Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Oregon: Obama 58%, Clinton 42%

Oregon: Putting
'White Worker'
Problem To Rest?

By Sam Stein
Huffington Post

Since much ink has been spent on Sen. Barack Obama's troubles with the white working class vote - "[it has been] painted as a fatal flaw in his campaign," as Keith Olberman noted - it is important to note that the Senator had big time success among that very constituency in Oregon's primary on Tuesday.

White voters - the only ones in the exit polls because the state is so homogeneous - went to the Senator in overwhelming numbers. In fact, every age group, except those older than 60, preferred Obama to Sen. Hillary Clinton. Obama, in addition, won the majority of voters whose total family incomes where less than $50,000 as well as all income groups, save for the smallest: $15,000 to $29,999. Union households, moreover, went to Obama by a margin of 60 percent to 37 percent.

Clinton, as has traditionally proven the case, bested Obama among those Oregon voters whose highest level of education was a high school degree, by a margin of 53 to 44 percent. But among Catholics, which have proven to be, perhaps, Clinton's largest and most sturdy contingent of supporters, Obama actually did better: 49 to 48 percent.

So what to make of it all? For starters, the conventional wisdom that Obama has a working class white problem should probably be replaced with the argument, which Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall has pointed to, that he has an Appalachia problem. Finally, it has to be at the very least noted that race is a factor, at least in some regions of the country. Ten percent of Oregon Democratic primary voters said that race was an important issue. Of that group, however, 51 percent still supported Obama.

In Kentucky, by contrast, 21 percent of primary-goers cited race as an important issue in their voting decision. Of that group, 81 percent supported Clinton.

[Sam Stein is a Political Reporter at the Huffington Post, based in Washington, D.C. Previously he has worked for Newsweek magazine, the New York Daily News and the investigative journalism group Center for Public Integrity. He has a masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and is a graduate of Dartmouth College. Sam can be reached at stein@huffingtonpost.com.]


Bill Baar said...

The question should be turned around a bit. Recall Obama's crushing defeat by Bobby Rush and you'll realize he was never that popular among the African American working class either.

It was only when Obama looked like a real winner after Blair Hull's collapse that ethnic pride caused them to turn out.

Obama still hasn't made the deal with the rest. The real question then is why. He's going to offer more then pride to close it.

Considering the reactions from those on the left who know him well, it's going to be a tough sell as Obama becomes better known.

Paparune said...

Obama's problems are not with white working class America. His problem is with white working class of Appalachia. Unfortunately, I do not think that those are votes that he will get because just like the black vote helped him in states like Georgia and the Carolinas, the redneck vote will never go for him in those areas and there are not enough black votes to make up the difference.

Oregon is a state of more progressive democrats and he recieved a broad coalition of support, including the white working class. That shows me that his problems in Appalachia have to do with the color of his skin, not his message.


I think that we need to get a little deeper on this question of the “white working class.” Sam Stein notes that it is more of a problem among Appalachian whites but then how do we account for Pennsylvania and Ohio? What West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania have in common is that they have been ravaged by capital flight (not free trade!) and technological innovation. These are the portions of the working class that remain in the AFL/CIO. Remember the split in the AFL/CIO? A group of unions called “Change to Win” left the AFL/CIO. Many analysts chalked this up to personal power politics but the basis for the split is in the economy. The Change to Win unions, generally speaking, are growing as a result of globalization while the unions remaining in the AFL/CIO are getting beat up pretty badly.

The Change To Win leaders put much less effort on supporting the Democratic Party and more effort on organizing new workers. The AFL/CIO unions are in dying industries and they have put their efforts into pressuring Democrats to oppose free trade.

