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America's Forgotten Majority: Why The White Working Class Still Matters Paperback – July 3, 2001

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Editorial Reviews Review

If the 1996 presidential election marked the year of the soccer mom, then the 2000 campaign ought to usher in the year of Joe Sixpack, according to Ruy Teixeira and Joel Rogers. Or, at least an early-21st-century version of the white working stiff who was widely viewed as the key to success in American politics between the New Deal and 1980s. "It's next to impossible to cement a dominant electoral coalition without capturing the support of a good share of the forgotten majority"--i.e., the roughly 55 percent of the voting population that is white, earns a moderate income, has a low-rung white collar job or labors in the service industry, and lives in the suburbs. As Teixeira and Rogers admit, this is an incredibly diverse group of people. Yet, the authors claim, they also share common interests--mainly economic--that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans address. America's Forgotten Majority suggests that these folks played a central, if unappreciated, role in the elections of the 1990s, and it proposes some ways both parties might change their approaches to tap this hidden reservoir of votes.

Here the authors' own political biases become clear. "We need a new era of strong government--one in which government doesn't sit on the sidelines but makes a serious effort to solve the great national problems that divide Americans from one another," write Teixeira and Rogers. That sounds like the talk of Democrats disaffected by their party's Clinton-era moderations and, indeed, the authors essentially urge Democrats to revive their party's working-class roots. As for the Republicans, Teixeira and Rogers think they ought to act more like Democrats. Until one of the parties remembers the forgotten majority, "Democrats and Republicans will be reduced to 'marketing at the margins'--attempting to cobble together temporary electoral coalitions in a basically unfavorable and dealigned political universe." It's an intriguing analysis, albeit one more suited to Democratic interests than Republican ones. Fans of E.J. Dionne, John Judis, Robert Kuttner, and Robert Reich will want to have a copy of America's Forgotten Majority on their shelves. --John J. Miller --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The future of American politics belongs to the party best able to win the hearts and votes of the white working class: that is Teixera and Rogers's thesis in a well-documented analysis of the current American political landscape that is coherent, insightful and refreshingly contrary to the prevailing views of Sunday morning pundits and politicos of both major parties. Citing enough exit polls and opinion polls to satisfy the most ardent political junkies, the authors (Teixera is a fellow at the Century Foundation, and Rogers is a professor of law, political science and sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison) build a convincing case that white working-class voters, not the recently fabled suburban soccer moms, were, and will be again, the true swing voters. The straightforwardly presented data indicate that, so far, the swinging has inclined toward the Republicans. But departing from conventional political wisdom, the electorate's swing to the right is less an embrace of traditional conservative values (less government is better government) than a reflection of the voters' loss of faith in government's effectiveness. Government, according to Teixera and Rogers's white working-class voters, no longer responds to real people's problems. The authors are not shy about offering suggestions to Democrats and Republicans on how they can capture the support of this crucial segment of American society. Teixera and Rogers reject what they see as the Democratic Leadership Council's abandonment of the traditional party commitment to government programs responsive to the white working class. They reject even more strongly the minimalist Republican view of government. Instead, the authors predict that the party that can fashion effective government programsAwhich ensure health-care benefits, educational opportunities and retirement security, for exampleAwill be the party of the 21st century. First serial to the Atlantic Monthly. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (July 5, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465083994
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465083992
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,179,109 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Douglas Doepke on December 11, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The mere mention of a white working class causes many pundits to cringe. Liberals, because the notion of a "white" anything smacks of political incorrectness; conservatives, because mention of any kind of working class puts the fear of Marx in their soul. For decades this key demographic group has been either ignored in polite conversation or caricatured in popular culture. Either way their collective existence has remained submerged, like an iceberg. Yet, as Teixiera and Rogers point out, this grouping composes 55% of the American electorate, or more than enough votes to guarantee governance to any party that can win their allegiance.
This slim volume is elegantly structured, very plainly written, effectively argued, and numerically buttressed, (being neither a statistician nor a political scientist, I'm unable to critically analyze the numbers & so, take them at face value). The authors' aim is to show that this key grouping is identifiable (by income and educational levels), grossly underserved by government ( falling income levels since 1973, without compensatory programs that are perceived as favoring minorities), and without fixed partisan loyalties. ( though working class men have lately trended toward conservative appeals).This last is significant, because the authors seek to show how the loyalty of this class can be won in today's politico-economic mix by advancing the right kind of programmatic appeals, ones that importantly seek to unify along class lines rather than divide along racial lines. In the process the authors must also attack some of the myths that currently surround this grouping, such as their endemic racism or the alleged disappearance of their very existence.
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Allen Smalling TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover
when books like this roll around. "America's Forgotten Majority" is clearly written for the Democratic Party, even though the authors claimed to be apolitical in the book's preface ("the content of politics is not our chief concern").
The central thesis is that the biggest chunk of the American electorate (55%) consists of the white working class. The authors define working class not just in old, heavy-industry terms (the USA is a post-industrial society and relatively few of us earn our living in industry) but also in low-level white collar, technical and secretarial fields. These are exactly the fields that have had the roughest times economically since 1973. The members of this forgotten majority are better educated in the past (they tend to have a high school diploma or even a two-year college degree) but they tend to vote like the working class.
The press, and by inference the Democratic Party, however, has become infatuated with the upper-middle-class, college-educated "soccer mom." College graduates are the people whose standard of living accelerated in the 1980s and 1990s. College graduates may or may not constitute a reliable "swing" faction but they are only about one-fifth of the electorate, say the authors.
It is clear that the authors want the Democratic Party to try to court the much larger (though fickle) "forgotten majority" of white working class voters. This is a good book to read right now but it will probably be obsolete after the 2000 presidential election. By the way, in the whole book I counted only 21 paragraphs having to do with the Republican Party.
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