On Labor Day weekend, here’s a question that hard-left Democrats need to ask themselves: If they’re so pro-worker how come workers have been abandoning them in droves?
Once the blue collar party, Democrats are fast becoming the party of college-educated, relatively affluent, white collar workers who live in big cities and college towns. And yet, the party likes to tout a host of policies that blue collar workers should love: a higher minimum wage, expansion of Obama Care, progressive taxation and more.
As I’ve written many times in this space before, I think Democrats focus too much on specific policies while they either ignore values or inadvertently embody values that working class Americans abhor. Like it or not, the Democratic brand stands for spending a lot of money and giving stuff away to people whether they deserve it or not while obsessing over boutique issues of identity politics.
Nothing reinforces that image more thoroughly than Pres. Joe Biden’s proposal to forgive college debt. It checks all the boxes. It spends an enormous amount of money — $500 billion to as much as one trillion dollars. It gives the money away regardless of need. And one of the big justifications for it is that a disproportionate percentage of the beneficiaries will be Black people. (Never mind that only 14% of Black adults have a four year degree compared with 30% of the overall population, meaning that a greater percentage of Black blue collar workers will be subsidizing Black (and white) college grads with much higher incomes.)
And it does one other thing: it doubles down on the Democrats’ image as the party that discounts personal initiative and individual responsibility. Aside from maybe filling out some paperwork, you don’t have to do anything to get $10,000 or $20,000 from the government; you just have to be a member of the favored group. One person might have worked her way through school while her parents scrimped and saved while another might have majored in partying, taken a semester abroad and a gap year to find herself and, guess what? They will be treated to the same loan forgiveness.
The fundamental disconnect for Democratic elites is that they have no idea who blue collar workers are. Liberal elites live in echo chamber neighborhoods of mostly college-educated white folks just like themselves and they are deeply concerned about Black folks, transgender folks, women and anybody they perceive as “oppressed”. When they think about working people at all, they think about union coal miners in 1915.
Here’s what Democratic elites don’t get. Only one in ten American workers belongs to a union and most of those unions are for teachers, cops, firefighters or state and local government office workers. Today’s blue collar worker is the non-unionized manager at the Kwik Trip, the forklift operator at Costco, the hospital nurse, the freelance book keeper, the dietician at an assisted living facility. These are, in short, people that liberal Democrats just don’t see. They’re invisible to them.
And they’re also the demographic that voted for Donald Trump most heavily: People in their 30’s, 40’s and and 50’s without college degrees working in jobs like those I just listed. They’re working very hard to stay afloat in a middle class lifestyle. They’re supporting their kids while they also worry about their aging parents. They pay their taxes.
And they feel not just ignored by Democrats but inadvertently insulted by them at every turn. According to the hard-left, they only got what they have because of their “privilege”, not their hard work. They didn’t “do the right thing” by going to college. (Bernie Sanders has literally said that going to college is “doing the right thing.”) They haven’t caught up with the latest fashionable views on gender fluidity. They’re concerned that what their kids are being taught in the public schools they pay for through their tax dollars doesn’t match the values of their own families. And when they so much as raise a practical question about any of this, the hard-left is quick to call them bigots.
Democrats will never win back any substantial part of this group on their current path. And if they don’t change that path, they are destined to remain the minority party for the foreseeable future. And ya know what? They’ll deserve it.