Can Obama Win Ohio's White Working Class?

11/07/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • George Packer New Yorker

Until the mid-seventies, the white working class--the heart of the New Deal coalition--voted largely Democratic. Since the Carter years, the percentages have declined from sixty to forty, and this shift has roughly coincided with the long hold of the Republican Party on the White House. The white working class--a group that often speaks of itself, and is spoken of, as forgotten, marginalized, even despised--is the golden key to political power in America, and it voted overwhelmingly for George W. Bush twice, by seventeen per cent in 2000 and twenty-three per cent in 2004. Thomas Frank's 2004 book "What's the Matter with Kansas?" directed its indignation at the baffling phenomenon of millions of Americans voting year after year against their economic self-interest. He concluded that the Republican Party had tricked working people with a relentless propaganda campaign based on religion and morality, while Democrats had abandoned these voters to their economic masters by moving to the soft center of the political spectrum. Frank's book remains the leading polemic about the white reaction--the title alone has, for many liberals, become shorthand for the conventional wisdom--but it is hobbled by the condescending argument that tens of millions of Americans have become victims of a "carefully cultivated derangement," or are simply stupid.

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