In between elections, the United States has no working class, just a middle class. Politicians use promises to help the middle class as code for helping everyone, I guess (or at least everyone that votes). But, near election time, they know better. Winning the working class vote (typically defined as Whites without a college degree that work in non-salaried jobs) has been the holy grail of elections for decades. In presidential and most important statewide elections, Republicans have to run up the score with them to 60%+ or they lose; Democrats have to win no fewer than about 45% of them or they lose. As a changing economy and a browning America buffets and challenges the White working class, it’s not clear (to me, for one) that either party really appeals to their interests anymore.
Of course, that depends on who is in today’s “working class,” and on what their needs and interests are. On Monday, I’ll open by explaining how the “working class” is typically defined Who should be included and excluded in this group is disputed and very important in answering our questions. Then, since this group knows how badly the fortunes of the working class have deteriorated in recent years, I’ll skip that horror story (see one of my links below if you want to) and instead briefly outline a few ways some people think working people’s needs differ from those of the sainted middle class that our politicians and the news media are consumed with pandering to.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS –
- How should the “working class” be defined? Does it still exist as a distinct group; i.e., with needs and interests distinct from the middle class?
- How do the needs of working people differ from those of the middle class, a generally more economically secure and socially secure group?
- What are the political beliefs of working class Americans? How different are they from those of the middle class?
- What do Democrats and Republicans do to appeal to this group? How’s that going?
- What should you political party do to attract the working class? Is doing so worth the cost, in terms of your party’s values and priorities?
- Put yourself in the shoes of your opponents. What should the other party do to help working Americans? Will they ever do it?
- The White working class defined and their political views explained (of course, studies/opinions differ). Recommended. See here for a more technical explanation emphasizing voting behavior.
- In case you’ve been living in a hole: The working class has been economically devastated in recent years and its prospects for recovery look grim.
- Our 2011 meeting on, What is populism, and my follow-up posts, might be helpful, too.
- Republicans: Some GOP insiders have urged the party for years to respond to the plight of working people by changing its policies to better appeal to their needs. Others blame it all on poor cultural values and advocate little change.
- Change the GOP – become “Sam’s Club Republicans.” UPDATE: Link fixed and still Recommended. Or try this. (by Douhat).
- Blame working class culture an don’t change anything.
- Democrats must commit to rebuilding the weakened social institutions that used to support working people. A must-read.
- No one represents the working class anymore. Part of the answer must be to revitalize unions.
Show some class solidarity and I’ll see you all there!