Friday, October 18, 2013

The Israeli-Palestinian “Distraction” Fallacy. By Evelyn Gordon.

The Israeli-Palestinian “Distraction” Fallacy. By Evelyn Gordon. Commentary, October 18, 2013.


Of all the popular idiocies perennially spouted about the Middle East, the one I find most outrageous is the idea that Israeli-Palestinian peace would foment change in Arab societies by removing the “distraction” of Israel’s “oppression of the Palestinians.” Or as the New York Times’ columnist Roger Cohen put it this week, “If Arabs could see in Israel not a Zionist oppressor but the region’s most successful economy, a modern state built in 65 years, they would pose themselves the right questions about openness, innovation and progress.”
Like many Middle Eastern tropes, this one is simultaneously too insulting and too forgiving. It’s too insulting because it deems Arabs incapable of posing “the right questions” on their own, treating their ability to do so as wholly dependent on Israel’s actions. And it’s too forgiving because it views anger at the “Zionist oppressor” as a valid reason for their inability to pose these questions, ignoring the obvious historical fact that numerous non-Arab nations have proven quite capable of posing these questions despite similar or even greater obstacles.
Taiwan, for instance, was founded by refugees driven from their homeland after losing a civil war that erupted immediately after the end of one of the most brutal occupations in recent history – Japan’s occupation of China. Since mainland China never stopped wanting to regain its errant province, the Taiwanese lived in constant fear of invasion. And they had the anguish of watching helplessly as their countrymen on the mainland suffered under Mao’s brutal dictatorship, which killed over 45 million Chinese. Yet none of this stopped the Taiwanese from building a flourishing economy and, later, a flourishing democracy.
Similarly, Rwanda has rebuilt itself into one of Africa’s most successful countries less than two decades after a devastating genocide killed an estimated 800,000 people.
Israel, of course, was established just three years after the Holocaust, and absorbed hundreds of thousands of refugees. During its first 25 years of existence, Arab countries launched three wars aimed at wiping it off the map, and it has suffered nonstop terrorism since its establishment. Yet none of this stopped it from building a flourishing democracy and a flourishing economy.
No less relevant, however, is the way Diaspora Jewry responded to the Holocaust and the subsequent existential threats to Israel – not by impotent rage, but by helping to create today’s flourishing country by building hospitals and schools throughout Israel and funding numerous educational and social programs. That’s something wealthy Arab states and individuals could easily do on behalf of their “oppressed brethren” in Palestine, and it would benefit Palestinians far more than spewing verbal venom at Israel would.
But of course, they haven’t. Western countries primarily fund both the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA, the agency that deals with Palestinian refugees. Wealthy Arab donors haven’t built state-of-the-art hospitals in Palestine like Hadassah or Laniado in Israel; Palestinians seeking top-notch medical care still go to Israel for it. They haven’t founded schools like the ORT network or daycare centers like the WIZO network, which still serve thousands of Israelis today.
And if Arabs haven’t done this in 65 years, when so many other peoples have, there’s no reason to think a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would suddenly make them start. This failure is entirely a product of their own culture. And therefore, change can only come from within.

Day of the Democratic Dead. By Henry Olsen.

Day of the Democratic Dead. By Henry Olsen. National Review Online, November 1, 2010. Also at AEI.

Populism, American Style. By Henry Olsen. National Affairs, No. 4 (Summer 2010).

After the Wave. By Henry Olsen. National Affairs, No. 6 (Winter 2011).

What the Working Class Wants. By Christopher Chantrill. Road to the Middle Class, November 1, 2010.

To Lead the White Working Class. By Christopher Chantrill. Road to the Middle Class, November 2, 2010.

On Losing. By Ronald Reagan. National Review, December 1, 1964. Reprinted in National Review Online, June 6, 2004.


