Much has been written about America's "working poor." Yet it seldom went further than some "brushover" condolences and vague statistics. Do we know who these Americans truly are?
Henry Olsen evidently does! In his June 6th, 2011 National Review article, "Dangerous Dissaffection," he introduced the "Dissaffecteds."
According to Olsen's research, 77% are white. 89% do not have a college degree. Two-thirds are classified as "Independents." Most have leaned Republican in recent times. Pundits often describe them as the "blue collar swing vote."
The majority of these Americans earn less than $30,000 per year. 44% are parents. 63% of their households were impacted in a major way by the recession. 71% had a household member unemployed in the past year.
Per Olsen, 28% gave favorable ratings to Barack Obama. Only 22% had said that they would vote to re-elect him. This was at press time of the article. Could something have changed between May 2011 and November 2012?
It certainly wasn't the perception of the two parties. Republicans are viewed favorably by a wide margin over Democrats. In that same survey only 14% of those polled indicated their satisfaction with the federal government. Only 19% said that they "trusted the government to do the right thing always or most of the time."
At first glance, these voters would appear to be firmly in the Republican camp. However, negative vibes toward the left, doesn't necessarly translate to "staunch conservativism." Republicans discovered this in 2010; when they experienced election losses in some solidly Republican districts. So, what makes these people tick?
Perhaps it amounts to a better understanding of what they deem important! Most staunch conservatives see "a balanced budget through the elimination of government programs" key in economic solidity. Not so with these voters! Most would rather keep their programs and see a balance budget as a lessor priority. Primarily because, their perception of our political leadership is cynical at best! They need and count on their Social Security and Medicare! When any politician hints of entitlement reductions, they assume that they will be taking most of the brunt!
Opposition to entitlement reform isn't necessarily consistent with oppostion to lower taxes. Most side with Republicans on the need for both lower taxes and less liberalism. But conservative support does not extend to being the world's commissary! In layman's term, "taking care of Americans here at home, first!" As in, "charity begins at home!"
Olsen's findings revealed that while 59% of staunch conservatives seek program cuts, only 17% of Disaffecteds do. Only 34% of staunch conservatives wanted a combination of spending cuts and tax hikes, 65% of Disaffecteds did. And get this! Only 15% of "Disaffecteds" polled wanted to cut Social Security and Medicare for the purpose of deficit reduction. This was the smallest percentage of any of the Pew typologies. It was actually eleven points lower than voters classified as "solid liberals."
Here is another hint. Disaffecteds are not wild about free trade! New York-26 reflected as much when Tea Party alternative, Jack Davis made it an issue. These same voters swung several traditionally Democrat districts to Scott Walker in Wisconsin in 2010, only to do "a 180" and back Democrat candidates in a Supreme Court election the following year.
Is Disaffected synonymous with the Tea party? No. In fact, 67% have no opinion of the Tea Party, highest of any Pew group. While 72% of staunch conservatives supported the Tea Party, only 19% of Disaffecteds did.
Indications are that Disaffecteds have a slightly more favorable view of labor unions as compared to staunch conservatives. This is further reflected by the tally of 57% who indicated that "free trade" agreements were bad for America.
In short, Disaffecteds can be classified as "somewhat conservative," but not "very conservative." They decidedly find more common ground with conservatives than liberals. But, they are wary. Talk of "austerity measures" amounts to "what little they have will be taken from them." Or, as Olsen phrased, "Republicans cannot reform entitlements if they are seen as motivated by money or as imposing their abstract vision on hard-pressed Americans'reality."
Amazingly enough, Disaffecteds have been pretty much ignored by both parties. In spite of the fact that these "blue collar whites" make up 40% percent of the electorate!
Republicans produced a 2012 ticket that combined "Mr. Grey Poupon" with "right wing social engineering." It might explain how Barack Obama jumped from 22% to a second term!
Conversely, Disaffecteds aren't impressed with Democrats' promise of a "$10 minimum wage and a handout." Smart money suggests that they will not favor a Hillary Clinton
Presidency, unless the Republicans revert to the type of nominee produced in 2008 and 2012.
