Why I resent working class whites

Vox had an article earlier this week with yet another study providing strong evidence for the role of racial resentment among white voters playing a clear role in Trump’s victory.  And far more than economic anxiety.  I thought about a short blog post on it, but honestly, this ground is already so thoroughly well-trod I chose not to.  At this point, the role of racial attitudes among white working class voters in shaping Trump’s victory is pretty much incontrovertible.

And yet… very interesting Hidden Brain podcast this week all about the politics of the working class.  Joan Williams, a law professor at Berkeley admits that, yes, there is some racism, but that mostly it is about white working class voters being tired of being looked down upon by elites and supporting Trump is a “giant middle finger” to those elites who deride them, their country music, pickup trucks, etc., in flyover country.  Then they had on another scholar, Marisa Abrajano, who said, well, yeah, but basically xenophobia and racism.  Yeah, that!

I gotta say Williams take– as a resentful, coastal, liberal elite– really bugged me.  I don’t know a lot of working class whites, but of those I do, I certainly do not begrudge them country music instead of classical, pickups instead of priuses, watching Roseanne instead of Bojack Horseman (season 5 is again, awesome), driving a truck for a living instead of working in an office.

Here’s my problem with working class whites– the empirical evidence is clear that a large proportion of them blame Blacks and immigrants for their problems.  I resent that.  They put their support and confident in a con-man who literally makes their economic lives worse while scapegoating Blacks, immigrants, Muslims, etc.,. and then uses this support to cut taxes for Wall Street financiers and take health care protections away for working class people.  I resent that.  That is many cases their retrograde and sexist views on the role of women in society likewise shape their politics and their votes.  I resent that.  They claim that their love for Jesus is the most important thing, but support a political regimes that forcibly separates families seeking asylum at our nation’s border.  I resent that.

So, okay, maybe I deserve that giant middle finger, but damn do I feel like I have a lot of reasons to actually resent many working class white voters.  This is so not about the fact that I have pretty much no use for country music (de gustibus non est disputandum).  I resent people who take their racism, xenophobia, sexism, anti-gay animus, and more to make my country worse.

Will the youth save us?

Maybe?  Hopefully?

I’ve been thinking for a while– mostly based on my own experience of my students plus my general sense from being a political scientist for 20 years– that this is going to be a really good year for youth turnout and that this should help make for a meaningful blue wave.  Perhaps not a tsunami, but I do think youth turnout rates will be noticeably up for a midterm election and that this will be a boon to Democrats.

538‘s Geoffrey Skelley assembled the evidence to make the case for this in a nice article yesterday:

Before we jump into this other data, let’s first look at young voter turnout in midterms from 1998 to 2014 to provide context for what we might see in 2018.

To get a sense of the rate at which younger voters have historically turned out in midterm elections, I looked at data from the Current Population Survey2 over the past two decades. In that period, the high mark for midterm turnout among 18- to 29-year-olds was 2006, when 25.5 percent of citizens in that age group voted.3 That was also the last time Democrats had a successful midterm cycle. Coincidence? Maybe not. The chart below plots midterm turnout rates for four age groups commonly used in exit polls and as you can see, young people turn out at sharply lower rates than older Americans.4

While turnout in 2014 was down across the board — the lowest overall rate since the 1942 midterm — turnout among 18- to 29-year-olds was particularly measly at 20 percent. It was the lowest turnout for that group in the past 20 years.

Looking at the historical trends, there’s no question that youth voter turnout is consistently low in midterms, but exit poll data from competitive statewide elections in 2017 suggests that 2018 could set a record high for young voter participation…

Polling from the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics also gives us reason to believe we may see high turnout from young voters. The institute conducts a long-running, large-sample poll of young Americans, and it has specifically surveyed 18- to 29-year-olds since 2009. Previously, 34 percent was the high mark for those who said they “definitely” would be voting in a midterm election, which the institute found in its fall 2013 survey. But in the IOP’s spring 2018 poll, 37 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds answered they would “definitely” vote, which was a new record high. While IOP’s fall 2018 poll won’t come out until the end of October, John Della Volpe, director of polling at IOP, told me that a new poll conducted by his company, Social Sphere,6 found that 34 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds said they would “definitely” vote, which is similar to the 37 percent finding in this spring’s IOP poll. This is substantially higher than what Gallup reported, and higher than what the IOP found in its fall polls conducted immediately before the 2010 and 2014 midterms — 27 percent and 26 percent, respectively — which suggests young voters could turn out at a relatively high rate this November… [emphases mine]

It’s not certain that young voters will turn out at a higher-than-usual rate in 2018, but data does suggest it’s possible. And if young people do turn out at an unusually high rate, it will be hard not to give President Trump much of the credit. After all, IOP’s spring 2018 poll found that 72 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds disapproved of the president and 58 percent preferred that the Democrats take control Congress in November. So combining the Democratic lean of younger voters with the perceived enthusiasm advantageof Democrats over Republicans in this year’s midterm, it makes sense that we might see greater participation by young voters in a Democratic-leaningelectoral environment.

I may be wrong (and damn has Trump certainly proved that so), but if I had to make a prediction I suspect that youth voting percentage will be the highest since 2006 and quite possibly higher.  Three weeks and we’ll know.

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