There must be something unique to the concerns of the white working class, then, that liberal progressivism rubs the wrong way. What might that be?
One could try to discover the answer by recourse to recent polls. If one examined the Ap-GfK poll from September 6–13, for example, one would find that working-class voters believe that government intervention in the economy is more harmful than beneficial by nearly a two-to-one margin. One would also find they are more distressed about the economy and more likely to say they have suffered financially or that a relative has lost a job. Over half say President Obama does not understand ordinary Americans’ problems. It should come as no surprise, then, to learn the same poll shows Republicans leading Democrats by 22 points on the generic congressional ballot, whereas Democrats led Republicans by 12 points two years ago.
But such recourse cannot account for the recurring white-working-class swings toward the GOP in prior years. Issues change, yet the same pattern has recurred for over 40 years. Something deeper must be at work, something that operates at the level of values rather than that of ideas. To discern what those values are, we must make inferences from these past elections rather than rely on contemporaneous data; we must turn off our computers and rely on the Force.
When I started to do this, I focused on American voters. But I soon realized that working-class voters exhibit similar traits in other countries as well. Ask an American working-class voter why he supports Democrats, and he or she is likely to say it’s because Democrats support “the little guy.” Reading about English voters in Claire Berlinski’s biography of Margaret Thatcher, There Is No Alternative, I found the exact same phrase used by English miners to describe their support for Labour. When I found the same phrase being used by Australian working-class voters to describe their attraction to the Australian Labour Party, I decided I needed to learn more.
So I reached out to Patrick Muttart, former chief of staff to Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper. Muttart is perhaps the world’s leading expert on working-class voters in English-speaking countries, having studied their behavior and attitudes not only in Canada but also in Britain, Australia, and America. He has found that in each country, working-class voters may form the base for successful center-left governments but are crucially responsible for the rise of center-right leaders like Harper, Australia’s John Howard, and Margaret Thatcher.
He was kind enough to speak with me at length. He emphasized that working-class voters do not fit neatly on the traditional left-right continuum. They are fiscally conservative, wanting low rates of taxation and wanting government to live within its means, but economically populist, suspicious of trade, outsourcing, and high finance. They are culturally orthodox but morally moderate, in the sense that they don’t feel their lives will change much because of how social issues play out. They are patriotic and supportive of the military, but suspicious of foreign adventures.
Most importantly, they are modest in their aspirations for themselves. They do not aspire to be “type A business owners”; they want to go to work, do what’s asked of them, not have too much stress in their lives, and spend time with their families. They want structure and stability in their lives so that things are taken care of and they don’t have to worry.
Drawing on Muttart’s insights and my own thinking, I believe there are seven salient values or tendencies that are common to working-class voters across the decades. Call them the Seven Habits of the Working Class. They are:
*Hope for the future
*Fear of the present
*Pride in their lives
*Anger at being disrespected
*Belief in public order
*Fear of rapid change
Let me address each of them in turn.
Hope for the future: One of the striking facts about America is how readily we believe that we can prosper through hard work and our own efforts. Polls show that Americans overwhelmingly believe this to be true. These polls also show there is a high correlation between the belief that one is in control of one’s life and the belief that one can prosper through one’s own efforts.
Working-class Americans share classic American beliefs very strongly. They value economic growth because they believe they personally benefit from it. Unlike Continental Europeans, working-class voters do not envy the rich. They believe that Bill Gates has earned his billions, and while they do not believe they can become billionaires, they believe their children can.
Fear of the present: Working-class voters may believe that they and their children can move upward, but they are as or more motivated by their fear of moving downward. They recognize that their relative lack of education means they are at more risk of being laid off in downturns. Their relative lack of earning power means they find it harder to save for retirement, afford medical care, or pay for their children’s education. Their relative lack of specialized skills means they are more vulnerable to competition from unskilled immigrants and more likely to remain unemployed if they lose their job. This gnawing fear that everything they have built is at risk of falling apart is a central feature of their political identity.
Pride in their lives: Working-class voters are generally not a despondent group. Life is harder for them in many ways, but they take pride in who they are. They are not “bitter people, clinging to religion or guns”; they celebrate their lives and crave respect from the educated and wealthy classes. They flock to politicians who show genuine respect for their lives, and turn on those who display contempt or disdain.
