article

09.28.10

Losing the American Dream

Angry, white men are the only voters fired up for this election. Kirsten Powers on how the Democrats are failing to connect.

As poll after poll shows many Democrats planning to stay home on Election Day, Vice President Joe Biden offered this pick-me-up at a New Hampshire campaign event Monday: “Stop whining.”

Feel inspired?

President Obama’s advice to dispirited Dems wasn’t much different last week when he told the “griping and groaning” Democrats, as he calls them: “Wake up. This is not some academic exercise.”

The bad news for the White House is that everyone’s actually quite awake, even if getting through the day feels like a nightmare for many Americans.

A recent ABC News/Yahoo! News Poll found that many Americans have lost faith in the American Dream, with only half of them believing it is still achievable.

The people who feel most disenfranchised—and who plan to turn out in droves to vote against the Democrats this fall—are men. (Men prefer the GOP candidate over the Democrat in their district 45 to 32 percent, while women prefer the Democratic candidate 43 to 36 percent, according to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll.)

While a political gender gap is normal, this cycle, the gap is wider than usual—and Republican men are more pumped about voting. Forty-eight percent of men said in a Marist poll this month that they are “very enthusiastic” about voting, the most of any group. Only 28 percent of Democratic woman claimed the same. ( GOP women and Democratic men fell in the middle.)

It’s not surprising that men are more upset about the current state of the country. They have been losing jobs at higher rates than women, and economists predict that many of those jobs aren’t coming back. Some have even referred to the county’s economic plight as a “ man-cession,” given that men account for the overwhelming majority of job losses because they dominate the sectors hardest hit in economic downturns, such as construction and manufacturing, whereas women dominate the “safer” sectors, such as healthcare, education,  and government.

So, is the Democratic message to the “angry men”—who largely identify with the Tea Party movement—any better than its tone-deaf finger-wagging at their base?

Hardly.

Democrats have so delighted in mocking the Tea Party that they seem to have missed that they are not only alienating a huge group of voters but are actually inciting their anger, which can lead to increased turnout.

Linda Hirshman: White Women Dump the Dems

Lloyd Grove: The GOP’s Payback Plan
When the Democratic National Committee held a press conference in July to unveil the fake “Tea Party Contract on America,” New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone, flanked by other Democrats declared: “They talk about the Tea Party and make us think that this is some kind of grassroots movement…” Not much of an improvement over last year, when Speaker Nancy Pelosi dismissed them as “astroturf.”

No surprise, then, that polls today show working class white men moving further and further away from the Dems.

Pollster Doug Schoen, who co-wrote the recent, Mad As Hell: How the Tea Party Movement Is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System, with pollster Scott Rasmussen, said he’s been astonished at how little the White House and Congressional Democrats have done to reach out to these disaffected voters, who represent up to 25 percent of the electorate.

Says Schoen, “Reaching out doesn’t necessarily get you all their support, but it shows you will at least listen and understand their concerns.” His former boss Bill Clinton, he says, “understood he needed the Perot vote. He knew that if he didn’t get 10-11 percent of that vote, he couldn’t win.”

In addition to making fun of the Tea Party, this White House has also maligned and alienated the left.

In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine to be published Friday, President Obama called the Democrats’ apathy “inexcusable.”

"People need to shake off this lethargy. People need to buck up," he said.

Last week, a liberal blogger confronted Obama adviser David Axelrod on a conference call for what she called the administration’s “hippie punching.” As the blogger, Susan Madrak of Crooks and Liars, said, “We’re the girl you’ll take under the bleachers, but you won’t be seen with in the light of day.”

These days, it’s hard to know who they’re actually courting.

Kirsten Powers is a columnist for The Daily Beast. She is also a political analyst on Fox News and a writer for the New York Post. She served in the Clinton Administration from 1993-1998 and has worked in New York state and city politics. Her writing has been published in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the New York Observer, Salon.com, Elle magazine and American Prospect online.