April 25, 2008

Working Class Heroes: From this morning's local paper of record:
Some analysts question whether Democrats need to make big inroads among blue-collar voters. Clay F. Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said that Clinton's focus on the working class is a distraction, because Republicans tend to win among such voters.

Democrats John F. Kerry in 2004 and Al Gore in 2000 lost with that group by more than 20 points, he said. Even former President Clinton did not win among white men. "Obama doesn't have to win the working class," said Richards, referring to white voters without college educations. "He just has to cut Democrats' losses."
And this, from a 2006 article in the liberal American Prospect:
The key weakness of the progressive coalition can be summarized easily: very weak support among white working class voters (defined here as whites without a four-year college degree). These voters, who are overwhelmingly of moderate to low income and, by definition, of modest credentials, should see their aspirations linked tightly to the political fate of the progressive movement. But they don't.
Leaving aside the truthiness of the above passages, I've noticed that definitions of "working class" or "blue collar" used by the punditocracy in this country have tended to be based not on what a person does (ie., "work") but on what they didn't do (ie., attend college, or earn a degree, for that matter). There are a few high-paying jobs (baseball player, supermodel, etc.) for which a college education is superfluous, while many union jobs either require a college degree (like teaching) or some amount of post-high school continuing education; in neither instance does this new definition of "working class" seem to fit. Are we to surmise that those terms have now become euphemisms of a sort, a way that the media and pols can condescend to the less-educated without actually calling them "stupid"?

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