Anger at being disrespected: This is the flip side of their pride. Working-class voters are very cognizant of their status in American life. They rarely occupy executive positions in their jobs and are consumers rather than producers of ideas. They feel keenly this relative lack of control over important features of their lives, and resent being ordered about as if they were merely pawns in someone else’s grand plan. They particularly dislike having their lives belittled as unsophisticated or inferior to the lives of educated or wealthy folk.
This anger can be expressed against big business, big government, or big anything. If working-class voters feel they are being treated as mere tools, they will react with anger whether the source of the treatment is an employer, a politician, or an academic.
Belief in public order: Working-class voters rely more on the public order to provide a structure in their lives than do upper-class voters. They can’t afford private security services or retreat to homes with large yards far from unruly elements. They live closer together and in closer contact with crime. Accordingly, they place a high premium on effective police and fire services and greatly respect policemen and firemen.
Patriotism: Working-class voters are highly patriotic. They love their country openly in ways that often seem odd and embarrassing to the educated class. They are likelier to express open support of and deference to the military (while simultaneously recognizing that “big military” is wasteful); their children volunteer for the military in much greater numbers than those of any other class. This is partly economic — learning a trade in the military is a better opportunity for them than for people who think they can graduate from college — but it is also genuinely patriotic.
This sentiment is particularly strong among recent immigrants. One way to show your devotion to your new country is to revere its symbols and institutions, and for the working class the military is perhaps the most accessible institution of all. Hispanics in particular enlist in the military, and it is no surprise that Republican presidential candidates who are strongly supportive of the military, like Reagan and George W. Bush, have fared best among Hispanic voters in the last 45 years.
Fear of rapid change: Working-class voters recognize that they are less equipped to handle sudden changes; consequently, they value stability highly. They fear sudden recessions and distrust sudden changes in government programs. Ronald Reagan, the conservative who has best understood the working class, put his finger on it in a prescient 1964 National Review article on why Goldwater lost: “Human nature resists change and goes over backward to avoid radical change.” Upper-class educated people may embrace risk and change, but working-class voters do not.
Now consider these values in the light of the primary features of liberal progressivism. Liberal progressives inherently crave rapid, transformational change; working-class voters abhor it. This was as true in the 1960s (the Great Society) and the early Clinton years as it is today. The impatience that characterizes liberal progressivism often leads to the impression that its apostles feel contempt and disdain for those who disagree; working-class voters sense this and react against it. Liberal progressivism requires high tax rates, not only on the rich but also on the middle and working classes (overseas, this is accomplished via the VAT); working-class voters know this will choke off economic growth and increase the financial stress in their lives. Liberal progressivism typically displays less concern with public order and the institutions that provide public order; working-class voters opposed this in the 1960s and 1980s when it appeared that crime was rampant, and they remain sensitive to it to this day.
Many of the Obama administration’s actions directly attack these core beliefs. Working-class Americans crave economic security, but they see an administration that talks more about health care and climate change than about jobs. The current recession exacerbates their natural fear of downward mobility, but they see an administration seemingly incapable of providing the very thing they want most from a center-left government. In the Henry Louis Gates and Ground Zero mosque controversies, liberal progressives saw an articulate leader defending individual rights; working-class voters saw someone who questioned the police, perhaps the bedrock institution that provides public order, and showed an insufficient degree of patriotism.
Some of President Obama’s personal habits also rub working-class voters the wrong way. The president’s urbane articulateness and emphasis on rational argumentation attracts many highly educated voters, but is offputting to the working class. His preternatural calm and seeming lack of emotion also work against him. These traits have been lampooned by Doonesbury and commented on in the recent New York Times Magazine profile, but historically, working-class voters have been drawn to politicians who connect with them on an emotional level, from FDR to Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton. They need their politicians to demonstrate warmth and humor; they respond to speakers who use example, story, and narrative as much as specific analysis to make their points. President Obama’s aloof and academic manner is the exact opposite of what working-class voters want in their leaders.
