Gallery of art and thoughts

The cartoons and contemplations of a twentysomething copy editor.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

One state, two states, red state, blue state...

There's an interesting article by Lillian B. Rubin in the latest issue of Dissent magazine: "Why Don't They Listen to Us?" It attempts to use Thomas Frank's book "What's the Matter With Kansas?" as a springboard to a wider discussion of why and how the left has alienated poor and middle-class white Americans. Rubin writes that the gains in racial and sexual equality of the 1960s and 1970s did not come seamlessly, and in terms of the sexual revolution, we are still dealing with discontent over the ramifications of such issues as abortion and divorce. She believes that the left has been too uncompromising in its pursuit of its aims, and that by refusing to acknowledge any dissent, it has driven poor and middle-class whites toward the Republican Party.

It's a good issue to ponder. Have the Republicans suddenly become more inclusive than the Democrats toward this group? Is it solely attributable to a backlash against political correctness? Or does this reflect larger regional views, of city against country and Midwest/South against both coasts?

Rubin could have broadened her argument to look at poor/middle-class whites in different states and sections of the country. For instance, I would argue that in cities and in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Northwest, the Democrats still attract poor/middle-class white votes. These are industrial areas, where the Democratic unions continue to exert some influence. In the South and Midwest, however, there are more poor people living in rural areas. The travails of the agricultural sector of the economy have been well documented in Eric Schlosser's "Fast Food Nation." Union membership is less common here, due to corporate control and right-to-work laws. Schlosser says that the Republicans have been largely responsible for abetting corporate misdeeds in managing farmland, but the Democrats have also made tactical errors -- namely, in helping President Clinton pass NAFTA at the beginning of his first term. The party must consider how it can bring the poor and middle-class white voters of the South and Midwest back into its ranks.


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