09/11/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Race And The Courting Of Reagan Democrats

Perhaps not enough has been made of race factor in this election by the poobah's in The Chattering Classes (although some might argue otherwise). The cable TV newsers in particular have apparently bought in to that whole Pat Buchanan narrative that it is fear of the different -- those treacherous psychological waters, navigated by only the most expert of demagogues -- which motivated Senator Hillary Clinton's significant victory margins in those dying counties in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Ohio. Race, Buchanan would argue, is nearly irrelevant as an issue in this election when it concerns the white working class vote. How convenient! And the Obama campaigns reluctance to dwell on significant instances of racism - and there were some, we cannot fail to note -- is understandable though it unfortunately plays right into that corrosive Buchanan narrative presently dominating the cable newsers discussion of why Obama cannot close the white working class vote in previously reliable Democrat districts.

The Buchananites, though, are partly correct, even though their motives are wholly suspect. But -- and here's the rub -- clearly race played a part in the equation of those runaway victories so late in the Democratic Party process. Up to 19 percent of "The Scranton Daughter's" vote in the Pennsylvania primary -- a state not unacquainted with dying towns -- admitted that race played a factor in their decision in the quiet of the booth. The will and innovation needed to resuscitate those dying towns is tremendous. It is so much easier to appeal to the fighting instincts of the terminally ill ("For everyone here in Ohio and across America who's ever been counted out but refused to be knocked out") than to diagnose and remedy the problem, which is our dependence on foreign oil and the off shoring of the manufacturing industry. It is not an easy sell to the working class, but we must build green industries to replace the disintegrating manufacturing economy.

The too-smooth-by-a-whisker Mitt Romney offered - surprise! -- bromides to the Michigan economy in order to eke out his victory against John McCain. It didn't hurt that he, through his father and his childhood, is a known quantity in Great Lake State. Again, the appeal to tribe: you know me, Romney almost seemed to be saying; my father was Governor. The negative aspect of tribalism, of course, is the "He's-Not-One-Of-Us" campaign that the Republicans are so good at bringing off. And one, unfortunately, that is plays acutely against the first African-American nominee for President from a major party. Therein lies the tragedy.