It is no coincidence, then, that working-class voters regularly turn from Democrats when liberal progressivism is on full display. In this election, with liberal progressivism on display as boldly as it has ever been, the reaction will be stronger than it has ever been. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Kansas; working- and middle-class voters just want something different from what liberal progressives offer.
Will the American middle and working classes’ turn to the GOP end the partisan and philosophical conflict of the last two years, or are there tensions between the conservative movement and those groups of Americans that remain to be worked out before a new, more stable political era is created? This is a topic well beyond the scope of this memo, but I will conclude by offering a sober, yet positive, assessment.
Conservatives often assume that elections like 2010 show America has a consistent conservative majority. I think it is more accurate to say that they show that America has a consistent anti-progressive majority. The task conservatives have today is to transform the anti-progressive majority into a pro-conservative one. This will be harder than it seems.
The American conservative movement was founded in explicit opposition to the progressive project. It was also founded on the premise that a return to the governing principles of the Founders’ Constitution was feasible and desirable. The first principle is anti-progressive; the second is pro-conservative. The dynamics of working- and middle-class attitudes I have outlined above raise the specter that these principles in their pure forms can be politically incompatible.
The same abhorrence of rapid change that fuels working-class fear of liberal progressivism works against rapid conservative political action. In that 1964 article, Reagan argued that conservatives lost not because of their ideas, but because liberals portrayed them “as advancing a kind of radical departure from the status quo.” Today’s Tea Party enthusiasts have displayed a desire for rapid transformation of public policy nearly as strong as that of the liberal progressives. Moving too far, too fast down this road will alienate the very voters who just came over to the GOP.
There are other, deeper tensions at work. Working-class voters crave order and stability. They value the degree of these things that the welfare state and public institutions have provided. They also respect entrepreneurs but have no desire to be forced to emulate them. They respect private economic activity, but fear that business will cast them aside in the pursuit of profits. A conservatism that conveys the message that we seek to abolish the welfare state or that people have value only if they enthusiastically participate as risk takers in a dynamic, turbulent economy will not appeal to them.
Conservatives often speak in language and propose policies that the working class perceives as threatening. Conservatives celebrate freedom, opportunity, achievement, being our own boss, entrepreneurship. Working-class voters want these things, but in moderation. They know that not everyone can graduate from college or own a business. They want a political and economic system that rewards and supports their modest vision for their own lives, rhetorically and practically. Conservatives must figure out how to reconcile their core principles with working-class desires if they are to form a lasting, stable political coalition.
We’ve done it before. Ronald Reagan in 1964 said “We represent the forgotten American — that simple soul who goes to work, bucks for a raise, takes out insurance, pays for his kids’ schooling, contributes to his church and charity, and knows there just ‘ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.’” He knew that to attract the working- and middle-class voter, “that simple soul,” conservatives need to express what they already believe, that the simple soul has value as a creature made in God’s image.
Reagan did this in both word and deed. His State of the Union addresses often featured a reference to a person in the audience. This person was invariably an ordinary man who had had a moment of extraordinary heroism, not a captain of industry or a great entrepreneur. When Reagan went to Normandy, he did not laud the genius of Eisenhower or the courage of Patton; he praised “the boys of Pointe du Hoc.” His celebration of average men and women who did their duty, and oftentimes more, reassured and inspired them.
His deeds also struck a balance between advancing freedom and respecting stability. Rasher conservatives often criticized him for failing to do more to reduce the size of government, but he understood, having been a supporter of FDR himself, how much the safety net meant economically and spiritually to the working and middle classes. He knew that his task was to plant the tree of liberty in the garden of Roosevelt. As he said in 1964, “time now for the soft sell to prove our radicalism was an optical illusion.”
His success is manifest. For nearly 30 years, politicians have labored to define themselves in the light of his legacy. Even President Obama was said he wants to be transformative like Reagan. Thanks to him, conservative sentiments are today stronger among the American people than at any time since the Great Depression.
Today’s conservatives have a rendezvous with destiny. The peculiar political challenge of our time — repairing our nation’s finances and avoiding national bankruptcy — requires us to reform our welfare state. This forces us to confront the tensions outlined above, and to do so in a way that reassures rather than frightens the vast American middle that has turned to us now in response to the last two years. If we seize this opportunity and act with principle and prudence, we truly can say we have met our challenge. In so doing, we truly will have “preserved for our children this, the last best hope for man on earth.”

