May 9, 2016

Word: The Reagan Democrat myth

Neal Gabler, Moyers & Company

Now that Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, we are likely to get all sorts of mainstream media analysis about how his narrow pathway to Election Day victory runs through white working-class America, the way Ronald Reagan’s did, while the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, must corral young people, minorities and the well-educated.

In case you haven’t noticed, there is an unmistakable media bias in this – one that was framed perfectly in a Newsweek cover story by Evan Thomas eight years ago. It was about Barack Obama’s alleged “Bubba Gap,” and illustrated with a picture of arugula — and beer. Democrats, naturally, were the arugula eaters.

This idea that Republicans are “real” Americans and Democrats aren’t is now a generation-long meme in the media, and it has had tremendous repercussions for our politics. It used to be that Republicans were the effete ones and Democrats the salt-of-the-earth. Then Ronald Reagan came along and pried working-class voters away from the Democrats – the so-called “Reagan Democrats” – and suddenly the media reversed party roles, deciding that America tilted right, and that Democrats were elitists. This idea that Republicans are ‘real’ Americans and Democrats aren’t is now a generation-long meme in the media, and it has had tremendous repercussions for our politics.

I have no idea who will win the election this November, but I can pretty much assure you of this: we will be hearing an awful lot about Trump Democrats who, like those Reagan Democrats, may abandon the Democratic Party because they allegedly find it too high-blown.

But this is what you probably won’t hear: those Reagan Democrats, at least not as we usually think of them — urban, Rust Belt laborers — didn’t last much beyond Reagan. They were a temporary blip who didn’t realign American politics the way the media tell us they did. Trump Democrats might be something of a myth, too – a collaboration of the MSM and the candidate to portray him and his party as the agents of blue-collar, middle America because it fits the media’s stereotype of angry workers blowing gaskets.

Yes, Republicans control both houses of Congress, and, yes, they are dominant at the governor and state legislature levels. This, however, is largely the product of certain peculiarities in the American political system rather than any great Democratic defection or love of Republicanism: things like low turnout in local and midterm elections among minorities and the poor, who are likely to vote Democratic; subsequent gerrymandering of districts to benefit Republicans; absurd disproportions in which Wyoming, with its population of 584,000, gets the same number of senators as California with its 39 million; and the role of money in elections, as money generally flows more freely to Republicans than to Democrats for the obvious reason that the GOP’s benefactors have more to gain from the system.

If you just read newspapers and watch TV news, you would probably never guess that actually there are fewer self-identified conservatives in America than there are self-identified liberals, or that Democrats outnumber Republicans 29 percent to 26 percent in the latest Gallup Poll.


Walter Wouk said...

When Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008 the Democrat Party controlled the House, the Senate, and the Executive branch. Given the mood of the country at that time they were in a position to crush the Republican Party.

The could have gone after Bush, Cheney and their ilk for war crimes – they chose not to.

They could have rolled back the PATRIOT Act and the other abuses of our civil liberties – they chose not to.

They could have gone after the Wall Street bankers who trashed our economy – they chose not to.

The could have pushed through a Single Payer health care program – they chose not to.

The feckless cowards and collaborators in the Democratic Party establishment betrayed their constituents and chose to maintain the political status quo, and the end result was they lost the support of the people who supported them in 2008.

Anonymous said...

Neal Gabler is, and has been, a blatant Democratic Party polemicist bent on promulgating the latest Democratic Party line and this piece is no different. Gabler still writes under the mistaken assumption that the dominant political forces in the US are defined as either D or R. What's glowingly wrong about this latest screed is recognition that the major of working class/formally-working class Americans now identify as neither D nor R. This is now the era of the Independent, independents who invest little or no faith in anything institutionally Democratic or Republican. They simple have no reason or justification to trust either.
Politically we're fucked. It's down to which might do the least damage and with that thought in mind, the one best positioned to continue the present dismantling of our republic is the one most completely connected with the perpetrators of same---that being one HRC.
I, for one, refuse to sanction either and that I still be able to sleep at night I'll cast my vote for Dr Stein

Anonymous said...

And having just consulted other news, we came upon this item in today's Guardian. Mark this date, for this may well have been the moment when Trump really stomped all over his dick:
"The presumptive Republican nominee for president repeatedly said he would support a higher minimum wage, a reversal from his position when he had conservative opponents. But he insisted on Sunday that states should decide such wages.
“I like the idea of ‘let the states decide’,” Trump told NBC’s Meet the Press..."

There you go, what agent provocateur, er 'campaign consultant' urged him to say that?
The Clinton camp must be shitting themselves, this is even better than that hanging curve Bernie served up with "We don't give a damn about your e-mails"
You truly cannot make this kind of stuff up.
and on it continues...

Anonymous said...

I also support the motion that Democrats are scum. The only thing the Democratic Party has built for its erstwhile constituents are their political caskets.

The motion is carried; Neil Gabler is full of shit.

William Boyd said...

Most all of my spouse's family back in NE Ohio remain Ray-gun-ites. Yeah, they may well be outliers and if my 10-year-deceased mother-in-law were still around, she'd chastise them for their foolishness. For them all, it's "blacks" and "abortion" and "taxes." Visits up there continue to be very tiring, except when we take time out to visit Mom, a life-long Republican, who sadly sees no difference between that party today and back then.

Thanks for posting, Sam.

Anonymous said...

The Holy Grail for the GOP and its media partners is a TV actor Reagan landslide that captures the blue states. The problem is that Trump isn't a real actor. He doesn't get to win the role of president because he will just be himself and the actors in the GOP, like the Bushes will side with one of their own in Hillary.