By THOMAS B. EDSALL
For decades, Democrats have suffered continuous and increasingly severe losses among white voters. But preparations by Democratic operatives for the 2012 election make it clear for the first time that the party will explicitly abandon the white working class.
All pretense of trying to win a majority of the white working class has been effectively jettisoned in favor of cementing a center-left coalition made up, on the one hand, of voters who have gotten ahead on the basis of educational attainment — professors, artists, designers, editors, human resources managers, lawyers, librarians, social workers, teachers and therapists — and a second, substantial constituency of lower-income voters who are disproportionately African-American and Hispanic.
The obvious question is whether Republicans will, in response, do anything to motivate working class whites to go to the polls other than to promise to cut taxes on billionaires?
We know what one successful campaign that mobilizes the less intellectual white voters to get off the couch and vote looks like: George H.W. Bush in 1988: Willie Horton, the Pledge of Allegiance, and other small but evocative issues that succeeded in defining, crudely but not inaccurately, Dukakis. We also know the fear and loathing this successful effort to engage mass interest in the election inspired in media elites, who have demonized that strategy ever since. We also know what an impotent Republican strategy respectful of media taboos looks likes: John McCain in 2008.
Perhaps someday, we might even see a substantive campaign to offer positive policy solutions to benefit the broad middle of the American public.