Race, Not Class, Dictates Republican Future

Francis Wilkinson, Bloomberg, November 1, 2016

The class compositions of the Republican and Democratic parties keep evolving. {snip}

A Pew Research Center report last month detailed the shift.

Since 1992, the share of Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters with at least a college degree has increased sharply, from 21 percent to 37 percent. Among Republicans, 31 percent have at least a college degree, up only slightly from 28 percent in 1992. As a consequence, a greater proportion of Democrats than Republicans now have a college degree or more education.

In the New York Times last week, political sage Thomas Edsall called this process the “Great Democratic Inversion.”

What these figures suggest is that the 2016 election will represent a complete inversion of the New Deal order among white voters. From the 1930s into the 1980s and early 1990s, majorities of downscale whites voted Democratic and upscale whites voted Republican. Now, looking at combined male and female vote totals, the opposite is true.

A key word in Edsall’s analysis is “white.” Stories about the disaffected working-class supporters of Donald Trump apply almost exclusively to white voters. Other working-class voters–blacks and Hispanics–are poised to provide lopsided support to Hillary Clinton.

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There is no expansive, working-class rage in the U.S. There is white conservative rage (along with a more modest left-wing version). While it may burn brightest in deindustrialized America, conservative rage extends across class and educational demarcations, from blue collars to billionaires.

This complicates the story of the parties switching class allegiances. For Democrats, it leaves them managing an increasingly unwieldy coalition extending from white cosmopolitan millionaires who send their kids to private schools to low-paid Hispanic service workers and black factory and office workers facing economic dislocation. {snip}

Keeping that coalition pointed in the same general direction might be impossible without the dedicated efforts of the Republican Party. The GOP has proved incapable of breaking out of its racial straitjacket. So it has opted instead to tighten the straps around its torso.

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Republicans’ constant struggle with racism in their ranks, and their recurring failure to resist the temptation to exploit it, eases pressure on the Democrats’ sprawling coalition. The parties won’t fully exchange their class identities for the simple reason that working-class blacks and Hispanics can’t trust the GOP to represent them.

If it doesn’t diversify and become more accommodating to nonwhites, the GOP will only grow crazier and scarier, and its effort to wield power with the support of a shrinking white base will become even more extreme. {snip}

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