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February 26, 2008

Is it all about whitey?

"White Men Hold Key for Democrats", blared the Wall Street Journal headline, in discussing the Obama and Clinton's camp supposed courting of the white male "blue collar" vote in Ohio. Speaking as a white person (okay, and someone who had a class in whiteness studies led by a Korean guy who studied lesbian Iron Maiden fans in Appalachia), we're not that used to having our race pointed out to us quite so openly. That's what makes my new favorite blog, Stuff White People Like, such a hoot. (It's so true! I do totally heart standing still at concerts! lol lol, etc.)

Clearly, though, white men are a demographic group that left the Dems first in the 1960s-1970s, and again following the Dems' support of NAFTA in 1993-94, as Ruy Teixeira and Joel Rogers aptly showed in their 2000 book. This is a group that cares a lot about trade policy and economic security, and appealing just to the "latte-drinking, Prius- driving, Birkenstock-wearing, trust fund babies" crowd is not likely to play that well in Ohio, as evidenced by the Machinists' president using that as an epithet against the supporters of one candidate.

But, c'mon people, it's not just about white people, as a new study released today from my buds John Schmitt and Ben Zipperer from the Center for Economic and Policy Research shows. Among its findings:

Today, only 15.7 percent of all black workers are union members or covered by a union contract at their workplace. Twenty-five years ago, that share was 31.7 percent. Part of the reason for the decline in unionization among African Americans is the decline in U.S. manufacturing. But even within manufacturing, unionization rates have been falling. On average, manufacturing workers are now no more likely to be in a union than workers in the rest of the economy.
 
The study, which analyzed data from the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey, found that the share of African Americans in manufacturing jobs fell from 23.9 percent in 1979 to 9.8 percent last year. From 1983 to 2007, unionization rates among African Americans dropped from 31.7 to 15.7 percent. Unionization rates also dropped among whites (from 22.2 to 13.5 percent) and Hispanics (24.2 to 10.8 percent) during the same period, but the declines were not as steep as those for African Americans.

So it may be more apt to say that "The Economy Holds the Key for Democrats," or indeed for anybody wanting to compete in states where manufacturing and unions matter.

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