Monday, April 07, 2008


Do these look like Democrats? The white-men-in-dive-bar political constituency. Of this we can be certain: 'Pro' diabetes, smoking, booze and wearing baseball caps indoors.

Leave it to some upper-middle-class snob writing for the Sunday New York Times magazine to plumb one of the nicer-looking dive bars in southeastern Pennsy for Dem voters.

DD spent almost two decades playing rock 'n' roll in such places in Bethlehem and Allentown. Only someone writing for the New York Times would think to look in them for signs of Democratic life. Normally, one would look in them for signs of fights and aggressive power alcholism. If you let on you had slightly progressive opinions, you kept your pie hole shut about them or were in for a hard night.

Michael Sokolove had returned to his old home 'burg, Levittown, in Pennsyltucky. As everywhere in the state, it's "whiter, older and less educated than the rest of the nation."

There is mention of Reagan Democrats, white men who turn into Republicans the instant they find a candidate on the other side of the fence who seems like a strong and manly daddy-figure. Maybe John McCain in the general election.

They'll be union workers come upon hard times by the closing of a local steelworks, in Levittown -- US Steel's Fairless Works, as opposed to Bethlehem Steel in the Lehigh Valley. The same kind of union workers, who more often than not, voted for Republicans and social and economic policies inimical to their standard of living and chosen livelihood.

In the great wasteland between Philly and Pittsburgh, Democrats can get elected. And it is why areas like the Lehigh Valley and Bucks County can shape up to be swing areas within the state during a general election. Democrats from the Pennsy hinterlands get into office by being Dems only in name. And if you're a national candidate, you just do the Republican-lite thing when campaigning in the state.

Anyway, the out-of-work blue-collar cultural conservatives will often vote GOP, anyway. During the Eighties in the Lehigh Valley, they famously went for arch-conservative Don Ritter. Ritter was one of the most common Pennsylvania Dutch names in the region and so the locals voted for him en masse, even though he wasn't Pennsy Dutch. And they never really figured that one out.

They also loved Paul McHale, one of the Democrats who led the charge to impeach Bill Clinton.

"I drove over to Gleason's Bar, around the corner from my house," wrote Sokolove for the magazine. "That, too, was a sort of reality check after spending a few days dwelling with Obama's devout enthusiasts. Eight men sat around the bar, and not one of them supported Obama."

What a scintillating observation.

Sokolove found a couple who professed to be Democrats. Perhaps they were. Perhaps they were telling him what they thought he wanted to hear. Perhaps they had no intention of voting at all, like most of those I was familiar with in the Eighties and Nineties while doing the rock 'n' roll thing.

Clinton strategist Mark Penn's conflict-of-interest job in support of a trade agreement for Colombia may not matter at all for the blue-collar hard cases in Pennsyltucky. They have voted for people who've greased the dissolution of their industries in the past.

Take, for example, this Levittown "Democrat" dug up by the New York Times magazine.

"[One white guy] sat drinking a Coors Light and talking with his buddies," wrote Sokolove. "A Philadelphia Phillies spring-training game was on TV, and he glanced up at it every time the audio picked up the crack of the bat. I asked him if the presidential campaign interested him. 'Absolutely,' he said. Rapid fire, he told me the issues he cared about: 'No. 1 -- gas prices. It’s killing everybody. No. 2, immigrants. They should go back to Mexico. Three, guns. Everybody should have the right to bear arms. In fact, everyone should have a gun in this day and age.' "

"I wondered if he was a Republican. 'Are you kidding?' he said. "I’m a Democrat all the way. I hate Republicans.' "

Indeed this fellow may have been a Democrat -- a Democrat in the way Strom Thurmond was prior to 1963-64. Or a mealy-mouthed drunk.

The concern with illegal immigrants in a place like Bucks County, Pennsyltucky, is emblematic of the confusion which describes and characterizes the state's voters.

Southern California has illegal immigrants. Pasadena probably has more Mexicans in it than all of Bucks County and its surrounding neighbor shires.

The Pennsyltucky voter simply hasn't even the vaguest notion, informed from a daily reality, about what the issue means.

Mexicans are scapegoats for some lily-white Pennsylvanians, maybe a significant portion of them, a growing threat or menace they may have heard about on Fox News when Bill O'Reilly rants about Los Angeles being out-of-control or, alternatively, Lou Dobbs on CNN, uttering similar things about illegal immigrants contributing to the destruction of the middle class, day after dreary day.

It's all the fault of the Mexicans! Blame Mexicans for lousy pay and poor jobs. Blame Mexicans for having been cheated out of a share of the so-called American dream. Blame Mexicans as contributors to any crummy national state of affairs. Blame the illegals because you came home drunk again, slapped your girlfriend, causing her to move out, thus depriving you of sex. (See Hazleton, a town in Pennsyltucky, for more of the same.)

Who can win such voters? They're too mixed-up to predict with any precision. They will startle you, frequently in a fashion deadly to their own interests.

"In the latest CNN 'poll of polls' conducted March 26 through Saturday, Sen. Hillary Clinton holds a 7-percentage point lead over Sen. Barack Obama -- 49 percent to 42 percent," reported the news network today. "Nine percent remain unsure, the surveys found.

"That gap is 4 percentage points narrower than a similar CNN poll of polls conducted March 26 through Wednesday. In that average, Clinton led the senator from Illinois 51percent to 40 percent. Nine percent also were unsure then."

Update: On Tuesday the LA Times editorial board accused Obama and Clinton of pandering to Pennsylvania voters.

"For Clinton and Obama, there can be no happy ending to this story," wrote the Times. "As president, they could either break their promises and embrace trade deals with the likes of Mexico and Colombia, thus disillusioning a key part of their base, or keep their word, thus badly harming foreign relations, damaging the U.S. economy and ultimately reducing job prospects for the very workers they purport to be trying to protect."

Per capita income in Colombia is $7,200/year according to the CIA Factbook. It is not the poorest of nations. However, from the US census, the average income in Pennsylvania is $45,000. Practically speaking, it's probably about $10,000 lower than that in the great green wasteland between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Certainly, average incomes in places like Schuylkill and Luzerne counties don't get close to $45,000.

Still, if one takes a handicapper's average income in the Pennsyltucky heartland of $35,000, that puts the average family around six to seven times wealthier than the average Colombian. That's still very poor by any US standard.

Los Angeles Times editorial board members have probably never lived in the Pennsyltucky hinterland, a region hurt badly by globalization and free trade. And it is safe to say that a trade pact with Colombia is neither here nor there with respect to Pennsyltuckians. It is certainly not a "win-win" prospect for them, as the Times insisted in its piece.

Irrespective of whether politicians are pandering to the state's voters or not, no one in Colombia is going to be buying whatever products Pennsyltucky's Republicrats are making these days. They don't have the money to afford US labor. They might have the cash to afford old US junker automobiles and trucks.

Differently said, no one in Pennsylvania much needs Colombia to buy stuff unless they work in the part of the US military or military support industry tasked with the job of selling arms and training to that country's government in the name of the war on drugs.

Correction: Oof, pardon our error! The first edition of this post stupidly mentioned the fictitious Bristol County. Levittown is in Bucks County. There is no Bristol County in Pennsyltucky.

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