Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The matter with Kansas

Salon is a lefty magazine, but I found an interesting article there on American politics. The author, Thomas Frank, observes that the economic decline in a state like Kansas hasn't led the working-class to move leftwards but instead to become conservative. The working-class, populist rebellion is focused on opposition to a liberal elite.

What interests Thomas Frank is that the powerbrokers on the left believe that they can safely ignore the rightward shift of the working-class. Why? Because they believe that they can rely electorally on a "coalition of the ascendant," namely upper-class professionals, minorities and millenials (Generation Y).
These days, the big thinkers of the Democratic Party have concluded that they can safely ignore the things I described. They’ve got a new bunch of voters these days — the famous “coalition of the ascendant,” made up of professionals, minorities and “millennials” — and it pleases them to imagine that with this unstoppable army at their back they will win elections from here to eternity. There is no need to resolve the dilemmas I outlined in “Kansas,” no need to win back working-class voters or solve wrenching economic problems. In fact, there is no need to lift a finger to do much of anything, since vast, impersonal demographic forces are what rescued them from the trap I identified. They now have the luxury of saying, as Paul Krugman did on the day after the 2012 election, “Who cares what’s the matter with Kansas?”

That's interesting. In Australia politicians still have to win over some of the working-class vote to get over the line. So they still have to be seen to care to some degree, at least around election time. But what happens when that's no longer necessary? It seems that the left-wing party can then drop the pretence.

Maybe we traditionalists will end up working amongst those left behind.


  1. "Maybe we traditionalists will end up working amongst those left behind."

    I think so.

    Right liberalism and Ayn Rand will have nothing for them.

    "Respectable" conservatism that concedes all the key cultural issues to the "coalition of the ascendant" is worthless.

  2. Well, they stopped caring about Kansas in truth a few decades ago when Kansas started to vote republican.

    What happened, by and large, is that the old "workers vs. bosses" divide, which used to get the democratic party votes, flipped when the new bosses were no longer republicans but democrats after the economy shifted to a service economy. In other words, the working class has, for a long time, voted on the basis of perceived "in group" solidarity over and against the identified "other" -- what happened is that the "other" switched from being the republicans to the democrats. This was helped by the widespread embrace of social liberalism by the democrats as well -- which is alienating to a lot of working class Americans regardless of where they live --> these people may resent well-off, educated elites, but by and large they aren't socially progressive, other than for a few radicals among them.

    When this shift first happened (1980 was the watershed election), the democrats floundered for a while. They lost the WH in 80, 84 and 88, and then won in '92 in a three-way race where no-one received a majority of the votes. Incumbency ruled in '96, and then the GOP won again in '00 (albeit razor thin) and '04, before the current situation emerged in '08. Until the rise of professional Gen X elites who were socially progressive, and now the millenials and the huge influx of Latinos in the last 15 or so years, the Democrats were struggling in national elections precisely because, despite their rhetoric, they simply could not connect with a huge percentage of white middle class voters -- voters who saw the Democrats as the party of the "other" (whether urban progressive elites, blacks, gays, etc.).

    So, after striking out so spectacularly with this group, they tried a different strategy based on the changing demographics, and it worked. The '08 election was the real watershed. Basically the strategic theory is that the democrats do not need to win the white vote, and certainly not the working class white vote, as long as they (1) win overwhelmingly the votes of non-whites and "sexual minorities", (2) win handily (although not overwhelmingly) among unmarried women of all races, (3) win (even if by only 5-10%) among voters under 30 and (4) maintain their advantage among educated white professionals in the top 15 MSAs. Basically, the strategy is -- win everyone else except white guys, and the white middle and working class in general, and blow them out among everyone who isn't white. It's working because the demographics have shifted and continue to shift -- more Latinos, more other non-whites in the US, more single women of all races. That's the kind of America they want to see, because that's the kind of America that votes for them, by and large. Yes, the educated elites do, too, but they're less than 5% of the voters -- they don't swing elections. The massive swathe of voters does, and that's where the Democrats have, by design, abandoned all but elite whites and single white women, precisely because these non-elite, non-single-women whites abandoned the democractic party in droves beginning in 1980.

    It's now payback time for the democrats, more or less.

  3. A lot of people have questioned Frank's assertions.

    The white lower classes still vote Democratic.

  4. Right-liberal parties only pretend to care about conservatives / traditionalists right before the election, then resume the backstabbing and betrayal immediately afterward.

    It is only unfortunate that the millennials and minorities haven't figured out that the Democrats have not helped them at all and do not deserve their votes.

  5. Kansas will probably be one of the last holdouts against the sissy-boy mafia. Right now they're crying because there's a bill out there which will allow private citizens to refuse to cooperate with gay nonsense if they don't want to.

    Apparently the 'liberal' position of freedom, equality, and justice demands you surrender yours so Adam and Steve can have their wedding cake. For all these people's whining about the 'one percent,' they don't seem to care much about the abuses arising from this particular one percent. Haven't been following the news much, but I wouldn't be surprised if Barry and his lackey Holder try to squish us.

    I remember when George Tiller and his cronies pretty much ran this damn state with his blood money, and 'decline' or not (I haven't looked at the numbers, but this sure as hell isn't the Democrat paradise of Detroit), I find this situation infinitely preferable.

    The world's more than money, and I'd rather be a poor, backwards peon than have my home run by some of these left-libertarian GenXers that have taken over places like Austin, the Northwest and Silicon Valley. Prosperity kinda sucks when you have GLAAD and the silly 'Freedom from Religion' types running the show.

    I'd support a Kansas/Plains/South/Rockies separatist movement if it meant staving off the idiocy that's overtaking the rest of the country.