In a CNN segment on a new book purporting to tell, in Wolf Blitzer's words, "exactly why white men are leaving the Democratic Party," correspondent Carol Costello asked, "[W]hat's a [Bruce] Springsteen-loving white man to do? Recent history says, 'Vote Republican.' " In fact -- as Costello herself noted at the conclusion of the segment -- Democrats "picked up 6 percent more white men" in the 2006 midterm election. Further, Springsteen himself campaigned for Democrat John Kerry for president in 2004 and recently said of the Bush administration: "I think that we've seen things happen over the past six years that I don't think anybody ever thought they'd see in the United States."
Loading the player leg...
On the October 11 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, host Wolf Blitzer introduced a segment on Politico senior political writer David Paul Kuhn's book The Neglected Voter: White Men and the Democratic Dilemma (Palgrave MacMillan, October 2007) by saying to correspondent Carol Costello, "The book tells us exactly why white men are leaving the Democratic Party. What's going on?" Costello replied: "Well, I don't know what either political party is calling the white male this time around, but the Democrats appear to be losing them." Later, Costello stated that white men are "no longer voting the Democratic way," and asked, "[W]hat's a [Bruce] Springsteen-loving white man to do? Recent history says, 'Vote Republican.' " However -- as Costello herself noted at the conclusion of the segment -- Democrats "picked up 6 percent more white men" in the 2006 midterm election: In 2004, 38 percent of white men voted for Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives, while 44 percent voted for Democratic House candidates in 2006. Costello commented that "one election does not a trend make." And Springsteen himself campaigned for 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, a fact not mentioned in Costello's report.
Blitzer had teased the segment by asking, "And have white men abandoned the Democratic Party? Or is it the other way around?"
Costello reported, "Conservatives fought back, painting the Democratic Party as so into diversity, it can't see the color white" and apparently to illustrate the point, played a video clip of right-wing pundit Ann Coulter highlighting Sen. Barack Obama's middle name -- Hussein. Coulter was shown saying: "I think Democrats have hit upon the perfect candidate, Barack Obama, or as I call him, B. Hussein Obama. B. Hussein Obama is half white, half black ... so there's somebody for every Democrat to vote for."
Blitzer also uncritically reported that Kuhn's book "claims Democrats are neglecting [white men], and it could cost their party the election." In fact, despite losing the white male vote by a 44-53 margin in 2006, Democrats have a larger majority in the House -- 233-202 -- than Republicans ever had after gaining a majority in the House in 1994. Republicans last held a majority of more than 30 seats in the House during the 80th Congress, which was elected in 1946.
In addition to her repeated assertion that white men love Springsteen and are "no longer voting Democratic," Costello opened and closed the taped segment by playing clips of Springsteen singing "Born in the USA." However, Costello did not note that Springsteen supported Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign. In fact, Springsteen performed at several rallies as part of the MoveOn PAC's "Vote for Change Tour," as well as for the Kerry campaign itself. An October 28, 2004, Salon.com article reported that during a Madison, Wisconsin, rally for Kerry:
Springsteen ticked off a long list of the things that matter: economic justice, a living wage, a "sane and responsible foreign policy," civil rights, and "the protection and safeguarding of our precious democracy here at home." He said: "I believe that John Kerry honors these ideals. He has lived our history over the past 60 years, and he has formed an adult view of America and its people. "
Further, during an interview on the October 7 edition of CBS' 60 Minutes, Springsteen told correspondent Scott Pelley, in reference to certain actions by the Bush administration: "I think that we've seen things happen over the past six years that I don't think anybody ever thought they'd see in the United States." From the interview:
PELLEY: What's on your mind? What are you writing about?
SPRINGSTEEN: I would say that what I do is I -- is I try to chart the distance between American ideals and American reality. That's how my music is laid out. It's like we're - we've reached a point where we're so intent on protecting ourselves that we're willing to destroy the best parts of ourselves to do so.
PELLEY: What do you mean?
