The Democratic Party I grew up in was all about the legacy of the New Deal. Coming of political age around condo commandos in south Florida, I’d hear stories about FDR, Truman, Robert Wagner, Tip O’Neill, Hubert Humphrey, about organizing, protests, strikes, labor movements, when John Lindsay ran as a third party liberal and beat conservative GOP and Dem nominees for Mayor of New York and the brilliance of the McGovern campaign.
These days however, talking to many Democrats is like talking to GOPers 25 years ago.
Increasingly, when I interact with Democrats of higher incomes (which represents a large percentage of the party’s activist class), I sense a smug elitism, a sense of entitlement that wasn’t as pronounced 15-20 years. I feel it’s even worse from people who live in dark blue areas – the heavily professional Northeast, Pacific Northwest and California.
I am finding it is now very difficult to break through with elites who live in the gentrified urban core of New York or San Francisco (among other cities), in trying to explain to them the growing difficulties Democrats have winning in previously accessible working class communities in far-flung suburbs or exurbs (the audience often arrogantly sees everything outside the urban core as “rural” or even more condescendingly “the sticks.” ) here in Florida. I find unfortunately, from many of these folks, a general contempt for the working class, and all sorts of misconceptions as to why working class voters are increasingly shifting to the GOP.
Let me make it clear, I do not endorse anyone voting GOP, except in extremely rare instances, but I want to throw this out there for our readers, because I am increasingly frustrated with the attitude while growing more certain that the non-college educated working class (of all races btw, though the elite argument is that it is just whites fleeing) is abandoning the Democrats for good.
This is meant to be an open forum, feel free to leave reasonable comments below.
As someone who now lives in the Northeast and to challenge this piece somewhat I would say they same type of exurban or “far” suburbs don’t really exist in the Northeast(at least in Massachusetts) the same way they do in Florida. Maybe someplace like Suffolk county out on the far tip of Long Island has a certain similarity to Polk County.
I think the three states were exurbs exist are Florida, Texas and Georgia though you could argue California has some also.
I believe this attitude is reflected in the left-leaning media, like NPR. This really makes me sad as I grew up on, and learned so much through, NPR. In my opinon this recent story conflated the 1/6 nutballs with all Trump supporters and conveniently left out the female MAGA protestor who was killed. It’s worth considering working class men’s wages, in the aggregate, have not kept up with inflation since the 1970s – of all races (same with working class women, but this story focuses on men). These are the folks in the UK who voted for Brexit. These are the Americans who voted twice for Obama, Trump and Biden. They are inherently anti-status quo because the status quo has sucked for them since the 1970s. These were the New Deal folks that the New Deal spoke to — those without a college education of all races and really of all genders. This NPR story looks down their nose at them because they want to be like their grandfathers who were providers. Today, men still want to be providers but without a college degree, increasingly, they cannot. NPR quotes a professor who said these folks have a sense of “aggrieved entilement.” As if wanting to provide for a family is a feeling of “aggreived entitlement” and their focus on politics is “unhealthy for the country.” Just sad. Fionna Hill talks about the working class in, “There Is Nothing for You Here,” and how it exists in Russia, the UK and the U.S. I believe in national elections these are often the key swing vote. They voted for Clinton twice, Obama twice, Trump and then Biden. Today, the Democratic party is walking, nay running away from them. It is a strategy that is bound to screw Democrats in future elections.
The one thing I have to say though is about media is we’ve seen an absolutely similar trend in the UK at the same time. One real similarity between the UK and the US is the importance of Murdock-owned media backing so-called conservative parties.
Back to the establishment media, the absolutism of NPR, CNN the New York Times etc. (I assume MSNBC also, but I don’t watch them) when it came to anything related to Trump bothered me even as a person of the left.
I began to think what is really different about CNN and Fox News? Is CNN just a Fox of the left? Of course they’re not as bad and I don’t want to make a false equivalency here but their was still in certain absolutism about their tone that they didn’t have before Trump.
I’m not sure I have much to add beyond my support for these thoughts. Thomas Piketty has written several times about the fact that the US Democratic Party and many social democratic parties in Europe and England turned to the academically credentialed and abandoned those without college degrees. This is a known phenomenon. It is exacerbated by the joy with which the new Democrats supported globalization with its offshoring and deindustrialization. When people’s material wellbeing is damaged, as it was for black industrial workers in the 60s and 70s and then white workers in the 90, and then remains unaddressed, we should expect demagogues to be successful.
I support the recognition of the change in US public broadcasting as a symptom of what happened to liberalism and its political leadership. The academic system is culpable in this. The moral complicity is widespread. Without rebuilding an American Left based on a responsible class analysis there is little chance for redemption or real progress. Our history shows that progress only came when those conditions were present.
I agree with all of this.
So in the UK, Labour is really counting on the number of university educated people to keep growing. It goes DIRECTLY to your point. I talk to people in that party, who who while not thrilled about losing the old “red wall “ seats to the Tories in 2019, Believe it’s part of a trade that will benefit them long-term as former Conservative seats in wealthy areas fall to either them or the LibDems. They attribute this totally to a university education. It is the one credential they’re looking for! So you are spot on.
The one thing I do think was out of the hands of the Democrats but something they could have learned if they studied the UK, is that as Rupert Murdock bought up newspapers and television stations there he was able to skew the country politically. He did it there first and then came here and did the same thing.
A quick fix for Democrats is within reach but politically impossible: Universal heathcare. This would be overwhelmingly popular and show the public what policies Democrats favor and whose side they are on.
Another quick set of thoughts. Our problem with the concerns and attention of the so-called Democratic Party is actually not one of geography. It is not a conflict between rural and urban populations. It is a class conflict. The bottom 50% of wage earners and the poor have seen their incomes stagnate while the meritocrats and wealthy become more affluent. This is true in urban centers as well as rural areas. The homeless epidemic and the housing crisis are two symptoms of this problem. The rural urban split is a dodge, by the educated affluent, in order to continue averting their minds from the reality of the evil expansion of economic inequality in our country. If anything, there is a growing divide between those credentialed by selective, mostly private, urban universities and the rest of the population. The “Democratic” Party and the mainstream media, including public broadcasting, are supporters of the winners.