Understanding Working Class Whites. By Henry Olsen.

Setting the Record Straight About the White Working Class. By Henry Olsen. The American, October 17, 2013.

The working class vote of 2012 has different concerns than the working class vote of 1979. By Tim Montgomerie. ConservativeHome, November 20, 2012.

Henry Olsen: The GOP needs to be more inclusive. Video. American Enterprise Institute, November 8, 2012. YouTube.


One of the most talked about groups in recent elections has been the white working class. Although the group has declined as a share of the nation since World War II, it is still very large at nearly 40 percent of the national electorate. Understanding its views and values is essential to political victory, so it isn’t surprising that politicians of all stripes are working hard to gain such an understanding. Andrew Levinson’s insightful new book The White Working Class Today: Who They Are, How They Think, and How Progressives Can Regain Their Support tries to provide his fellow progressives with a road map for success with a group Democrats have lost by double digits in recent elections. But the book is more valuable as a source of data and information crucial to strategists of all ideological stripes.
Levinson argues that the white working class, contrary to most elite opinions, is not a largely Republican constituency even though Republicans have won the group by double-digit margins in recent elections. He persuasively documents this with opinion surveys that show that these voters are less ideologically conservative than generally recognized. He further shows that many white working class voters hold contradictory views on most issues, views that blend themes from the right and the left. Accordingly, Levinson argues that progressives can target these “moderates” by changing their message from a “we know best” top-down approach to a “you’re right, and we’re here to help you” bottom-up one. This message can succeed, he says, only by engaging in a serious ground game that literally meets these voters where they live and brings their voices to Washington year-round.
Levinson is at his best when describing the attitudes and lives of today’s white working class. Census data, for example, demonstrates that white working class voters earn less and work more in physically demanding jobs than do more educated whites. Working class men and women are very likely to work in jobs that pay them an average of $21,000 (women) to $31,000 (men) a year. At these wages, it would take two full-time average jobs for a family to earn the median American family income, which perhaps explains why divorce rates are much higher among working class couples today. A single working class mother, however, must be under even greater stress. With her meager earnings, she is highly likely to require government aid to pay for medical care and child care, which places the Obama campaign’s Julia film (and his electoral success among single women) in its proper context.
The Working Class Divide: Big Ten versus SEC
All members of the white working class are not alike, of course, and it is essential to look carefully at their differences. The most important but overlooked traits are religion and region.
There is a very large difference between how southern and non-southern working class whites vote, one Levinson indirectly points toward. He finds, as one might expect, that evangelicals hold more conservative views on most issues than do mainline Protestants, especially those dealing with morality and religion. But on core issues of the size of government or the need for government to help the poor, both branches of Protestantism are largely in agreement, only slightly favoring a smaller government and largely supporting more help for the needy even if it means going further into debt. These findings give Levinson hope that progressives can win moderate working class voters.
However, it is not clear whether Levinson has much to worry about. Only 20 percent of evangelicals hold a BA or higher, which means that attitudes specific to evangelicals are more likely to be found among working class voters. But since evangelicals disproportionally live in or near the South, that means as an electoral matter their views (and their Republican voting patterns) are more of a southern phenomenon than a working class one. Other working class voters who live in large numbers outside the South are less socially conservative and less focused on religion, and hence are less likely to vote Republican.
A deeper dive into the data sources Levinson examines further documents this North-South white working class divide. White Catholics, a group Levinson curiously overlooks, represent about 17 percent of Americans and are a much higher percentage in key midwestern swing states such as Michigan, Iowa, and Wisconsin. The Pew data for Catholics show they are much closer to mainline Protestants than evangelicals on social and economic issues. Since most working class whites living outside the South and border states are either Catholics or mainline Protestants, one would expect to find that support for Democrats and President Obama is much greater among northern and midwestern working class whites than among southerners.
That is in fact what the data show. Political scientist Larry Bartels, writing in the respected electoral blog The Monkey Cage, finds that President Obama won a majority among non-southern whites in households earning less than $45,000 a year. The president’s margin among Levinson’s core working class white households — those earning $30,000 a year or less — rises to 55 percent. This figure is supported by exit poll data cited by the National Journal’s Ron Brownstein that shows President Obama carried whites without a college degree in Iowa, received 49 percent of their votes in New Hampshire, and 45 percent in Wisconsin. In each state, between 52 and 55 percent of residents are either mainline Protestant or Catholic. Unless Levinson hopes for even larger margins, it seems progressives already are attractive to moderate, non-evangelical working class whites.
The Conservatives’ Midwestern Mind
These findings suggest that conservatives, not progressives, are the ones in need of an electoral strategy to capture this key segment of the electorate. The data Levinson provides should serve as a starting point for any thoughtful conservative who wants to regain the White House and the Senate.
Conservatives currently rely on three primary messages to reach these non-evangelical white working class voters. First, delegitimize government by arguing that it is unable to help them get ahead and raise their families whereas the private sector can. Second, argue that when government does act, it too often does so on behalf of undeserving groups, usually illegal immigrants and those who refuse to work. Third, emphasize that conservatives stand on the side of religious liberty and traditional moral values. However, data show that the white working class is not nearly as receptive to these messages as many conservatives hope.
The data show that the white working class does not like government, but has serious questions about whether it can get ahead in today’s economy. A 2011 Washington Post poll found that 43 percent of whites without college degrees believed that hard work was no longer a guarantee of success. Nearly half thought they did not have the education or skills to compete in today’s job market. Attitudes like this strongly suggest that many working class whites do not instinctively see personal benefits flowing from an untrammeled market.
Many members of the white working class are particularly suspicious of the idea that business leaders and financial experts have their interests at heart. Levinson cites data for the white working class from a 2011 Pew survey, Beyond Red vs. Blue, that shows that well over half believe that business makes too much profit and that Wall Street does more to hurt than to help the economy. Three-quarters believe that a few large companies hold too much power. These voters do see government as a problem, but they also believe that big government is not the only obstacle in their paths. 

