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Palin, working-class hero

By Joan C. Williams
Guest Blogger

Workers in the United States endure some of the most family-hostile policies in the developed world. They also face a range of biases that affect women in the workplace and often blanket the entire working class in a kind of second class citizenship. In “Reshaping the Work-Family Debate: Why Men and Class Matter,” recently released by Harvard University Press, Joan C. Williams explores the dynamics of our inflexible workplaces and analyzes the dysfunctional relationship between the professional-managerial class and the white working class. Here, Williams, director of The Center for WorkLife Law at University of California Hastings Law School, probes the Democrats’ uneasy relationship with the working class and how it could affect the 2012 presidential election.

By Joan C. Williams

Last week’s midterm election is being called a radical turn to the right. But it isn’t quite as sudden as it may seem. Although union members and African-Americans still trend Democratic, nearly two-thirds of whites without a college degree voted Republican last Tuesday, according to exit polls; only 35 percent voted Democratic.

How did New Deal Democrats become Tea Party Republicans? The answer: class conflict.

In the early 1970s, Republicans used class conflict to forge a coalition between white nonunion workers and business interests, creating a Republican alliance that has won seven of the last 11 presidential elections — and has dominated many lower offices as well, as happened last Tuesday.

Sarah Palin knows how to bond with these white nonunion voters. Unless Democrats want Palin as president, they need to stop alienating those voters. Here’s how:

1. Quit the insults

Professionals who were born working-class often cringe when their colleagues talk: “Faculty who would never utter a racial slur will casually refer to ‘trailer trash’ or ‘white trash,’” noted SUNY economics professor Michael Zweig. Insults include comments about “clinging” to guns, religion, etc.

2. Stop signaling elitism

Is the elitism charge fair? Pretty fair. Many influential progressives are in the top 13 percent of American families: professional-managerial families with a median income of $148,000. The middle 53 percent of Americans (median income: $64,000) see professionals as elite. Democrats unconsciously signal their elitism by identifying Republicans as favoring a working class treat (Slurpees) and themselves as preferring arugula (as did Obama) or endive (as did Howard Dean) or wind surfing (as did John Kerry).

3. Get it right on big government

Republicans have demonized government for 40 years. The very programs the GOP slams as big government are the most popular and relied upon: Social Security, Medicare. While such universal programs are popular, programs that help the poor — but not Americans only a little richer — trigger class conflict. Democrats fell into this trap when they said that the centerpiece of health care reform was to cover Americans who lack health insurance, thereby allowing Republicans to say that the Democrats, as always, proposed to tax hardworking have-a-littles to pay for benefits the have-nots.

4. Unmask the rich

Workers generally resent professionals, but admire the rich. Stop assuming that taxing the rich will be popular. Instead, show that giveaways to the rich typically pass down privilege but don’t create jobs.

5. Value 21st century families

High-school-educated men have seen their wages fall by 25 percent since 1973 and fear that one false step can push their families into poverty. To beat back GOP talk about “family values,” Democrats need to shift the focus to the un-workability of life day-to-day in hard-pressed American families. Americans work the longest hours of virtually any industrialized country, with the fewest family supports. Family values demand policies that enable Americans both to support and care for their families.

Democrats will lose unless -- and until -- they learn to do what Republicans have done successfully for 40 years — woo and win the white working class. With the motto: Hard Work Rewarded, Democrats have their best hope of keeping Obama in the White House and not handing it over to Palin.

By Joan C. Williams  | November 9, 2010; 1:01 PM ET
Categories:  Guest Blogger  
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Comments

"Although union members and African-Americans still trend Democratic..." Trend? Try overwhelming. You lost credibility at that point in your piece.

Posted by: Richard18 | November 9, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

The Democrats keep shooting themselves in the foot with the candidates and policies that push driving power into Washington with its big government.

Christianity is very important to many Americans. They don't see liberal judges as their friends when they want to maintian public expression of their faith in schools and on courthouse lawns (yes, that includes navitity scenes) But at the same time, they fear that Muslims in this country are getting special treatment by courts considering legitimate criticism of Islam as being 'hate speech'.

Pushing gun control costs Democrats elections, yet they keep refusing to totally repudiate it and instead call for 'reasonable' restrictions that end up being gun prohibition laws. Tell Chuck Schumer & Co. to put a sock in it.

Democrats also refuse to reduce federal spending. They keep saying that they are not going to increase taxes, but run up such huge deficits that the resulting loss in value for the US dollar ends up being a massive hidden tax for all Americans that hits the lower and middle classes worst of all. The Democrats keep trumpeting how Bill Clinton balanced the federal budget during his administration, but fail to acknowledge that President Clinton had to be dragged kicking and screaming into cutting federal spending by a Republican Congress led by Newt Gingrich.

