Mike Kueber's Blog

July 1, 2012

The political strategy to win the white working-class vote

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mike Kueber @ 1:00 pm

An interesting blog by Thomas Edsall in the NY Times analyzed the fight by Republicans and Democrats for the working-class vote.  The analysis was complicated, however, by the inability to agree on what the term “working class” meant.    Some analysts define the term to mean workers without college degrees, while others define it as workers with so-called blue-collar jobs or those in the bottom third of annual income.  And still others believe that there is such a fundamental difference between the white and non-white or South and non-South that their analyses separate workers based on race or location.

Although I believe that winning the loyalty of the white working class is the cornerstone of most Republican strategies, I also subscribe to the belief, as articulated at the close of Edsall’s blog, that no one vote is more important than any other vote – i.e., gaining a vote from one voting cohort is meaningless if it costs you a vote from another cohort.  The key to electoral success by either party is to earn the vote of someone new without losing the vote of any supporters:

  • Frey’s analysis demonstrates a crucial fact about current presidential politics: that white voters (76 percent) and minorities (24 percent), despite making up vastly different percentages of the electorate, are both key to the outcome. Little shifts in behavior in either group matter. 
  • If the Democratic Party can do something to win one more non-college white vote, without alienating anyone else, it is exactly one vote closer to winning. If it can do something to win one more college white vote, or Latino vote, or Asian vote, without alienating anyone else, it is exactly one vote closer to winning. If it wins one more non-college white vote and loses one college white vote, or Latino vote, or Asian vote in the process, it is not any closer to winning. The interesting strategic questions have entirely to do with the marginal shifts in vote probabilities produced in different groups by different sorts of appeals, and their collateral political costs (whether alienation or opportunity costs).
  • In other words, the white electorate remains central to the strategic choices of both the Romney and Obama campaigns, but so does every other significant slice of the population.

Unfortunately, it appears that political parties and their politicians will continue to slice and dice Americans, not as individuals, but rather as parts of competing special interests.



  1. Worse, only a few states are really in play. Most Americans’ votes actually don’t count, regardless of persuasion or political dynamic, simply because where they live is taken for granted in one check box or the other. The only way for an individual vote to count in most states is to change the Electoral College method to proportional apportionment for all states, not just a select few, OR to actually count the popular vote and eliminate the Electoral College. And, who believes:
    1. The the Electoral College will be eliminated
    2. That it is actually possible to make a legitimate count of legitimates votes in these United States of America?

    Comment by Bob Bevard — July 1, 2012 @ 1:12 pm | Reply

    • Bob, like all other right-thinking Americans, I’m all for elimination of the Electoral College. Like you, however, I believe that will happen when pigs fly. Just like the elimination of gerrymandering in Texas.

      Comment by Mike Kueber — July 1, 2012 @ 3:06 pm | Reply

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