Working class whites also hold more nuanced views on immigration and government’s role to provide for the poor than conservatives usually surmise. Levinson shows that large majorities of working class whites think increased immigration is bad for America and favor increased border security rather than immigration reform. But they also strongly oppose free trade agreements. Pew found that the poorest and least-educated part of the white working class, labeled “Disaffecteds,” think free trade agreements are bad for the United States by a two-to-one margin. These people are being pressed by competition from foreigners at home (immigration) and abroad (free trade), and they don’t like it. Conservatives therefore often do not gain the political advantage on immigration that they seek because their free trade views convince working class whites that conservatives are not on their side.
Working class white attitudes toward government help for the poor are also nuanced. The Pew study found that half of the white working class believes poor people have hard lives because government benefits don’t go far enough and that government should go deeper into debt to help needy Americans. This attitude exists even among usually conservative evangelicals.
Most importantly, delegitimizing government does not cause the white working class to distrust or oppose all government activity, especially those programs that directly impact them. For example, the Pew survey found that 82 percent of “Disaffecteds” oppose cutting Social Security and Medicare to help reduce the federal budget deficit. Only 17 percent favor focusing on cutting major programs to reduce the deficit compared with 59 percent of “Staunch Conservatives.”
Conservatives since 1980 have hoped to garner the votes of these economically moderate voters by emphasizing “social issues.” It is true that white working class voters are likely to say that religion is an important part of their lives, and even among Pew's economically distressed “Disaffecteds,” 41 percent say they attend religious services at least weekly. But that formal religious commitment does not extend to making social issues a top voting priority.
Levinson’s data show that the white working class is at best morally moderate. Only 52 percent of whites who have never attended college say that a belief in God is needed to live a moral life. They oppose efforts to get government more involved in protecting traditional morality by a 50-39 percent margin. On homosexuality, 55 percent of whites with a high school degree or less think homosexuality should be accepted by society.
Data for non-evangelical whites with no college experience are not provided, but we should assume given what the data do show about evangelicals generally that these numbers would be even more tilted towards the moral moderation of mainline Protestants and Catholics in this group. Outside of the South and evangelical outposts, then, the stereotypical Reagan Democrat simply doesn’t exist.
These data should not come as a surprise to conservatives or the GOP political class. Canadian conservative political wunderkind Patrick Muttart discovered these trends of economic and moral moderation among the Canadian white working class, especially its Catholic members, back in the middle of the last decade. He used that information to propel Prime Minister Stephen Harper to three straight election wins. Real Clear Politics’ Sean Trende has noted that Ross Perot in 1992 hiked turnout and got a large vote share in regions of the country dominated by white, non-evangelical working class voters by running on such an economically and socially moderate platform. This “Perotlandia” is also the part of the country that saw the largest declines in turnout between 2008 and 2012. Nevertheless, I suspect these data remain shocking to most on the right.
Do Conservatives Really Love Raymond?
Conservatives ought to be worried about these findings, but they ought to be more worried about the moral consensus that animates them. Today’s conservative movement increasingly emphasizes “getting ahead,” “owning your own business,” and economic dynamism as essential to the American dream. That’s what “you built that” was all about. For whites without any college education, however, these are largely alien concepts.
Levinson does a great job in outlining the moral worldview of these voters. They aren’t simply not attracted to these goals; they define themselves in opposition to these goals.
Levinson draws on ethnographic studies to show that for the typical white working class person, family and stability are more important than career and upward mobility. They saw their middle-class bosses as people who “worried all the time,” were “cold and snobbish,” and as “arrogant, very arrogant people.” They saw their work as “just a job,” not a rewarding activity of itself. As befits people who work in teams and do heavy labor, they saw collegiality and practical knowledge to be of greater worth than individual striving and theoretical knowledge. Levinson describes this combination as a “distinct combination of viewing work, family, friends, and good character as central values in life while according a much lower value to wealth, achievement, and ambition.”
Perhaps this is the conclusion of a progressive seeing the white working class world through very rose colored glasses. But why, then, did ├╝ber-conservative Patrick Muttart find exactly the same values among white workers in his studies?
Muttart expressed nearly identical sentiments in an extended interview he gave me in 2010. Working class whites, he told me, are fiscally conservative (low taxes) but economically populist (suspicious of trade, outsourcing, and high finance). They are culturally orthodox but not generally concerned with social issues because their lives won’t change much no matter the outcome. Most importantly, they are modest in their aspirations for themselves. They do not aspire to be “Type A business owners”; they want to go to work, do what’s asked of them, not have too much stress in their lives, and spend time with their families. They want structure and stability in their lives so that things they need are taken care of and they don’t have to worry.
If Muttart and Levinson are correct, and I think they are, then both parties have huge problems attracting these voters. But conservative Republicans have the greater problem because these voters have resisted orthodox Republican economic policies, such as reducing entitlement spending, for decades.
Packers and Lions and Bears: Oh My!
Conservatives who want to regain the presidency cannot ignore these facts. The road to the White House runs through the working class voter, whether he is white and non-evangelical, as is the case in the Midwest, or Hispanic and marginally Catholic, as is the case in Florida, Colorado, and Nevada. To win their votes, conservative Republicans must first win their trust.
They can do that if they demonstrate that they understand and respect the moral underpinning of working class life. That moral view places emphasis on hard work and effort and gives respect to those who perform it, regardless of how much money is directly earned. It is one that emphasizes that life is about much more than making money or getting ahead: it’s about family, friends, and experiencing the time we have on Earth. Such views cannot be derided as “whiling away the time”; they are central to the working class world and must be respected.
These views lead to a substantial, but not a dominant, role for government in people’s lives. Government should be prepared to help people where they cannot always help themselves, through regulation and redistribution if necessary. Even school vouchers, a conservative Holy Grail, is at heart a redistributive policy that taxes the well-off to give money to the working class to afford a decent education for their kids.
But a conservative theory of government will be substantially different from a progressive one because conservatives understand better than do progressives that working class voters are makers of their own lives. A conservative approach would emphasize that help would only go to those who help themselves and to those who need it. That means strong work and behavior conditions attached to entitlements and welfare policies, and sharply reducing corporate welfare and tax deductions for the well-to-do. A conservative approach would reduce where possible government’s monopoly provision of services and let people choose from among providers competing for their favor. A conservative approach would recognize that citizenship means more than voting, and accordingly do more to help people whose lives are unduly stressed because of economic dislocation.
Progressives offer the working class handouts and hands-on regulation of their lives. Libertarian-inspired Republicans offer them a hands-off society that is indifferent to their fate. Conservatives should offer them a new deal. They should offer them what they really want: a hand up.

