That’s "the most durable reality of American politics," according to David Paul Kuhn writing in the Politico today. Kuhn argues — antithetically to Tom Schaller, who bid "So Long, White Boy" in Salon last month — that there can be no Democratic presidential victory without special attempts to woo white male swing voters by appealing to their "masculinity."
Kuhn’s new book on the subject is entitled The Neglected Voter: White Men and the Democratic Dilemma. Many of us will find the assertion that white men are "neglected" by any element of the American political process laughable, if not downright offensive. Indeed, the article is filled with questionable rhetoric aimed at whipping up panic over the strong possiblity of Hillary Clinton becoming the Democratic nominee. Kuhn approvingly quotes LBJ advisor Harry McPherson, who wrote in 1972:
Democratic primaries and conventions often rocked with the language of rebuke. Very like, it has occurred to me, the language many wives use in speaking to their husbands, particularly toward the end of marriages. You never think of the children, or of my mother, or of me; only of yourself. Substitute the ignored disadvantaged, the homeless, people trapped downtown. The reaction among husbands, for whom read ‘white male voters,’ is what is normally provoked by attempts to burden people with a sense of guilt.
Kuhn also nods toward Harvard University social psychologist William Pollack, author of Real Boys, a 1999 book widely (dis)credited with stirring up a national sense of "crisis" about the fates of middle-class white boys, when in fact, the boys who are truly struggling are African American and Latino. "Liberals didn’t realize they had a whole constituency of disenfranchised people without rights who were called standard masculine men,” Pollack tells Kuhn. Huh? In what America are white men "disenfranchised?"
But let’s also look at the numbers. Kuhn is correct that since 1980, "Democrats never won more than 38 of every 100 white men who voted." But he doesn’t grapple at all with the two main counterarguments to his claim that this is a major electoral problem for the Dems: First, Bill Clinton didn’t win substantially more of the white male vote than losers John Kerry and Al Gore. And second, to put this bluntly, white men are demographic losers. As John Judis and Ruy Teixeira demonstrate in their June 2007 Prospect article on the re-emerging Democratic majority, every demographic group that supports Democrats will increase in prominence over the coming decades:
Minorities made up 15 percent of the electorate in 1990; they are 21 percent today and are expected to be 25 percent in 2015. Their weight will be much higher in key states like California, Florida, and Texas. In 1970 single women made up 38 percent of adult women; today they are a majority. College-educated women have more than tripled as a percentage of women 25 and older since then, going from 8 percent to 27 percent. Professionals were 7 percent of the workforce in the 1950s; they are 17 percent today and are expected to be 19 percent in 2015.
I look forward to reading Kuhn’s entire book to see if it makes any more sense than this Politico teaser. Maybe he’s found a way to stop time so that white men remain the only constituency politicians should appeal to? Other than that, I’m stumped.
cross-posted at TAPPED