Posted Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011, at 8:38 AM
Mickey Kaus slaps around my original post on the "Obama abandoning white voters" stuff. Three of his six bullet points are about typos, definitely a good way to start off if you want to make the case against "sneering." (Three misstyped names is unusual, even for me; for some reason, I substituted the name of old Texeiera co-author John Judis for new one John Halpin.) In classic Mickey fashion he saves the point for the final bullet:
Is it really true that Obama “isn’t switching policies in or out of a playbook because whites won’t vote for him,” as Weigel confidently asserts? Arguably, for example, Obama might have not delayed a decision on the jobs-producing Keystone XL Pipeline if he were as eager to mobilize a base of working class whites as a base of elite environmentalists. And he almost certainly would pursue an altered immigration policy–focusing more on protecting jobs from illegal undocumented unauthorized immigrant competition and less on suing states (like Arizona and Alabama) that have passed tough enforcement measures. …
The pipeline point sounds good to me; all of the Obama administration's environmental decisions, from the hiring of Van Jones on, take for granted an elite environmentalist argument that we'll all be fine in the long run if "dirty" energy production stops. There'll be green jobs for the poor saps whose coal mining jobs are gone. That really, really hasn't panned out. But if the administration has "abandoned" white working class voters for enviros, how do we explain the Daley-led reversal on ozone regulations? How do we explain the pre-BP spill change of heart on drilling licenses? I see the same Democratic embrace of enviros that we've seen from Carter on down, but I don't see an attempt to trade of white working class voters for Laurie David's campaign checks. The effort: Get some of one and all of the other.
What about immigration? Here, I think the Hispanic vote is being taken more for granted than the white working class vote is being alienated. A year ago, Mickey was trying to convince me that Democrats would use their lame duck session to pass comprehensive immigration reform. He declared victory (I was "revealingly wrong") when Democrats merely held a failed vote on the DREAM Act. They could have attempted more immigration votes in 2009, when there were 58 or 59 Democratic senators and a bunch of Republican squishes who could make up the lost votes of people like Ben Nelson, but they didn't. Instead, we've gotten the lawsuits against Arizona and Alabama -- clap your hands, La Raza! -- combined with a deportation policy that matches the numbers of the Bush era, combined with a big shrug on policies that would actually wave in illegal workers. The real work of keeping Hispanics voting for Obama is left to the Republicans, whom Democrats are ready to portray as totally heartless. (The fact that Obama did so well with Hispanics against John McCain must give them some confidence here.)
Anyway, I'm glad Mickey pushed back on this. What was seriously missing from some Edsall-inspired takes on the Obama strategy was what, exactly, it meant to "abandon" the white working class, or to prioritize one group of voters over another through policy-making.
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