The Democratic Plot Against White People

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Democrats have manipulated voting laws to make it harder for white people to vote, resulting in long lines. Right? Photo: Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images

Liberals have been fretting over a future in which an increasingly diverse America still has one party that consists almost entirely of white voters. Ross Douthat says the Democrats are just as much to blame for this as Republicans, because even though Republicans may be alienating non-white voters, Democrats are alienating whites:

Where the Clinton-era Democrats still tried to win working class whites outright, the Obama-era Democrats mostly just used scorched-earth campaigning to try to minimize the G.O.P.’s margin and/or keep these voters on the sidelines. Where the pre-Obama party still made room for immigration skeptics and coal-country populists, the Obama-era Democrats have pushed in policy directions calculated to alienate many of the swing voters who cast ballots for Byron Dorgan in the past, or Joe Manchin or Mark Pryor in the present. Where the pre-Obama party spoke the language of “safe, legal and rare” on abortion and basically set gun control aside as a losing issue, the Obama Democrats have mostly dropped the “rare” part and, post-Newtown, taken up the gun-control cause anew.

That is an extremely strained reading of the facts. Is it true that Clinton-era Democrats tried to win working-class whites while Obama just tries to sideline them? Well, no. That's just weird, actually. Democrats then and now have tried to win the highest possible share of the white working-class vote, and have campaigned through a combination of positive and negative appeals. Douthat argues that Obama's "scorched-earth" attacks on Romney were some kind of nefarious attempt to discourage his supporters, but is it really different in kind than attacks like this?

Douthat's claim that Obama sought to "keep those voters on the sidelines" struck me as interesting enough to follow back to its source. The passage links to a previous item of his from last year, which in turn cites a column by John Ellis, which asserts, with no facts or even real logic, that Obama's campaign goal was to "keep the white vote down." The only thing close to a factual basis Ellis presented for his conclusion was that the black and Hispanic votes were certain to drop in 2012, which turned out to be wrong (and which Obama's campaign expected to be wrong).

Then Douthat introduces the claim that Obama's political strategy this year is "calculated to alienate" supporters of red-state Democrats. What kind of calculation is that? Why would Obama want to alienate red-state Democrats when he needs red-state Democrats to hold the Senate in 2014? Why would he "calculate" to alienate voters at all? It's not helpful!

This sinister plan to profit by driving away supporters of Democrats like Joe Manchin becomes all the more convoluted when we consider the fact that the actual gun-control proposal Douthat is referring to is sponsored by ... Joe Manchin! Why is Manchin trying to alienate his own voters? What sort of plan is this, anyway?