March 3 2014
The New York Times has a story on the gender gap today—only it’s not the gap we usually have in mind when we talk about lopsided gender voting.
Instead of yet another story on Democratic advantages among women, the New York Times highlights a usually overlooked gender gap:
Democrats Try Wooing Ones Who Got Away: White Men
The story reports that the Democrats are engaged in “an internal debate at all levels of the party over how hard it should be 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.”
The looming midterms explain much of the sudden interest in a group of voters that Democratic elites tend to dismiss as backwards:
Democrats generally win the votes of fewer than four in 10 white men. But they win eight of 10 minority voters and a majority of women, who have been a majority of the national electorate since 1984, while white men have shrunk to a third, and are still shrinking.
White male voters have been crucial in some past midterms, most clearly in 1994, when they helped Republicans take control of the House for the first time in 40 years, and again in 2010.
And this year, Democrats, hobbled by Mr. Obama’s sagging popularity, are defending many red-state Senate seats, including some in places with few members of minorities, like West Virginia. A big reason for Democrats’ emphasis on raising the minimum wage is the polling proof that the issue resonates with all groups, including white men. …
Some white men have proved to be within reach: single men, college students and graduates with advanced degrees, the nonreligious, and gay men. But working-class married men remain hardest to win over and, unless they are in unions, get the least attention — to the dismay of some partisans.
But Democrats need these voters more than these voters need Democrats:
“You can’t just give Republicans a clear field to play for the votes of white working-class men without putting up some sort of a fight because that just allows them to run the table with these voters, thereby potentially offsetting your burgeoning advantage among minorities, single women, millennials,” said Ruy Teixeira, an analyst at the left-leaning Center for American Progress.
No party “owns” a demographic. Still, it's interesting that the Democrats see the way to court these voters as providing a giveaway: raising the minimum wage, however, will eliminate an estimated half million jobs to marginally raise the earnings of a sliver of this group.