One of the most influential commentators in the US now recognises that white working-class voters have changed en masse to the Republicans
On New Year’s Day, the economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman issued a series of tweetsin which he exclaimed as follows 😛 TAGEND
The central fact of US political economy, the source of our exceptionalism, is that lower-income whites vote for legislators who redistribute income upward and weaken the safety net since they are envision the welfare country is for nonwhites.
and then, a few minutes later 😛 TAGEND
And by voting against its own interests, the white working class isn’t just building itself poorer, it’s literally killing itself.
Was I psyched to see this! With some slight variations, Krugman was essentially re-stating the thesis of my 2004 book, What’s the Matter With Kansas ?, in which I said on the very first page that working people” getting their fundamental concerns incorrect” by vote in favour of reactionaries was ” the bedrock of our civic ordering; it is the foundation on which all else rests “.
Krugman has been stimulating some version of this argument ever since election nighttime 2016, and the reason I’ve been so pleased to see him do so is because I recall all the times he applied his editorial in the New York Times to proclaim this exact same arguing to be incorrect.
Specifically, Krugman said that the shift of working-class people to the Republican party was a myth and that it was not happening outside the south. The correct post on the subject, according to Krugman, was the one he attributed to his “Princeton colleague Larry Bartels”, a political scientist who knew all about working-class voters and their undying — even growing! — devotion to the Democratic party.
I know it seems incredible from today’s vantage point that anyone could have argued such a thing. But Krugman did, and repeatedly.
Here are some examples: a blog post from 2007; a column in the Times in 2008 (” Nor have working-class voters trended Republican over period ,” he wrote.” On the contrary, Democrat do better with these voters now than they did in the 1960 s “); his book, Conscience of a Liberal, published in 2007 and reprinted in 2009 and 2015; and a Times column in 2015, in which Krugman was still insisting that:” The working-class turn against Democrats wasn’t a national phenomenon — it was entirely restricted to the south .”
I know: Krugman wasn’t the only one saying things like this. Here’s a political scientist stimulating the same degree in tones of utmost disdain, seems to suggest that no serious professional in academia or prestige journalism could possibly disagree with him. And here’s Neal Gabler attaining the same statement in May 2016. Nothing to worry about from the white working class, liberals:” Most blue-collar workers still identify with the Democratic party .”
I hold Paul Krugman to a different standard than writers such as these, however. Usually he is able to see it when commentators conveniently discount evidence to the contrary or when they cherry-pick numbers in a deceptive style. And so I have been pleased to see him return to the routes of obviousness.
Now that he’s done so, however, he needs to take the clearly stated next pace and consider: what were the consequences of his former views? Krugman is, after all, one of the most influential newspaper columnists in America, a win of the Nobel prize, a respected social scientist, and a venerated figure among liberals and Democrats. What happens when a humankind of such stature repudiates evidence of a political shifting that has been going on in plain sight for 50 years?
I would go as far as suggest thatKrugman’s oft-repeated statement( and between him and the political science community it was echoed countless days) that white working-class voters were dependable Democrat helped to suppress inquiry on this important subject.
Let me be more explicit. We have just come through an election in which underestimating working-class conservatism in north governments demonstrated catastrophic for Democrat. Did the pundits’ repeated insistence that white working-class voters in the north were dependable Democrat play any part in this underestimation? Did the message Krugman and his colleagues hammered home for years help to distract their adherents from the basic strategy of Trumpism?
I ask because get that degree incorrect was kind of a big deal in 2016. It was a flub from which it will take the Democratic party years to recover. And we need to get to the bottom of it.
Thomas Frank is a Guardian columnist