I don’t think we can hide it anymore: The Democratic Party is an elitist institution.
This feeling has been budding in me for awhile — that the Democrats truly don’t really care about middle America.
While I didn’t vote for President-elect Donald Trump, I understand what the white working masses saw in him — someone who understood and embodied their fears. Who would have guessed that a billionaire is the champion of the working masses?
The Democratic Party used to be the champion of the working people, hence the reason labor unions back Democrats so heavily. But in recent years, this hasn’t been the case.
This shift of the labor vote from Democrat to Republican didn’t happen overnight. It’s been a series of compounding factors over, at least, the past eight years, with the most obvious factors being a change in Democratic strongholds and policies supported by a left-leaning president which don’t help middle America.
As a student of economics, I realize that free trade is good for an economy overall and have advocated for it. But free trade hurts a certain segment of America — manufacturing workers. Manufacturing workers reside in the Rust Belt of America — Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin are three prominent examples. These jobs can easily be outsourced overseas, so it is imperative to offer retraining programs targeted at this population so they can maintain a similar quality of life post-trade as they did pre-trade.
But the party fighting for these retraining programs is not the Democratic Party. Republicans were the ones to call for the reinstatement and expansion of the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which granted retraining programs to people whose jobs have been outsourced due to free trade.
It’s not hard to see Democrats have been retooling their party for a long time now. In “Listen, Liberal: What ever happened to the party of the people?” by Thomas Frank, he examines how the Democratic party has moved from primarily blue-collar workers to white collar professionals.
As the author said in an interview with In These Times, “The problem is, when you get rid of labor in your party, you also get rid of issues that matter to working people. That’s the basic mistake that Democrats made in the ’70s.”
It’s not hard to see why Democrats have left middle America in the dust. Democratic strongholds are in urban centers on the coasts. Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 1.3 million. In California, a relatively urban state, she won the vote by 3.1 million votes. To put that in comparison, not even 3 million people turned out to vote in Wisconsin.
With more Democratic voters located in coastal urban centers than total voters in Midwestern states, it is plain to see why the Democratic Party has shifted away from Midwestern, uneducated workers. If the outcome of the 2016 general election is any indication, they’re going to need to change their strategy, and quickly.
Aaron Reilly ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in social work and economics.