Maybe We Should Be Honest About Appeals To (Certain) White People?

Ed at Gin and Tacos has an interesting take on the candidacy of Democratic presidential hopeful (another one) Tim Ryan (boldface mine):

Do a quick twitter search for “Tim Ryan working class” and you’ll see how many headlines and reports (from actual journalists, not just random users) run with the talking point his campaign people obviously wanted to push: Tim Ryan is the guy who can win the Working Class in the Midwest.

In this kind of usage, “working class” is a euphemism for white. Otherwise it makes no sense, since the demographics of the “working class” in the United States is nothing like what it is across rural, deep-red Ohio and Indiana. I understand the dilemma here, since neither the media nor the candidate can straight-up say “Well I’m gonna run because I think I can appeal to more white people.” On the surface I suppose that’s not much different than other things candidates say out loud like, “I think ____ can appeal to Latino voters” or whatever. But the issue here is that “Working Class” as a euphemism for white is employing a phrase that has an actual meaning. “Working class” is a thing that, although competing definitions exist, has a definition. If you feel like a euphemism is needed, pick something that isn’t already serving a purpose to describe a real demographic.

While it would be ugly, maybe we should be much more upfront about what we mean when we say that a candidate can appeal to non-college educated white people in rural-ish areas (there are also gender and religion aspects here too). Because that statement implies that certain candidates do not appeal to non-college educated white people in rural-ish areas. For reasons. Instead of useless Cletus safaris, getting at why they don’t like a certain candidate–and some of that dislike will be ugly (racism and sexism)–would help. As I’ve been writing since November 2016, a significant fraction of the Democratic vote comes from white bigots, even as they are clearly voting in opposition to and in spite of their bigotry (to use the pollsters’ term, it’s comparable to the entire ‘Hispanic, non-white’ Democratic vote).

So, maybe being upfront–at least reporters, if not candidates, could do this–would help. If nothing else, we would be clearer about what the various components of the white working class are. At least, we would understand why many non-college educated white people in rural-ish areas don’t like certain Democrats.

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2 Responses to Maybe We Should Be Honest About Appeals To (Certain) White People?

  1. Evil Overwench says:

    The polite euphemism for “white trash” that you’re looking for is “inland Yankee”. Probably have to come up with something a little different if talking about the ex-Confederacy, though.

  2. EB says:

    Why does our side have such a hard time seeing that many working class (and middle class) whites who voted Trump or stayed home are not motivated so much by bigotry or sexism as by the perception that the Democrats do not seem to want them. If you listen to many of the potential Democratic nominees, you can come away with the sense that white people (or white men, or straight white men) are the problem and if they would only go away everything would be fine. This is a terrible narrative to adopt if we want to win elections. Plenty of terrible candidates have won repeatedly because they were smart enough to make voters feel wanted: Huey Long, Mayor Curley of Boston, Buddy Cianci of Rhode Island, Marion Barry of D.C. Trump is playing the same game, and we are falling into that trap.

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