The White Man's Recession

A noteworthy opinion piece in the LA Times...

Revenge of the white men
Victims of the 'he-cession' are turning against the Democrats, and that could sway the November elections.

By David Paul Kuhn

I thought we were calling it the "man-cession," not the "he-cession." But the numbers are fairly stark. This is a white man's recession, with other men also taking a substantial hit.

This recession remains disproportionately a "he-cession." Men account for at least 7 of 10 workers who lost jobs, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Blue-collar men have suffered 57% of the job losses. And blue-collar white men, who make up only 11% of the workforce, constitute 36% of those who have lost jobs. In total, nearly half of the recession's casualties are white men, having held 46% of all jobs lost.

They crossed party lines. They believed Obama when he offered them "hope." And he's gone out of his way to sell them out.

The migration of white men from the Democratic Party was evident in the election of Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts. His opponent won 52% of white women. But white men favored Brown by a 60%-to-38% margin, according to Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates polling. Once again, Democrats could not win enough other votes to compensate for the white male gap.

It's no accident that the flight of white males from the Democratic Party has come as the government has assumed a bigger role, including in banking and healthcare. Among whites, 71% of men and 56% of women favor a smaller government with fewer services over a larger government with more services, according to ABC/Washington Post polling.

Obama's brand of liberalism is exactly the sort likely to drive such voters away. More like LBJ's than FDR's, Obama-style liberalism favors benefits over relief, a safety net over direct job programs, healthcare and environmental reform over financial reform and a stimulus package that has focused more on social service jobs -- healthcare work, teaching and the like -- rather than the areas where a majority of job losses occurred: construction, manufacturing and related sectors.

It's worth thinking about exactly why whites, and especially white men, seem to be against bigger government and expansions of social services. Once upon a time, it was easy to blame it on the "haves" being unwilling to shell out for the "have nots." That's still part of it. But if these guys are increasingly unemployed or underemployed, what is it about their culture that makes them sneer like Walt Kowalski when they hear about proposed social programs -- like healthcare -- that may even benefit them in the short term? Is it because they're all saavy economists who understand what will happen to the market or to the value of a dollar over the long term? Not likely. The Glenn Becks of the world wrap it all up in a red, white and blue bow and invoke the intentions of the founding fathers, but this too is only part of the picture.

I suspect it has something to do with our idea of manhood.

Becoming a man is about becoming independent. (This is true in many cultures, not solely for white men.) Big government offers more and more dependence. A waning sense of independence is a waning sense of manhood.

A week or so ago I was making a delivery to a local relgious university. I had an armful of awkward stuff, and I was struggling a bit to get in the door. My client, the athletic director, didn't budge. His young, female workstudy student finally jumped out in front of him to grab the door for me, but I had already made it through.

"Why didn't you get the door for him?!," she said, surprised.

"Because when a man is challenged with something the last thing he wants is for some other guy to jump in at the last minute to rob him of his sense of accomplishment," he observed.

I nodded approvingly.

"Oh, you MEN!," the student giggled as she shook her head.