Hilary was the beneficiary of this AFL/CIO support and like these workers she is backward looking. They are racist when they get confused about the cause of their problems. Despicably Hilary played on this confusion. But these workers unless they change have no future. Obama’s constituency has a future: educated workers who are not losing out because of globalization, (quite the opposite they are innovating and thriving), Afro-Americans who don’t have much stake in the old system and are use to innovating and changing as a matter of survival in a racist society, and the sectors of the capitalist class who don’t require violence and war to make profit. McCain, like Hilary represents the past, McCain of course is tied into the military industrial complex and represents those capitalist who need war to earn profits, oil companies, Haliburton, Kellogg Brown and Root etc.

What Obama needs to do to defeat McCain is find ways to speak to those economically and socially defeated workers in a way that offers them a future. He has failed so far because he is tailing Hilary on this. He should not have come out against NAFTA. He should come out against capital flight and capital mobility and explain to these workers the difference between importing and exporting commodities on the one hand, and on the other taking huge sums of investment capital out of the country. All the most naive can believe that NAFTA will be overturned.

To win these workers over he needs to start to define America in a new way, to create a narrative that takes the flag weapon away from the Republicans. He needs to build a narrative about the meaning of America -- an America that identifies itself in opposition to the military industrial complex.

To do this he needs to show how the war is the cause of the economic crisis we face. The housing crisis emerges because of a credit crisis. The credit crisis is the result of massive government borrowing to finance a war of choice not in our national interest but in the interest of McCain’s friends at Haliburton and Exxon/Mobil. The rising price of oil and gasoline is NOT the result of oil company greed. It is the result of the war which has disrupted the oil supply and investor confidence. This is a crucial point. There is no solution to the high price of energy except ending the war. The high price of oil has created a unplanned and unprepared for demand for alternative fuels which are now coming from our food supply driving up the price of food which was already rising because of the rising transport costs (because of the oil prices). As some have said it is the war-economy, stupid!
Obama must tie the war and the economy together in one knotty Albatross for McCain to bear unto defeat.

Carl Davidson said...

Western Pensylvania and Southeastern Ohio are part of Appalachia, although where the rust belt takes over from the coal mines.

Beaver County, where I am, on the W VA border, voted pretty much the same as West Virginia, 70/30 Clinton vs Obama.

Here in Raccoon Towmship, practically all white and largely working class, Obama got about 20 percent, which, having grown up here, I find encouraging. It's something to build on.

Don't count all these folks out. I've got hillbilly white workers right down the road with Obama signs in their yard; they're just outnumbered at the moment, and have an uphill battle.

I don't think they are going to be won over with class struggle or populist rhetoric alone. It's 'white male' identity politics, and clinging to its perceived-but-eroding status, that's keeping them away, not class. Obama could be running on a Labor Party platform, and too many of them would still have a problem.

The younger workers are not so caught up in the old identities--hip hop and all that, even out here--but deconstructing 'whiteness' takes some time and effort, and there's no gimmicks in getting around it.

Having said that, what gets Obama a hearing here is growing green jobs in new industries, militant support for veterans, and stopping the war--even better when he combines all three.

He doesn't do enough of this. He needs to take the Apollo Alliance program--the joint project of the unions and the environmentalist--and fully embrace it.

These workers are smart enough to know that their old steel jobs are not coming back. They also know alternative energies are the wave of the future, and all those wave and wind turbines have to be build somewhere, and they're more than ready to step up to the plate.

Programs like this will filter through all the 'secret Muslim, won't salute the flag' crap they're fed on talk radio, win over a good number, and isolate the older die-hards.

It's going to be a tough battle, but I'm hoping and working to get more than half of them into the Obama camp by November.

tillyoutdoorsman said...

guess what Iam a red kneck and do you now ho the pres,is going to be surprice its going to be obama because we stand for change the replub, has took a big dump on are country and we need change its about are country people not about race besides i have meet obama and he is a real nice man with alot of smarts. so i plede to you dont vote mccain he will screw us vote obama o8 thanks

My Zimbio Add to Technorati Favorites Locations of visitors to this page EatonWeb Blog Directory