Democrats for over a century were associated with the American middle class.
Working-class voters once believed that Democratic-inspired intervention into the economy -- minimum-wage laws, overtime pay,
Republicans often had trouble selling the argument that an unleashed economy and new technology would relegate poverty to a relative, not absolute, condition -- something like suffering with a cheap outdated iPhone 4 while the better-off afforded an iPhone 6.
Why, then, have Democrats lost the working class -- especially white, lower-middle-class voters?
There are several obvious reasons.
For one, high-profile progressives are largely rich, and their relatively small numbers live in a gentrified cocoon. Politicians, academics, media personalities, celebrities and other Democratically aligned professionals had just the sort of academic brands or technological, linguistic, cultural and service skills that were well-compensated during the transition to globalism.
Their out-of-touch privilege, however, led to agendas -- radical green politics, hyper-feminism, transgender advocacy, forced multiculturalism, open borders -- that were not principle concerns of the struggling working classes. A techie in
High-speed rail, expensive graduate degrees and European-level gas prices are logical aims for elites. They insist that the planet is cooking, that cities are the sole generators of cultural advancement, and that tony academic stamps are proof of knowledge superior to the kind absorbed through religious instruction or pragmatic experience.
In the short term, liberal elites had little clue how the ramifications of their own unworkable ideology always fell on distant others. Before one can damn fracking, guns, traditional religion and tract suburbia, one has to have a high income that allows for expensive energy, exorbitant college tuition and
Race proved a second Democratic Waterloo. The constant push for identity politics, open borders, expanded federal entitlements and inflated government was based on the idea that an increasingly non-white America would soon swallow up the old European majority, and that would ensure a new Democratic century.
But class is always a more telling divide than race. In contemporary straitjacket Democratic orthodoxy, there is no concession that a white male mechanic could face more economic difficulty than a
Moreover, race is not always either absolute or easily definable.
To the working class, Democrats appeared to reward Americans not just on the basis of their race, but also on the assumption that some sections of the population have an easily identifiable racial pedigree, and that it has resulted in a proven need for reparations. In a multiracial America, that orthodoxy appears untenable -- and unfair to those without claims to the correct genealogy or the money and privilege to navigate around such rules.
Finally, Democrats are now easily caricatured as both snobbish and condescending in the same way bluestocking Republicans used to be.
The hysteria over
Snobbery's twin is hypocrisy. For a liberal, when the poor waste money on
The new bifurcated
Democrats' problem is that the working classes are large and know that they no longer fit into what liberalism has become.