John Judis of the New Republic thinks that President Obama has trouble with the white working-class because he’s a yuppie at heart.
I think that this is definitely one of Obama’s major problems with this demographic, but I’d add that his yuppie-ness combines with a couple of other factors to create the problem. Specifically, I think his race does hurt him with some of the white working-class, and I think that the long-term GOP strategy of identifying Democrats (all Democrats) with elitism is also partly to blame. These three factors, namely Obama’s class and professional background, his race, and his actual political affiliations and positions, interact to cause him major problems with the white working-class. As Judis says, a great politician could transcend the first factor, and learn to speak to people whose immediate concerns he does not truly share. It’ll be harder, or impossible, for him to transcend the other two factors, and so I think we can anticipate that he’ll always have problems with the white working-class demographic.
I think the best evidence that Obama’s problems with the white working-class go deeper than his yuppie-dom is that not every yuppie politician suffers from the same problems. Scott Brown, for instance, certainly has the make of a yuppie, at least if Obama does: He grew up working-class in a broken home, but went on to Tufts and BC Law, became an attorney, and almost immediately started a political career. He even has the looks of a yuppie! But he comes off as a populist, as a common man, or at least so it would seem. What are the other variables here, besides yuppie-dom? First, race; and second, and more importantly, he’s a Republican and thus can take advantage of the symbolism of driving a pick-up truck in a way a Democrat couldn’t, because the Democrats haven’t spent three decades trying to get working-class people to believe that driving a pick-up truck is more important than fighting for working-class interests.
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