Leah Hunt-Hendrix Embodies the Dem’s Problem

Leah Hunt-Hendrix knows what blue collar Americans need.

Of course she does. After all, Hunt-Hendrix went to Duke and Princeton. She’s the trust-funded granddaughter of Texas oil billionaire H.L. Hunt. She has lived in diverse places like New York, the Middle East and San Francisco. She has flown over the Midwest on multiple occasions. She can find Wisconsin on a map, within three or four states.

She’s also very, very liberal and she’s really, really concerned about all those poor blue collar folks — you know, the ones whose trust funds are only kicking off maybe ten grand a month. She’s so concerned that she wrote her Ph.D. thesis on the concept of “solidarity”, a word often used on college campuses that has not been uttered on the South Side of Milwaukee since approximately 1915.

Hunt-Hendrix really got into Occupy Wall Street a couple of decades ago, Wall Street being in her own neighborhood. So, she got inspired and poured some of her inherited fortune into all kinds of super-helpful groups like Solidaire, Way to Win, and the Emergent Fund. Solidaire must be especially effective as it’s so stylish to take a campus concept like “solidarity” and find a way to make it sound even more snobbish. Giving an idea the patina of the French Revolution always goes over big with workers in America.

Who better to understand working Americans than an oil fortune heiress?

Anyway, truth is I had never heard of this woman until the New York Times wrote about a confab she had sponsored in Washington last week called “Sound Check.” The idea, according to the Times, was to come up with ways to counter the narrative that the Democrats are the party of rich people with fancy educations who look down on anybody who didn’t go to college. And what better way to do that then put together a conference in DC sponsored by an oil company heiress with a Ph.D. from Princeton.

And, sure enough, the conference produced pretty much what you’d expect. To quote the Times story: “The wonks and operatives huddling at Tuesday’s series of panels and hallway discussions would argue that party leaders are failing on two more fundamental levels: They don’t fight hard enough for working-class people, and they aren’t tough enough on big, greedy corporations.”

There is no evidence, of course, that any working-class people who would benefit so mightily from all this hard fighting were in attendance. And, as for those big, greedy corporations, Hunt-Hendrix was able to foot the bill for this thing because she inherited money from one of the biggest fossil fuel fortunes on the planet. I don’t know… Anybody else see irony here?

Look folks, absolutely everything is wrong about this. The Democrats are bleeding support from blue collar voters of all races because the party is perceived as a bunch of condescending, over-educated, affluent, preachy, liberal know-it-alls, who are obsessed with boutique issues of identity politics, who don’t share their values and who want to tell them how to live their lives. It should tell you something that given a choice between a corrupt idiot of a huckster and a bunch of condescending do-gooder liberals, blue collar voters pick the huckster.

The Democrats are becoming the Party of Insufferable People because people like Hunt-Hendrix are the face of the party. They are not nearly the majority of Democrats. As one Democratic consultant who I think actually understands what’s going on, David Shor, has pointed out, rank-and-file Democrats with moderate, sensible views outnumber the Hunt-Hendrix crowd by about two-to-one. But it’s her group that has the money, that populates the Washington think tanks and the university faculty lounges, that stocks Democratic campaigns and Congressional offices with young worker bees, and that dominates the media narrative that shapes public opinion about the party. The Democratic brand has been trashed in much of America precisely because people like Hunt-Hendrix trashed it. The best thing she could do for the cause is go away.

Here, from a conference room in the West Allis Inn on Greenfield Ave. right before we broke for Happy Hour, is the YSDA game plan to win back blue collar voters.

  1. Talk about values, not policies. The values are straightforward. Bill Clinton got it right. If you work hard and play by the rules, you should get ahead in America.
  2. If you hear it on NPR, don’t say it. Delete the following words from your vocabulary: white privilege, systemic racism, the patriarchy, Latinx, people capable of having children (refer to these people as “women”), cis-anything and whatever new word or phrase some academic comes up with next week.
  3. Talk about what people can earn, not what they deserve. I cringe every time I hear Bernie Sanders or some other hard-left Dem say that health care is a human right. Blue collar workers don’t want to be told what people who don’t work hard can get just for breathing.
  4. Do not attack corporations or billionaires. Blue collar workers like the jobs they have working for corporations and they want to be billionaires themselves someday. You may, however, attack billionaire heiresses who try to tell you what’s best for you.
  5. Don’t focus much on unions. Only about one in 10 American workers belongs to a union and many of those are teachers or other public employee unions, which the other nine in 10 workers resent. Most working people don’t care much for unions.

And how much of this great advice will my party take? None of it. Why? Because it is run by people like Leah Hunt-Hendrix.

Want to read more curiously conservative views from a liberal? Pick up a copy of Light Blue: How center-left moderates can build an enduring Democratic majority.


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

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