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Paul Krugman: The Populism Perplex

Friday, November 25, 2016 10:58
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(Before It's News)

 What should Democrats do to win the votes of the white working class?:

The Populism Perplex, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: …what put Donald Trump in striking distance was overwhelming support from whites without college degrees. So what can Democrats do to win back at least some of those voters?

Recently Bernie Sanders offered an answer: Democrats should “go beyond identity politics.” What’s needed, he said, are candidates who understand that working-class incomes are down, who will “stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industry.”

But is there any reason to believe that this would work? Let me offer some reasons for doubt. …

Any claim that changed policy positions will win elections assumes that the public will hear about those positions. How is that supposed to happen, when most of the news media simply refuse to cover policy substance? …

Beyond this, the fact is that Democrats have already been pursuing policies that are much better for the white working class… Yet this has brought no political reward. …

Now, you might say that health insurance is one thing, but what people want are good jobs. Eastern Kentucky used to be coal country, and Mr. Trump, unlike Mrs. Clinton, promised to bring the coal jobs back. … But it’s a nonsensical promise…, there may be a backlash when the coal and manufacturing jobs don’t come back, while health insurance disappears.

But maybe not. Maybe a Trump administration can keep its supporters on board, not by improving their lives, but by feeding their sense of resentment.

For let’s be serious here: You can’t explain the votes of places like Clay County as a response to disagreements about trade policy. The only way to make sense of what happened is to see the vote as an expression of, well, identity politics — some combination of white resentment at what voters see as favoritism toward nonwhites (even though it isn’t) and anger … at liberal elites whom they imagine look down on them.

To be honest, I don’t fully understand this resentment. In particular, I don’t know why imagined liberal disdain inspires so much more anger than the very real disdain of conservatives who see the poverty of places like eastern Kentucky as a sign of … personal and moral inadequacy

One thing is clear, however: Democrats have to figure out why the white working class just voted overwhelmingly against its own economic interests, not pretend that a bit more populism would solve the problem.

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  • artichoke

    They don’t like Democrats (not just Obama — a vast number like this) who consider them “bitter clingers” with no right to local business and no right to object to government killing it on purpose. Is Krugman so stupid he doesn’t see this, or is he a propagandist?

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