Why do working-class Americans vote as they do? The question has long bedeviled analysts on the left, troubled that people who would largely benefit from a more robust government seem so often to vote for right-leaning politicians eager to cut federal programs to pay for tax cuts for the rich. The unusual Republican presidential primary, evolving from one surprise to the next, has revived the debate, but with an important racial coda. As Donald Trump and Ted Cruz surge in the polls, buoyed by the enthusiastic support of angry white men, they raise a narrower question: What’s going on with working-class whites? Though subtle, this variation reflects an important shift in American politics: Perhaps even more than economic status, racial, ethnic and cultural identity is becoming a main driver of political choice. It suggests that the battle over the purpose and configuration of the American government — what it’s for, who it serves — may become more openly about “us” versus “them,” along ethnic lines.
Lacking a nose is the Sphinx’s distinctive trait, but cutting off ours, to spite our face, will not make us a Sphinx.