The War Between the Tea Party and K Street. By Ezra Klein and Tim Carney.

The war between the Tea Party and K Street. By Ezra Klein and Tim Carney. Washington Post, October 11, 2013. Also here.

The Hipster Global Political Economy of Karl Marx. By Daniel W. Drezner.

The Hipster Global Political Economy of Karl Marx. By Daniel W. Drezner. Foreign Policy, October 15, 2013. Also here.

A Generation of Intellectuals Shaped by 2008 Crash Rescues Marx From History’s Dustbin. By Michelle Goldberg. Tablet, October 14, 2013.

The Empire Shuts Down: Lord Vader’s Confidential Memo. By Michael Peck.

The Empire Shuts Down: Lord Vader’s Confidential Memo. By Michael Peck. Foreign Policy, October 16, 2013. Also here.

Helpful hints on what to do when The Force gets furloughed.

Meet China’s Beverly Hillbillies. By Rachel Lu.

Meet China’s Beverly Hillbillies. By Rachel Lu. Foreign Policy, October 15, 2013. Also here.

Curiosity Set Sail With Columbus. By Joyce Appleby.

Curiosity set sail with Columbus. By Joyce Appleby. Los Angeles Times, October 13, 2013. Also here.

A GOP House Divided Cannot Govern. By Michael Gerson.

A House Divided Cannot Govern. By Michael Gerson. Real Clear Politics, October 18, 2013. Also at the Washington Post.