You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

Mccain, Obama, And The Bitter Bloc

TNR alum Reihan Salam has a sharp piece in the Weekly Standard about how working-class whites would figure into a McCain-Obama match-up. Interestingly for a conservative (but not surprisingly for Reihan), he argues that McCain should try to make inroads with these voters on economic (as opposed to cultural) issues, something I'm skeptical McCain can pull off given how little the subject seems to interest him. That said, if Jeremiah Wright keeps doing his thing, he may not need to muster much enthusiasm for economics.

Anyway, all of that was just a long way of getting to one of the more interesting points Reihan makes, which I've actually heard the Obama campaign make a version of:

A number of analysts have attributed strong Latino support for Hillary Clinton to a deep-seated antagonism towards black Americans, an antagonism some Obama partisans have gone so far as to suggest has been stoked by the Clintons. There is no doubt some truth to this notion. Latinos and native-born blacks have clashed in urban politics, particularly in California where Latino political power has arguably surpassed that of black voters. But what if Latino voters are simply mirroring the preferences of similarly situated Anglo voters? Given that Latino voters by definition represent the most assimilated slice of the Latino population, it makes sense that, say, non-college-educated Latinos would parallel non-college-educated whites in preferring Clinton to Obama. And if that's true, it suggests that the demographic decline of the white working class is an illusion--it will be remade as an Anglo-Latino white working class, just as conceptions of whiteness grew to include previous waves of immigrants. Latino distinctiveness will likely endure on certain issues, particularly on immigration. Yet that distinctiveness will fade.

It's certainly possible that working-class Latinos are roughly emulating the voting behavior of working-class whites. But, if so, that's probably even better news for Obama than McCain--hence the Obama campaign's enthusiasm for the hypothesis. Voters preoccupied with their tenuous economic position Obama can win over, even if the evidence so far hasn't been encouraging. Voters who just don't like black people would obviously be something of a lost cause.

--Noam Scheiber