During the past four decades, there has been a fairly consistent trend among white male voters who do not possess a college degree to favor GOP, especially in presidential and state-wide elections. This trend has become especially pronounced in the South where, ever since the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Democratic Party has become increasingly a minority party, while the number of GOP voters and office holders has expanded exponentially. Increasingly also over the past four decades, in the economically-distressed and hollowed out-towns and cities of the Midwest and the Northeast, white males in these regions have also begun to defect to the GOP.
President Obama's performance has been consistent with the support Democratic presidential candidates have received in the past four decades. In 2008, despite a very weak GOP presidential candidate and the onset of the Great Recession, President Obama garnered a mere 41% of the total white male vote across the U.S. His support was even lower among white males without a college education - at 39%.nationwide. According to Reuters/Ipso poll conducted between October 1 to October 7, 2012, as reported by Samuel Jacobs ("Romney relies on shrinking pool of white male voters" October 11, 2012), likely white male voters polled in this election favor Romney 55.5 percent to 31.9 percent while six percent of likely male voters said they were undecided.
These voting trends among white males need to be viewed in the context of the economic data. According the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2010 median household income declined, the poverty rate increased and the percentage of those without health insurance coverage was unchanged from the previous year. Real median household income in the United States in 2010 declined 2.3 percent decline from the 2009 median. That same year, the nation's official poverty rate was 15.1 percent, an increase from 14.3 percent in 2009 and that was the third consecutive annual increase in the poverty rate.
In addition, there were 46.2 million people in poverty in 2010, as opposed to 43.6 million Americans in 2009. That figure was the fourth consecutive annual increase and the largest number in the 52 years for which poverty estimates have been published. Equally a source for concern, the number of people without health insurance coverage rose from 49.0 million in 2009 to 49.9 million in 2010, while the percentage without coverage -16.3 percent - was not statistically different from the rate in 2009.
Although the poverty rate for non-Hispanic white males and females in 2010 was still lower than it was for other racial groups, there was a more startling statistic embedded with the economic report: The wages of white male workers employed full-time, when based in 2010 dollars and after adjusting for inflation, had actually declined by $8.44 per week: In 1973, the median earnings of white males workers employed full-time was $50,074 as opposed to $50,523 in 2010.
There is an obvious and undeniable link between the voting patterns of white males and their abandonment of the Democratic Party: economic insecurity and fear. Over the past four decades, a war has been waged against white males who have felt, in response, increasingly ignored, stigmatized and under siege. In the past decades, the Democratic Party policies have been shaped by a well-educated and prosperous elite who have never worked in factories, struggled to be paid a living wage, and have little understanding of the daily travails faced by workers who intuitively understand that their chance and their children's chances to ascend the economic ladder and to enjoy the American Dream are ineluctably slipping away. In addition, these same white males - who have never wielded the swords of economic or political power - have been the excoriated as malevolent bigots or proponents of white patriarchy by single-agenda advocates who would never dare to level such accusations at the true defenders of privilege and the economic status-quo -e.g., Michael Blomberg, who condemned the Occupy Wall Street movement but muttered not a word of criticism about Jon Corzine, or Robert Rubin, who accused Joseph Stiglitz, after he advocated cuts to corporate welfare during the Clinton administration, of wanting to wage class warfare.
Sadly, as the Democratic Party correctly moved to expand the horizons of opportunity for all Americans, and has supported essential initiatives to ensure civil rights for all groups including blacks, Latinos and Gay and Lesbians, it has failed to remain faithful to its working class roots that were forged with sweat and blood from the beginning of the Progressive Era through the New Deal and the Fair Deal of Harry Truman. Thoese struggles by labor to vindicate the rights of workers were by far the most tumultuous and violent among countries in the entire Western world as workers were brutalized and murdered by armies of Pinkerton detectives, private armies of thugs, and police and National Guard militias summoned by governors and mayors at the behest of their corporate benefactors.