Much to the chagrin of Democrats, Obamacare may not make the cut with these voters. At best, some see it as a "wash." Most, however, view it as a "backdoor" cut to Medicare, thus a deal breaker.
Indications suggest that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Democrats in general don't have "their back." That's why they are open to Republican alternatives. The key will be to assure them that they won't be left holding the bag; on the short end of the stick!
Specifically, "make Social Security solvent and protect Medicare from expected pillage resulting from the Affordable Care Act." If Republicans can convince Disaffecteds that they mean business regarding these two concerns, they're in!
Any promise of "returning jobs to American shores" scores points with Disaffecteds. Pew polls suggest that while they may have protectionist leanings, they might be open to cuts in the corporate tax, if it produces more jobs.
Any talk of good paying jobs, such as energy sector jobs, not requiring a lot of education hits their hot button! Reducing a bloated federal government payroll will be applauded by these voters. Most become outraged when informed of the public to private wage/benefit disparities.
These Americans need a champion, a president who they can relate to. Ronald Reagan called described them as "ordinary people who did extraordinary things." His was based on genuine empathy for the average guy.
Do we have any candidates who can make that kind of connect with this critical, yet seemingly forgotten segment of America? For starters, what differentiated Ronald Reagan from the four Presidents who have since served in the White House?
Disaffecteds are obviously not "blue bloods." Thus, Ivy League credentials don't impress them. If anything, a President like Reagan lacking in such a pedigree might be seen as a plus!
Immigration reformers should be especially careful with these Americans. "Across the board Amnesty" is seen as a greenlight for increased competition for what few jobs have been available to them.
While Olsen's research reveals a mild oppostion to "overseas military adventures," it is suspected that many Disaffecteds are veterans. No doubt a lot served in Desert Storm and Viet Nam, not to mention Irag and Afghanistan. Reagan's explanation of "peace through strength" was understood and largely supported.
Republicans can win the 2016 Presidency, if they can connect with these oft-forgotten Americans. The questions are "how" and through "whom?"
In a personal way, Reagan presented a message that linked peace and prosperity to Federalism. When he proclaimed that "government, not people had lived too well," they listened. When he proposed to "reduce the cost of government," they correctly linked that reduction to wage cuts and layoffs for federal workers, not entitlement cuts. When Reagan talked about inflation as the "most cruel of taxes," they put it all together.
Defining Jeffersonism, then differentiating it from Democrat and Neo-Con Hamiltonism might be considered "too cerebral." It will depend on the messenger. The message itself is fairly cut and dry.
Hamilton was for the Partician. He believed that decisions of government were best left to the rich, powerful and the well educated.
Jefferson was for the common man. He concluded that the best defense against an American nobility was decentralization.
Today's Democrats and Republican "New Conservatives" share the Hamitonian paradigm. In a nutshell, it's either "you're not significant" or "we know what's best so do as you are told."
It effect, the key to winning the hearts, minds and votes of America's forgotten may be as simple as reminding them that they are not forgotten. Solvent Social Security and Medicare, affordable college tuition and real health insurance reform top their wish list. Also included are accessible money for mortgage financing and the basic services such as fire and police protection.
The Jeffersonian argument that "all can be better handled at the state level" will be welcomed and supported by Disaffecteds.
Closing the deal with Disaffecteds will be as easy as "believability." As with Reagan, they must first like the candidate. Then, they must be able to relate to the candidate. Finally, they must see evidence of a candidate's previous success.
Disaffecteds are not "low interest" voters. While overly cynical, they are more familiar with issues than one might think. When they conclude that a candidate can "walk the walk," as well as "talk the talk," they will happily jump on the bandwagon!
In recent times, Republicans were evidently not paying attention to this huge voter contingent. "Why" is a question for another day and a different post.It might have something to do with party leadership.
Democrats may have taken Disaffecteds for granted. Or, maybe the real truth is, they don't fall under the auspices of one of the Dems long list of special interest groups.
In any case, these "ordinary people," could yield "extraordinary" results at the voting booths! The question becomes, "has America's political establishment become so far removed from America that they fail to see "who" truly is America?
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