Report: Blue-Collar Whites Gave GOP The House Majority

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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The GOP won its record majority in the House because it swept districts representing blue-collar, white Americans, according to a new analysis by National Journal.

The Democrats’ support in districts with high numbers of whites and low numbers of college grads plunged in 2010, fell in 2012 and fell further in 2014, according to the new analysis.

“In a measure of the [Democratic] party’s collapse on this terrain, of the 76 House Democrats who represented these working-class ‘lo-lo’ districts in 2009, just 15 remain in the chamber today,” said the analysis by National Journal’s Ronald Brownstein.

But the GOP’s increasing reliance on lower-income Americans creates a major problem for the party. That’s because many of the party’s major leaders and donors favor unpopular workforce policies that would bring in hundreds of thousands of lower-wage blue-collar guest-workers from abroad.

For example, House leaders — and at least two Republican 2016 contenders — are backing bills that would import at least 500,000 temporary workers each year for jobs sought by potential GOP blue-collar voters. Other bills would allow more guest-workers to replace the university-educated white-collar workers that are the backbone of the Republican electorate.

This internal split also deters GOP leaders from using immigration to win independent and Democratic voters in 2016. For example, an August poll of 2,118 likely voters by Paragon Insights showed that 45 percent of independents, 42 percent of moderates, 47 percent of people who earn between $50,000 and $100,000 per year strongly agreed that Obama’s “disastrous and unconstitutional executive amnesty will invite a flood of illegal immigration, depress wages, and hurt our poorest residents the most, including legal immigrants looking to rise into the middle class.”

That conflict is being sharpened by the 2016 presidential race, in which most candidates are courting donors by backing policies that would increase immigration. Those pro-immigration policies may help them win donations during the primaries, but they pose real problems once voters arrive at the polling booths. That dilemma creates an incentive for some upstart candidates to run on a high-wage, low-immigration platform.

The shift of non-college voters from the Democratic Party to the GOP has been dramatic in recent years, but has been partly offset by the rising number of non-college educated, non-white voters.

“In 2009, Republicans held 96 of these [low-low] districts and Democrats 76, for a 20-seat GOP edge… After [the 2010] election, Republicans opened a 90-seat edge (128-38) in these districts… Democrats lost further ground in these districts even during Obama’s solid reelection victory in 2012 and again last November, when they surrendered seven more seats… the result has left Republicans holding 150 of ‘lo-lo’ seats and Democrats just 25,” said the National Journal article.

Republicans have also gained in districts with low numbers of minorities and high numbers of college-educated individuals.

“In 2009, the last Democratic majority held a 19-seat advantage (55-36) in the largely suburban ‘lo-hi’ districts… the wave of 2010 allowed Republicans to invert that to a GOP edge of 19 seats in 2011… and Republicans now lead in this quadrant by 10 seats [49-39],” said the report. That advantage, however, would be threatened by immigration-related bills that give companies a financial incentive to hire foreign graduates in place of American graduates.

Democrats do best in districts with high numbers of immigrants, Latinos and African-Americans, and those with high levels of education, including Democratic-leaning post-grad professionals. “In 2009, Democrats held a 50-seat advantage (73-23) in the ‘hi-hi’ seats… In November, Democrats lost three seats in this quadrant, but they still hold a solid 58-seat lead (80-22).”

Since the election of President John Kennedy in 1960, Democrats have won a majority of votes from Americans with post-graduate degrees and from Americans with only high-school educations. The GOP, however, wins majorities of Americans with university degrees.

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Neil Munro