The Right in the United States has never ceased in its efforts to reduce the role of government to a passive player that would merely ratify and support the interests of corporations and the wealthy. In 1947, the Taft Hartley Acts of 1947 was passed over President Truman's veto. As a result of that legislation, corporations began an inevitable migration to the South where welcoming state legislatures hastily enacted "right-to-work" laws. The migration of these manufacturing companies away from the unionized urban centers of the Midwest and North left hundreds of mill towns impoverished and desolate, and the union movement was effectively eviscerated. It took only a few more decades, however, for the owners of corporations to discover that, once they had escaped from the threat of unionization, they could escape almost all government regulation by moving their business and manufacturing operations out of the United States to Third World countries.
Because the Democratic Party, under President Clinton and Vice President Gore enthusiastically supported the expansion of free trade, without also negotiating reciprocal fair labor and environmental laws and anti-dumping provisions, the Democratic Party has been in denial. To the present, its leaders have been unable to acknowledge the economic evidence, as reported by economists such as Ian Fletcher in his book Free Trade Doesn't Work, that shows, while the expansion of free trade and out-sourcing of jobs have been an extraordinary boon to financiers, hedge-fund managers, venture capitalists, and purveyors of imported goods made by exploited employees in Third World sweatshops for corporations such as Walmart and Apple, it has been an unmitigated disaster for the overwhelming majority of American workers and their standard of living.
With the destruction of the labor movement, the American workplace in the twenty-first century is now governed by the nineteenth century doctrine of employment-at-will, which further circumscribes the ability of American workers to protect their livelihoods or to improve their conditions of work. The legal fiction of at-will employment essentially posits an equality of bargaining power between individual employers and employees: Each is free to accept or reject employment, resign or be fired without cause or restriction. Since employers in "union-free" environments are legally permitted to unilaterally impose, almost without restriction, whatever conditions of work they require as to hours, compensation, and often further restrict re-employment after discharge in the form of non-competition agreements, the economic relationship is one of profound inequality in which the employees are burdened and the employers benefitted.
The labor laws of the United States today are the most restrictive and onerous in the developed world, and they demonstrate the utter contempt and disregard with which the economic elite of this country have been permitted to trespass upon the rights of workers. Labor laws that are rigged in favor of the employers and the legal fiction of at-will employment need to be at the top of any agenda to reform the American economy and restore a vibrant middle class. Since corporations and employers are not required to any show any loyalty to their employees, government policies need to demand that our labor laws and our tax policies protect the rights of workers and the middle class, and place obstacles in the way of corporations, particularly multi-national corporations, from doing further damage to the American economy.
The response to these developments, however, by the leadership of the Democratic Party has been a deafening silence. In the past two presidential debates and in the vice-presidential debate, not a word of support was spoken by President Obama or Vice President Biden about the plight of ordinary workers, laws and court decisions at all levels that have effectively gutted the rights of workers to unionize and collectively bargain as guaranteed under New Deal legislation, or about the well-documented link between low wages and the absence of widespread unionization. President Obama was elected, among other reasons, because of strong support from organized labor, and his promise to put reform the labor laws at the top of his priorities and to level the playing field for American workers. His administration has done neither.
While President Obama and most Democratic Senate and Congressional candidates have been too timid to raise the banner of social justice, GOP supporters, true to form as the consummate practitioners of wedge politics, have seized upon every opportunity to exploit the fears and vulnerabilities of white males with incessant attacks upon public sector unions and their more highly paid employees, quotas, the purported special treatment of minorities including welfare waivers and food stamps, and attacks upon experts, trial lawyers, academics and other intellectuals. These appeals are cravenly calculated to create such divisiveness and resentment that ordinary white male voters will fail to notice that they have more in common with the other 99%, including racial and sexual minorities, than they ever would with Mitt Romney and Grover Norquist.
The hour wanes, but President Obama still has an opportunity to endorse a strong economic agenda that, coupled with labor law reform, will reconnect white males to their historic roots in the Democratic Party. In doing so, he might reflect upon the words of French Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain that "the primary duty of the modern state is the enforcement of social justice." He might also take the time to explain to this essential constituency, in specific ways, how a GOP victory, given the petulant anti-labor and extreme austerity budget proposed by its candidates, will only exacerbate the continued economic decline of white males and further marginalize them.