SPRINGSTEEN: Well, I think that we've seen things happen over the past six years that I don't think anybody ever thought they'd see in the United States. When people think of the American identity, they don't think of torture, they don't think of illegal wiretapping, they don't think of voter suppression, they don't think of no habeas corpus, no right to a lawyer to -- you know? Those are things that -- those are -- those are things that are anti-American.
PELLEY: You know, I think this record is going to be seen as anti-war. And you know there are people watching this interview who are going to say to themselves, "Bruce Springsteen is no patriot."
SPRINGSTEEN: Well, that's the -- that's just the language of the day, you know? The modus operandi for anybody who doesn't like somebody, you know, criticizing where we've been or where we're going, you know. It's unpatriotic at any given moment to sit back and let things pass that are -- that are damaging to some place that you love so dearly and that has given me so much and that I believe in -- I still feel and see as a beacon of hope and possibility.
Costello isn't the first media figure to misleadingly link Springsteen -- and, in particular, the song "Born in the USA" -- with Republican politics. Despite the fact that Springsteen referred during a 1980 concert to Ronald Reagan's election the day before as "pretty frightening," in 1984, Reagan and conservative columnist George Will, among others, attempted to suggest that the musician supported Reagan and his politics. Springsteen rebuked Reagan during a performance a few days later.
From the October 11 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
BLITZER: And have white men abandoned the Democratic Party, or is it the other way around? Stay with us, you're in The Situation Room.
BLITZER: A new book says white men are abandoning the Democratic Party. It claims Democrats are neglecting them, and that could cost their party the election. Let's go to Carol Costello, she's here in The Situation Room. The book sort of lays out exactly why these men are leaving the Democratic Party. What's going on?
COSTELLO: Well, the Democratic Party is pretty much ignoring white men. You know, the book is called The Neglected Voter, you know, the one we used to call the "NASCAR dad." Well, I don't know what either political party is calling the white male voter this time around, but the Democrats appear to be losing them.
[begin video clip]
[clip of Springsteen singing "Born in the USA"]
COSTELLO: They may be born in the USA and love "The Boss," but they're no longer voting the Democratic way. They are blue-collar, white male voters, who, according to a new book, are the only chance Democrats have to win in '08. But getting them to vote for Clinton, Edwards, or Obama won't be easy.
KUHN: The Democratic Party came to stand up for everybody but them, every group but them. And in fact, stand against them.
COSTELLO: Kuhn, who wrote The Neglected Voter, says Democrats are guilty of portraying white men as the only privileged group in the United States who deserve no help.
KUHN: They, ironically, came to feel the scapegoat of liberalism, that they came to feel stereotyped as the bigoted Archie Bunker from All in the Family.
COSTELLO: And that stereotype does play out in the Democratic world of politics. The Democrat that Republicans love to hate, Michael Moore, wrote a book called Stupid White Men, touted as outing "that big special-interest group that's laying waste to the world as we know it: stupid white men." Conservatives fought back, painting the Democratic Party as so into diversity, it can't see the color white.
COULTER: I think Democrats have hit upon the perfect candidate with Barack Obama, or as I call him, B. Hussein Obama. B. Hussein Obama is half-white, half-black ... so there's somebody for every Democrat to vote for.
COSTELLO: And it's all played into this: According to exit polls at every presidential election from 1980 on, no Democratic candidate could even get 40 percent of the white male vote. And, Kuhn says, as a result, America has seen just one Democratic president in 27 years.
While some analysts say Kuhn is onto something, others say, "Not so fast. Maybe Democrats aren't going after white male voters because times have changed."
KEATING HOLLAND (CNN polling director): There's a lot of Democratic analysts who would argue as a counter-argument that the growing group in this country are not whites, not white men but, instead, minorities -- Hispanics, blacks and Asians.
COSTELLO: If that's true, what's a Springsteen-loving white man to do? Recent history says, "Vote Republican."
[end video clip]
COSTELLO: But there is a small sign Democrats may be making inroads with white male voters: they picked up 6 percent more white men in 2006, but Wolf, as you know, one election does not a trend make.
BLITZER: Interesting stuff. Thanks very much, Carol Costello.