Krugman: A Whiter Shade of Fail


Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Paul Krugman is the latest to debunk the flawed analysis of Sean Trende in a four part series on RealClearPolitics. Trende’s analysis is built around the idea of “missing white voters.” Paul Krugman responds in his column today, Delusions of Populism:

Krugman.pngHave you heard about “libertarian populism” yet? If not, you will . . . So let me make a helpful public service announcement: It’s bunk.

Some background: These are tough times for members of the conservative
intelligentsia — those denizens of think tanks and opinion pages who
dream of Republicans once again becoming “the party of ideas.” (Whether
they ever were that party is another question.)

For a while, they thought they had found their wonk hero in the person
of Mr. Ryan. But the famous Ryan plan turned out to be crude smoke and
mirrors, and I suspect that even conservatives privately realize that
its author is more huckster than visionary. So what’s the next big idea?

Enter libertarian populism. The idea here is that there exists a pool of
disaffected working-class white voters who failed to turn out last year
but can be mobilized again with the right kind of conservative economic
program — and that this remobilization can restore the Republican
Party’s electoral fortunes.

You can see why many on the right find this idea appealing. It suggests
that Republicans can regain their former glory without changing much of
anything — no need to reach out to nonwhite voters, no need to
reconsider their economic ideology. You might also think that this
sounds too good to be true — and you’d be right. The notion of
libertarian populism is delusional on at least two levels

First, the notion that white mobilization is all it takes rests heavily on claims by the political analyst Sean Trende
that Mitt Romney fell short last year largely because of “missing white
voters” — millions of “downscale, rural, Northern whites” who failed to
show up at the polls. Conservatives opposed to any major shifts in the
G.O.P. position — and, in particular, opponents of immigration reform —
quickly seized on Mr. Trende’s analysis as proof that no fundamental
change is needed, just better messaging.

But serious political scientists like Alan Abramowitz and Ruy Teixeira have now weighed in
and concluded that the missing-white-voter story is a myth
. Yes,
turnout among white voters was lower in 2012 than in 2008; so was
turnout among nonwhite voters. Mr. Trende’s analysis basically imagines a
world in which white turnout rebounds to 2008 levels but nonwhite
turnout doesn’t, and it’s hard to see why that makes sense.

Suppose, however, that we put this debunking on one side and grant that
Republicans could do better if they could inspire more enthusiasm among
“downscale” whites. What can the party offer that might inspire such

Well, as far as anyone can tell, at this point libertarian populism — as
illustrated, for example, by the policy pronouncements of Senator Rand
Paul — consists of advocating the same old policies, while insisting
that they’re really good for the working class. Actually, they aren’t.
But, in any case, it’s hard to imagine that proclaiming, yet again, the
virtues of sound money and low marginal tax rates will change anyone’s

Moreover, if you look at what the modern Republican Party actually
stands for in practice, it’s clearly inimical to the interests of those
downscale whites the party can supposedly win back
. Neither a flat tax
nor a return to the gold standard are actually on the table; but cuts in
unemployment benefits, food stamps and Medicaid are . . . And while many nonwhite Americans depend on these safety-net programs, so do many less-well-off whites — the very voters libertarian populism is supposed to reach.

Specifically, more than 60 percent of those benefiting from unemployment
insurance are white
. Slightly less than half of food stamp
beneficiaries are white, but in swing states the proportion is much higher.
For example, in Ohio, 65 percent of households receiving food stamps are white. Nationally, 42 percent of Medicaid recipients are non-Hispanic whites, but, in Ohio, the number is 61 percent.

So when Republicans engineer sharp cuts in unemployment benefits, block
the expansion of Medicaid and seek deep cuts in food stamp funding — all
of which they have, in fact, done
— they may be disproportionately
hurting Those People; but they are also inflicting a lot of harm on the
struggling Northern white families they are supposedly going to

Which brings us back to why libertarian populism is, as I said, bunk.
You could, I suppose, argue that destroying the safety net is a
libertarian act — maybe freedom’s just another word for nothing left to
lose. But populist it isn’t.

Krugman's column today is a synthesis of a series of posts he has done recently at his blog, which provide more detail than his column:

Whites and the Safety Net (July 9)

A Whiter Shade of Fail (July 9)

Income, Race and Voting (July 10)

Even More About Whites and the Safety Net (July 11)