If you raise the taxes on people who happen to be making more money, all that will happen is that the added taxes will be passed along to the consumers in the form of higher prices. Sorry, but if a big company has only a 3% return on investment but does $300 Billion in sales, then yes, it's going to make several billion dollars in profit. 3% return is NOT excessive.

Democrats need to EARN a reputation as moderates. You can't force your 'Blue Dogs' to toe the liberal party line and expect anyone to think of you as anything other than left-wing extremists.
That makes you no less extreme than the most extreme of the right wing advocates that you complain about in your campaign ads.

Finally....Democrats needs to tell the truth, not merely half-lies that fail to show the entire story. I saw enough in this campaign of this to utterly disgust me. Let the contest be on the whole picture instead. If your ideas are the best, then they will stand up on their own merit.

Posted by: honorswar26 | November 9, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

this woman is considered some kind of "expert" in the field?:

"Unless Democrats want Palin as president, they need to stop alienating those voters."

a. palin has no intention of running for any other office, she makes too much money being a loud ignoramous, who appeals to other, loud ignoramouses. fortunately, they constitute only a small, loud minority of voters.

b. anyone who truly thinks palin could be president has no business being taken seriously. only an idiot would say something that silly in public.

don't quit your day job.

Posted by: cpinva | November 9, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

See this is why dumb Sarah Palin is smart to appeal to the trailor trash crowd who are too dumb to realize she quit being Gov so she can join the elist RICH crowd but keeps using the trailor language and the idiots won't figure out she admires the Obamas!!!!! Sarah and her fam are perfect for HOLLYWOOD not the White House.....

The Obamas bet not EVER be asahmed of their education with soooooo many black children dropping out and black males in jail!!!! Sarah is a fad... edu is FOREVERRRRRR

Posted by: MDlady2 | November 9, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Palin and company are demagogues nothing more. There's only one working class hero:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lKwXwU5iWs

Posted by: Slipjac | November 9, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Palin and company are demagogues nothing more. There's only one working class hero:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lKwXwU5iWs

Posted by: Slipjac | November 9, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

hats off to Americans looking for family values in an immoral woman like Sarah Palin

her family values - 15 years old daughter produces a child out of wedlock , Sarah claims it as her own

could not instil any morals in her family, the same daughter again produced a child at 17

her body language is of a liar and doggy character

Posted by: chaffcutter | November 9, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

"Democrats also refuse to reduce federal spending. They keep saying that they are not going to increase taxes, but run up such huge deficits that the resulting loss in value for the US dollar ends up being a massive hidden tax for all Americans"
------
Mythbuster #1: But it was Bush and the Republicans who exploded the federal budget, cutting taxes--mostly for the wealthy--while increasing gov't spending.

Mythbuster #2: The falling dollar drives up costs of imports yes, but it also drives down the cost of exports, thus expanding the manufacturing sector and adding blue-collar jobs.

The primary reason for the success of the Republicans has been their impressive ability to hang their own failures and irresponsibility around the necks of democrats.

Posted by: writinron | November 9, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Finally, someone that Democrats can listen to, offers "actionable" suggestions for addressing the needs of a part of the working class that feels overlooked by Democrats.

Pres. Obama has indicated he wants to be president of all the people, unlike Bush who governed with a right wing agenda, although he lost the popular vote. I hope this article will be brought to the attention of the POTUS and his staff. This is how you return to Democratic governing coalition roots, imho.

Also, don't let the public forget that when Bill Clinton balanced the budget that it was the Republicans that put us into debt again. When Clinton balanced the budget, the Republicans were convincing their target audience that we were in debt. The Republicans don't want a balanced budget when Democrats do it. Don't let America forget that.

Remember that "it is the economy, stupid" Growing the economy, and using short-term visible patches, has to be Job 1 during these next two years. Be the party of practical people who listen to solutions from business people, and don't let ideology close your ears. The Clinton administration put workable, practical solutions before ideology. This is what Pres. Obama promised he would do in the 2008 election. He and Congress needs to do it now.

You don't have to call it listening to Republicans. Call it listening to all sectors, including businesses, on how to create jobs. Democratic federal education policy and support is good for the long-term. But you must also find some other short-term solutions in addition to stimulus spending and the auto trade-in support.

Democrats in congress have a second chance. Will someone send them this message in this blog? Will they listen to it? There's a reason that Republicans targeted Pelosi instead of Obama. Will Democrats in Congress figure that out?

