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Democrats Have Done Virtually Nothing for the Middle Class in 30 Years

Posted by on Mar. 12, 2014 at 12:13 PM
  • 13 Replies

Sean McElwee urges Democrats to find a new way to appeal to the working class:

For decades, thinkers on the left have wondered why the working class regularly votes against its own interests....Thomas Frank argued that social issues obscure economic motives, and indeed the most salient non-economic one has always been race, at least in this country....Nixon’s “law and order campaign” played on racial fears, as did Reagan’s denunciation of “welfare queens.” Republicans played at race to win solid majorities for decades while actively working against the interests of the majority of Americans. The left has much to learn about this strategy. It needs to fundamentally re-align Americans around an issue with a deep and latent importance: the environment.

I don't really want to pick on McElwee here, but I guess I'm feeling a little peevish this morning. Why is it that the working class often votes against its own economic interests? Well, let's compare the sales pitches of the Republican and Democratic parties when it comes to pocketbook issues:

  • Republicans: We will lower your taxes.
  • Democrats: We, um, support policies that encourage a fairer distribution of growth and....and....working man....party of FDR....um....

There are two problems with the Democratic approach. First, it's too abstract to appeal to anyone. Second, it's not true anyway. Democrats simply don't consistently support concrete policies that help the broad working and middle classes. Half of them voted for the bankruptcy bill of 2005. They've done virtually nothing to stem the growth of monopolies and next to nothing to improve consumer protection in visible ways. They don't do anything for labor. They're soft on protecting Social Security. They bailed out the banks but refused to bail out underwater homeowners. Hell, they can't even agree to kill the carried interest loophole, a populist favorite if ever there was one.

Sure, Democrats do plenty for the poor. They support increases in the EITC and the minimum wage. They support Medicaid expansion. They passed Obamacare. They support pre-K for vulnerable populations. They expanded CHIP. But virtually none of this really benefits the working or middle classes except at the margins.

Now McElwee wants to use environmentalism to appeal to the working class. I'm all for that. But you don't have to play 11-dimensional chess to figure out how Republicans will respond. They'll say that Democrats want to raise your taxes. They'll say Democrats want to take away your plastic bags. They'll say Democrats want to make us all drive tiny cars or take the train everywhere. In coal country they'll say Democrats want to take away your jobs.

And then Democrats will wonder yet again why a big chunk of the working class votes for Republicans. It's a stumper all right.

Apologies for being peevish. But honestly, Democrats have done virtually nothing for the middle class for three decades now. They're nearly as reliant on the business community for campaign funding as Republicans. Can we all stop pretending that there's some deep mystery about why lots of working and middle class voters figure there are no real economic differences between the parties, so they might as well vote on social issues instead?



http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/03/if-democrats-want-appeal-working-class-they-really-need-some-policies-benefit-wor

by on Mar. 12, 2014 at 12:13 PM
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Replies (1-10):
TranquilMind
by Platinum Member on Mar. 12, 2014 at 12:42 PM
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 That is certainly true. 

supermonstermom
by on Mar. 12, 2014 at 12:46 PM

I am not sure I agree.

We have some great local leaders with a D behind their names who have done wonderful thing for working families,the middle class and communities.

On a national level, I can't think of anyone with a D or an R behind their names who actully cares.

MsDenuninani
by A.Ham on Mar. 12, 2014 at 12:53 PM
5 moms liked this

I get this writer's gripe.  But two points:

1) He writes "Sure, Democrats do plenty for the poor. They support increases in the EITC and the minimum wage. They support Medicaid expansion. They passed Obamacare. They support pre-K for vulnerable populations. They expanded CHIP. But virtually none of this really benefits the working or middle classes except at the margins."

I'd argue that helping the poor ascend to the middle class is helping the middle class.   Further, it also helps provide a safety net from keeping middle class from sinking to becoming the working poor.

Further, virtually all policy really only helps people at the margins.  Americans don't like change.  We fear far-reaching policies designed to help massive amounts of people.  For evidence of that, you need only look at Obamacare -- or what happened when Bush tried to change social security.  Thus, we tend to act at the margins rather than enact broad-based change.

Which brings me to my second point. . .

2) Virtually no one has done anything to help the middle class in 30 years.  Hence the growing inequality.

MeAndTommyLee
by Angie on Mar. 12, 2014 at 1:19 PM

I agree.  I remember 30 years ago with vivid clarity.  Still just want for the 20 something year old come on here to defend the dems. LOL

Quoting TranquilMind:

 That is certainly true. 


momtoscott
by on Mar. 12, 2014 at 1:36 PM
2 moms liked this

"Can we all stop pretending that there's some deep mystery about why lots of working and middle class voters figure there are no real economic differences between the parties, so they might as well vote on social issues instead?"

Neither party has an economic program that works, that's for sure.  

I agree that both parties are bought and paid for by the plutocrats and are not serving the interests of anyone but their masters, who are way above my pay grade.  

Social issues are certainly why I (middle class) will never vote for a Republican at anything other than the town level.  The GOP's social platform continues to be repulsive, so it's an easy choice.  

meriana
by Ruby Member on Mar. 12, 2014 at 8:36 PM
1 mom liked this

Does anyone really think ANY politician is going to do anything for the middle class over the next 30 years?

Sisteract
by Whoopie on Mar. 12, 2014 at 10:20 PM

Exactly

Quoting MsDenuninani:

I get this writer's gripe.  But two points:

1) He writes "Sure, Democrats do plenty for the poor. They support increases in the EITC and the minimum wage. They support Medicaid expansion. They passed Obamacare. They support pre-K for vulnerable populations. They expanded CHIP. But virtually none of this really benefits the working or middle classes except at the margins."

I'd argue that helping the poor ascend to the middle class is helping the middle class.   Further, it also helps provide a safety net from keeping middle class from sinking to becoming the working poor.

Further, virtually all policy really only helps people at the margins.  Americans don't like change.  We fear far-reaching policies designed to help massive amounts of people.  For evidence of that, you need only look at Obamacare -- or what happened when Bush tried to change social security.  Thus, we tend to act at the margins rather than enact broad-based change.

Which brings me to my second point. . .

2) Virtually no one has done anything to help the middle class in 30 years.  Hence the growing inequality.


coolmommy2x
by Platinum Member on Mar. 12, 2014 at 10:27 PM
2 moms liked this
Both sides have screwed the middle class. We can keep up the us vs them mentality or we can work together to fix the problems.
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4evrinbluejeans
by KK on Mar. 12, 2014 at 10:38 PM
2 moms liked this

yep, if the Republican party could go back to their roots and get out of everyone's bedroom I could possibly vote for them.  Unfortunately their perverse need to have their fingers in everyone's pie is so disgusting I can't imagine supporting a single one of them at this moment.  


Quoting momtoscott:

"Can we all stop pretending that there's some deep mystery about why lots of working and middle class voters figure there are no real economic differences between the parties, so they might as well vote on social issues instead?"

Neither party has an economic program that works, that's for sure.  

I agree that both parties are bought and paid for by the plutocrats and are not serving the interests of anyone but their masters, who are way above my pay grade.  

Social issues are certainly why I (middle class) will never vote for a Republican at anything other than the town level.  The GOP's social platform continues to be repulsive, so it's an easy choice.  


lga1965
by on Mar. 12, 2014 at 10:43 PM
LOL. Sure.
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