Working to Nab the Working Class

Diverse City
By SHAY STEWART-BOULEY  |  September 12, 2012

Just when we all thought America had become one big, happy post-racial society (cough, cough) where the content of one's character is the most important thing, the 2012 elections in the end might just come down to race after all.

Or not. I mean, that's what the media would seem to have us think; after all, anyone who caught the RNC and DNC happenings might conclude that depending on party affiliation, your view of America is either as a really diverse place or a really homogeneously pale one.

To be honest, the RNC was lacking in diversity. Sure, on stage they highlighted many non-white folks, such as Condoleezza Rice and Artur Davis, a former Democrat who went over to the other side. But looking out into the crowd, it was just a sea of middle-aged and older white folks. The DNC clearly won in their efforts to appear more diverse — after all, they had blacks, whites, gays, lesbians, Sikhs, you name it. On stage and off.

But I don't think race is the big issue. In this year of diverse groups with often divergent goals, I see this election quite possibly being decided by the working class, especially the white men of that class. Many of whom aren't exactly filled with hope and change as their way of life has gone with the wind; many of whom also trend a bit more conservatively. But Mitt Romney isn't exactly wowing these guys, because he fails at connecting with the average working stiff. Telling people you know NASCAR owners isn't the same as connecting with the average NASCAR fan. Obama is far closer to understanding the plight of the average working stiff, but he is still a Harvard graduate (as is Mitt). Obama's mother may have received government assistance when he was a child, but she did it while pursing higher education and still provided her son with some pretty exotic locales. Indonesia, anyone?

Both sides talk a lot these days about the middle class — but not nearly as much about the working class. In fact, it sometimes feels like both sides want to ignore those folks because when they aren't obsessing about the middle class, the rich or the poor seem to be the alternate topics of discussion. Somehow, those who aren't poor but are often living close to the edge and with little hope of even reaching the middle have come to be the topic of avoidance, and that leaves an environment ripe for disgruntled blue-collar, pink-collar, and similar folks to fester into something dark and ugly.

In a world that increasingly embraces diversity, ignoring a large segment of the population is disingenuous and dangerous. Particularly so when these days, the working class are living even more of a hand-to-mouth existence and are not happy with things like slow growth. Also, it's a group that only stands to grow larger as many members of the middle class slip into the working class.

I don't think that any amount of "God Bless America" from the Republicans, talking about NASCAR, or promising jobs without giving a real plan is going to win the hearts of the working class. Nor is Democratic talk about saving the auto industry going to be much comfort to people in other industries who watch their jobs vanish or move overseas, especially with mounting national debt and no solutions yet on how to fix the mess created during the previous administration.

It's an important group this election year, and perhaps one of the biggest sources of swing votes. The question is, which party is going to finally come out swinging with a message that speaks to the working class?

Or will both sides continue to give that group short shrift and just let their ballot-box choice be a roll of the dice?

  Topics: The Editorial Page , Democrats, Republicans, Condoleezza Rice,  More more >
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