Posted by: Instructor5 | November 9, 2010 4:27 PM | Report abuse

The democrats need to develop a propaganda machine that is as effective as the conservative's machine.

They need to remind the American people that:

- Millions of manufacturing jobs have been outsourced during the past 30 years and the GOP was in charge during 20 of those years.

- Millions of manufacturing and service jobs have been outsourced over the past 30 years and the Chamber of Commerce (a GOP mechanism) BRAGS about their work to make that happen

- The GOP screamed "death panels" about health care BUT the real "death panels" were started by George W, Bush whenh -- as governor of Texas -- he signed a law allowing hospitals to STOP CARE BASED ON COST decisions.

- The national debt has increased from $.9 trillion to about $13 trillion since 1980. GOP Presidents are responswible for more than 65% of that increase!!!

Posted by: Freethotlib | November 9, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Title: Political Bookworm - Palin -

NOT!!!!

Posted by: LyndaLBD | November 9, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse


Palin is no hero. Anyone that thinks so has a serious deficit of brain power. She is in this for the publicity and the money only. She couldn't even hold her job as governor. What a loser. And this article writer thinks she's a hero? What a crock!

Posted by: surfer-joe | November 9, 2010 6:06 PM | Report abuse

Many, many moons ago there was a "human interest" piece about Sargent Shriver, where he detailed how he and the Kennedy brothers would attempt to toss a tennis ball into the other's sailboat off of Martha's Vineyard. "Great sport!"

That was probably my first inkling that I shouldn't really be a democrat...

...nothing has changed.

(hint: if you live in fly-over country, labor for a wage or a salary of $99,999.00 or less, care more about the local high school football scores than the Dow Jones Industrial Average, then these elitist democrat twits don't give a flying-fig about you...why do you vote for them???)

Posted by: sosueme1 | November 9, 2010 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Fortunately for the Republicans, the liberal PDS sufferers won't get the hint. Keep on insulting and slurring Palin you mentally disturbed liberals.. and the more powerful she becomes.. and the party she supports.
See you in Nov. 2012 when we give you another smack down.

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Posted by: goodlucky88 | November 9, 2010 9:11 PM | Report abuse

Word is that if you wear MC HAMMER glasses, like Ms. Plain, you'll find her quite interesting. Without them, you're toast.

Posted by: password11 | November 9, 2010 9:38 PM | Report abuse

vickie, you'll always be trash and Sarah Palin couldn't care less about you.

LOL @ YOU!

Posted by: Observer691 | November 9, 2010 9:40 PM | Report abuse

Palin is only supported by a small percentage of WHITE working class people. The Blacks in Alaska were totally screwed by Palin...on a national bases Black Folk, especially urban Blacks dislike because of her RACISM...please don't attempt to deny her Racist background....especially with the API interaction for & years and her husband a card carrying member for 7 years...you may be blind but Blacks and Hispanics are NOT !!!!

Posted by: lindarc | November 9, 2010 10:53 PM | Report abuse

Palin is only supported by a small percentage of WHITE working class people. The Blacks in Alaska were totally screwed by Palin...on a national bases Black Folk, especially urban Blacks dislike because of her RACISM...please don't attempt to deny her Racist background....especially with the API interaction for 7 years and her husband a card carrying member for 7 years...you may be blind but Blacks and Hispanics are NOT !!!! Black folk don't like or trust Palin.

Posted by: lindarc | November 9, 2010 10:56 PM | Report abuse

"Democrats will lose unless -- and until -- they learn to do what Republicans have done successfully for 40 years — woo and win the white working class. With the motto: Hard Work Rewarded, Democrats have their best hope of keeping Obama in the White House and not handing it over to Palin."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but for the last few years, Democrats were doing quite well in elections, weren't they? Until they had to take the blame for the suffering economy created by Republican policy, at least. In an election where nearly a third of the electorate from 2008 failed to show up.

Your premise is faulty. The only thing voters care about is the economy, and presidential elections are a far cry from midterms. The GOP should be very concerned about the fact that they are bleeding certain demographics. If the economy picks up, it benefits Obama the most.

Posted by: RoninJoey | November 10, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

cpinva, gee you offer such intellectually sound advice, are you an expert?
MDlady2- Yes, the public education system is a disaster. Rather than personally attacking everyone you can name, why not speak out against those in power who revoked the DC charter school initiative and those who voted against the first DC Mayor in history to actually address our failed school system?

Posted by: Cris1 | November 11, 2010 4:02 AM | Report abuse

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