How to Appeal to the White Working Class

By: Mona Charen | Posted: October 29, 2013 3:55 AM
Mona Charen

The spectacularly dreadful debut of Obamacare represents the greatest political opportunity for conservatism and the Republican Party in two generations.

Big government stands rebuked. It has overreached, overpromised, and, embarrassingly, failed to deliver. Even if the website's gremlins are banished, and even if Obamacare purrs along like a BMW from now on, voters will be disillusioned.

They will be disappointed because the president and his party promised that the program would provide coverage to the uninsured, expand the services provided at no charge to customers, cover those with pre-existing conditions, oblige insurers to keep adult children on their parents' policies, remove lifetime caps, and offer free preventive care. At the same time, no one would pay a penny more (In fact, everyone's premiums would decline by $2,500.), and no one would lose access to the plan they were happy with or be obliged to switch doctors. Oh, and not a dime would be added to the deficit.

It's been said that the Democrats are the Santa Claus party. For generations, they've succeeded politically by delivering benefits and sending the bill to future generations. That is how we've accumulated a national debt that is, according to the commission appointed by President Obama, north of $86 trillion. (Republicans have contributed as well.)

If Democrats had structured Obamacare the same way -- benefits now, costs put off into the indefinite future -- they would not be in immediate trouble. But Republicans had succeeded in influencing the political culture enough that Democrats feared they could not pass another new entitlement (even one relying solely on Democratic votes) that did not at least pay lip service to deficit neutrality. That's how they came up with the convoluted tangle of exchanges, subsidies, mandates, taxes, regulations, and Medicaid expansion that is currently nose-diving.

Because Democrats attempted to keep Obamacare deficit-neutral, someone had to pay. Voters might have thought that privilege would go only to the rich. But substantial numbers of middle-income Americans are finding that the new law, rather than delivering a benefit, is taking something away from them. Some are losing money, as their premiums rise; others are losing coverage, as their plans are cancelled.

Voters may accordingly be newly receptive to the Republican message of skepticism about big government. But an opportunity is not a silver platter.

Writing in The American, Henry Olsen scans Andrew Levison's new book "The White Working Class" for clues about how Republicans can appeal to this group. Levison, a liberal, hopes to help Democrats craft their messages, but his research is consistent with that of Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics and others suggesting that white voters without college degrees are more hostile to free enterprise and small government than many Republicans would like to believe.

Members of the white working class, Olsen notes, are "suspicious of the idea that business leaders and financial experts have their interests at heart. ... Well over half believe that business makes too much profit and that Wall Street does more to hurt than to help the economy. Three-quarters believe that a few large companies hold too much power. These voters do see government as a problem, but they also believe that big government is not the only obstacle in their paths."

Working class whites strongly oppose free trade, immigration, and even (by 50-39) attempts by government to encourage "traditional morality." Sean Trende calls them Perot voters. They don't support the idea of big government, but they believe government should do more to help the needy, even if it means increasing deficits. Half agree that the poor's lives are hard because government benefits don't go far enough.

These voters don't identify with the Republican message of entrepreneurship and "You built it." They are not especially ambitious but instead want a secure job and reliable government services. They're offended when slackers, illegal immigrants and other nondeserving groups get government support (and that includes bankers and big business).

This is not to suggest that Republicans simply parrot what voters tell pollsters. There is always room for leadership, persuasion and principle. But Republicans cannot begin to take advantage of the political opening created by the disappointment of Obamacare and craft an effective message of Republican reform until they've shed some outdated assumptions about the electorate.

To find out more about Mona Charen and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at


Tags: News, Columns

Comments (3)

10:58AM OCT 31ST 2013
Ah, another far right adherent of the Michael Barone racist school of pushing the "white class" as the solution to the GOP's electoral problems . . . .

Oh, and by the way, Barone's already used the following "white class" lead-ins, so be original and come up with your own new ones:

1 - "Romney, Santorum Represent Different White Americas"
2 - "Can Mitt lure upscale whites back to GOP?”
3 - "Romney May Recapture Upscale Whites for the GOP"
4 - "GOP Shouldn't Panic If Whites Become a Minority"
5 - "To Win Burbs, Romney May Pick 'Double-Vanilla' Veep"
6 - "Obama pursues poor, not white working vote"
7 - "White middle class not in Obama’s base"
8 - "Romney needs big share of white working-class vote"
9 - "Romney and the White Working-Class"
10 - "Obama ignores white working class"
11 - "Obama ate grits in Ohio; that's about it"

Pathetic . . . .
William Penn
7:13PM OCT 29TH 2013
I live in PA. The most common symbol among the WWC here is the Confederate flag and a visceral hatred of Obama. They are all Republicans.
5:06AM OCT 29TH 2013
The writer's assumption that Repubs should embrace creeping socialism that White workers allegedly accept is anecdotal at best. Taking the indoctrination of children away from the government and educating them with facts instead of whack job liberal psychology would be the greatest step anyone could take to solve many of the problems in this country and within any political party.

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