Clinton’s rhetoric about helping the poor also turned off the WWC: The have-a-littles disdain the have-nots. Working people in the middle are proud of their discipline and resent the spongers they perceive as being rewarded for having none. They don’t romanticize welfare recipients as being hapless victims of circumstance because they see them at the grocery store every week.
Even when they qualify for aid, they sometimes make a point of rejecting it: “I don’t want a government handout,” they say. “I can do this on my own.” Accepting welfare is seen as a character flaw and leads to a serious loss of social standing in the community, according to a study of rural voters in California. Without such standing, you don’t get considered when there’s a job opening.
Bill Clinton understood this kind of thinking, which is why he signed welfare reform in 1996, when he carried such states as West Virginia, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri and Louisiana. No Democratic presidential candidate since has won any of those states, and they’re no longer even trying.
Bill famously advised his wife’s campaign to do more to reach out to the WWC, but in what will surely be recalled as one of the defining moments of hubris on Team Hillary, campaign manager Robby Mook replied, “the data run counter to your anecdotes.”
It’s just too perfect that Clinton lost the election in part because she relied on a gay, 36-year-old Ivy League data nerd rather than a two-time winner of a presidential election to show her the path to the White House. If she wants to learn some anecdotes about how to repel people you’re supposed to be wooing, this book is an excellent place to start.