic presidential contenders. A contrite Dean backpedaled fast, did his racial mea culpa, and promised to zip his lip on the flag and kowtowing to Southern white guys.
Dean was right. But the rage at him from other Democrats also reinforced the deep suspicion of white blue collar males that the Democratic Party is a hopeless captive of special interests, i.e. minorities, gays, and women, and that white men especially are persona non grata in the party.
So it’s much too simple to say that race and Wright are the big reasons for Obama’s blue collar woes. Gore and Kerry had the same woes. And it had nothing to do with race, let alone with Wright.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House (Middle Passage Press, February 2008).

11 comments:

Johan said...

Hutchinson, you are the biggest political joke I have ever seen. Slimy, twisting an spinning - we should have a restraining order to keep you off MSM, well, you're really in your place there.

Johan Oeyen
San Diego, CA

kay said...

Mr. Hutchinson! Why am I the only one to comment on your "crab in a bucket" article on Barack Obama? The reason is because not too many people are fond of you selling out our dear brother. You Should be ashamed of yourself. After I saw you on Glenn Beck dragging Obama down, I was done with you! But I understand why you do it. It's because all your your previous whining about nonsense got shot down by the very people you suck up to. If you don't want to support Obama, cool! But don't get on the band wagon with all of the other "Black People" trying to be accepted by people who dog you too! Peace.

Anonymous said...

pofari, how much did cnn pay you to say negative things about Obama? I guess it is not enough to for you to get a make over because you surely need one. You are just jealous. Obama is the stone that the builder rejects and "whom God has blessed, no man can put down" He is the next AMERICAN PRESIDENT. For out of the mouths of babes and sucklings though has ordained strenght.

Anonymous said...

ofari, please get some hair on your bald head. you look like a ghost on tv.

Anonymous said...

What some niggers will do to get paid.

Must be shilling for some Right Wing "Good job, boy" handouts.

Anonymous said...

So glad to see that others see where Hutchinson is coming from..one of HRCs lapdogs along with Tavis Smiley and Bob Johnson. Coons for Clinton are the nicknames you now have; only thing left is for you to do a song and dance for O'Reilly factor in blackface. That's how embarassing you are Hutchinson. Your articles all have a common theme and it's clearly hate on Obama. With all the race baiting the Billary campaign has done why haven't you spoken out on that? You are a joke and once Obama is in the White House your shuffling and grinning azz will be with the rest of the haters..on the outside looking in.

Anonymous said...

Mr.Hutchinson you are an extremely insightful speaker! You are absolutely right about Obama! When my mother and I saw you on Glen Beck we were so happy to finally see someone on TV to speak the truth about Obama! It is hard being a student who fights for the truth, when everyone is so blinded from the truth. Your blogs are extremely accurate and refreshing from all of these ill-educated writings on Obama.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Hutchinson, do not be discourage by the Obamamainiacs that criticize you. Don't don't do a Tavis Smiley on the rest of us are not easily swayed by feel-good speeches and pandering, especially that of Obama.

Barack Obama is a politician and like all persons running for public office should been questioned, scrutinized and have demands put upon him.

The Obama supporters (especially the Black supporters) are like small children that believe what their savior (Obama) and the corporate media present to them.

Mr. Hutchinson please continue to "Keep it Real" on Obama, Clinton, and McCain.

Anonymous said...

I watched Glen Beck pull your puppet strings masterfully! Or should I say "Yes Masta". You lied on the HR about Hillary having the lead in the popular vote. Clarence Thomas right wing blacks like you Mr Hutchinson have found your niche carrying the water of fascists.

Anonymous said...

Hello Barack?
Are you listening?
Blue collar white guys workin' in the coal mines don't have PHDs.
Stop intellectualizing everything and K.I.S.S. ...
Keep It Simple, Stupid.
You'll get more votes that way, my dear.
Just stick to the simple stuff .. JOBS and gas. Nothing's more important to Joe-sixpack than his truck and his job.
Remember, you ain't talkin' to a bunch of rocket scientists.
If you don't want to offend the latinos, then talk about NAFTA instead of "illegal immigration" (which no one can do anything about including John McCain).
Good luck in West Virginny.
And remember .. K.I.S.S.

MustangSallie said...

What don't you get off of Wright! "It's the economy stupid!"

You and Tavis Smiley are alike - can't stand to see a black man be president because YOU want to be president! As Chris Rock said, "if you are black and not voting for Obama, you don't like yourself nor your mother!"

Obama WILL be the Democrat nominee for president of these United States . . . whether you can stomach-it or not!