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 non-deserving 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created by the disappointment of Obamacare and craft an effective message of Republican reform until they've shed some outdated assumptions about the electorate.
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