What a difference a couple of decades make. Appearing in Sunday’s New York Times was the headline, “Democrats Try Wooing Ones Who Got Away: White Men”:
Frank Houston knows something about the longtime estrangement of white men from the Democratic Party. His family roots are in nearby Macomb County, the symbolic home of working-class Reagan Democrats who, distressed by economic and social tumult, decided a liberal Democratic Party had left them, not the other way around.
Mr. Houston grew up in the 1980s liking Ronald Reagan but idolizing Alex P. Keaton, the fictional Republican teenage son of former hippies who, played by Michael J. Fox on the television series “Family Ties,” comically captured the nation’s conservative shift. But over time, Mr. Houston left the Republican Party because “I started to realize that the party doesn’t represent the people I grew up with.”
Now, as chairman of the Democratic Party in Oakland County, Michigan’s second largest, Mr. Houston is finding out how difficult it can be to persuade other white men here to support Democrats, even among the 20 or so, mostly construction workers, who join him in a rotating poker game.
Mr. Houston is part of an internal debate at all levels of his party over how hard it should work to win over white men, especially working-class men without college degrees, at a time when Democrats are gaining support from growing numbers of female and minority voters.
It is a challenge that runs throughout the nation’s industrial heartland, in farm states and across the South, after a half-century of economic, demographic and cultural shifts that have reshaped the electorate. Even in places like Michigan, where it has been decades since union membership lists readily predicted Democratic votes, many in the party pay so little attention to white working-class men that it suggests they have effectively given up on converting them.
Starting of course with the man who publishes the Times himself. In 1992, New York Magazine reported:
Not long ago, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., the 41-year old publisher of the New York Times, was greeting people at a party in the Metropolitan Museum when a dignified older man confronted him. He told Sulzberger that he was unhappy about the jazzy, irreverent new “Styles of the Times” Sunday section. “It’s very”—the man—paused—“un-Times-ian”
“Thank you,” New York Magazine quoted Sulzberger as replying, adding that the Times’ publisher “later told a crowd of people that alienating older white male readers means ‘we’re doing something right.’”
At least until the bill came due for such racialist thinking, which has since become near universal amongst Pinch’s fellow “liberals,” including elite Obama voters such as late screenwriter-director Nora Ephron, who wrote a piece for the Huffington Post on the 2008 election misanthropically titled “White Men,” in 2008, and the wall-to-wall racialism of today’s MSNBC. Or Timesman David Carr’s rant on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher in 2011, in which he vilified midwesterners as “the dance of the low-sloping foreheads” — all the more ironic given that Carr grew up in Minnesota.