I still recall the conversation with a friend many years ago about how some white men felt that they were being marginalized and reduced in importance by society. The idea of ‘angry white males’ casting a ballot to in some way make a broader statement about the pre-conceived condition of their lives had been a topic in the news and election at that time. We both thought that a crazy notion, since as my friend said white men have the power and the means to attain an education and secure good jobs. They do in fact sit at the head of the table in our society, and yet they moan about their lives.
I find it amusing that the plight of these white men are still topics that find column length pieces in our major newspapers. Gail Collins penned a great read, and I post a few paragraphs. She does not use the word ‘angry’ as she describes white males, but the tone of many political conversations with men, and among men, proves that anger is indeed a part of the feelings that many of these males share.
The question at hand is: What do white men want?
Maybe not change — sorry, Barack. Pennsylvania is a state where change has not been a friend to your average white male, particularly the aging working-class ones who are the candidates’ prime target. Change left the state full of empty factories that towns keep desperately trying to make into condos or art museums.
Although there is nobody happier than a white guy when his daughter turns out to be a star in the Little League, change has taken away most of white men’s favorite preserves, including sports. They long ago came to grips with the fact that they weren’t going to be seeing many reflections of themselves on the basketball court anymore. (They have not, in my observation, become nearly as resigned to female sports announcers.) And it’s hard to fashion an entire identity out of fantasy football and hockey.
I once tried to make a list of specifically guy things that no woman was ever going to want to trespass upon. All I came up with were “The Three Stooges” and lawn care. This is not adequate material around which to construct a presidential campaign.
As I said, the white guys did not ask for the honor of being the target demographic. They know it’s a minefield. As Paul Vitello reported Friday in The Times, they couch every negative comment about Barack with a preface pointing out that this isn’t about race. And I cannot tell you how many Obama men I have run into who begin every discussion by noting that Hillary is an excellent senator.
I still wonder if the white males have been maintaining their even-handedness through some kind of secret pact. Maybe the guys in Wisconsin agreed to vote for Obama if their brothers in Ohio would go for Clinton, and so on. They probably transmitted the signals with those drums they bought during the manhood epidemic in the ’90s. But now all eyes are on Pennsylvania, and they can’t keep their heads down any longer.
Maybe Hillary’s blunder about being under sniper fire in Bosnia was just an attempt to make contact with a group that feels somewhat under siege.