Since Democrats across the country, identified with the deeply unpopular Barack Obama, went down to defeat on November 4, there has been a lot of hand wringing among the party's pols, activists, and pundits. It has included a fair amount of weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Some of it is constructive, as from Slate's Jamelle Bouie, who ten days after the election wrote
Democrats can adopt populist rhetoric, but there’s no guarantee working-class whites will buy it. Indeed, in parts of the country—like the Deep South—it’s a lost cause. The Democratic Party is too associated with blacks and too associated with welfare to win over enough whites to make a difference.
But Bouie does not suggest those white people are irretrievably racist. Instead
Put another way, for a new rhetoric of populism to work—or at least, attract the winnable whites identified by Teixeira and Halpin—it needs to come with a commitment to universal policies that working-class whites like and support. (It’s no coincidence that the most liberal working-class whites belong to private and public sector unions.)
This, he understands, is easier said than done. With no hint of condescension, Bouie notes
But the United States doesn’t have a political party to support that kind of social democracy. Instead, it has the Democratic Party, a collection of disparate interests which—at its best—is nervous about economic liberalism and hesitant to push anything outside the mainstream. And worse, it has a presidential frontrunner who—more than anyone else—is connected to the kinds of elites and the kinds of policies that would push the party away from the muscular liberalism it needs.
It is a huge mid-range problem that both the establishment and many of the activists of the party are gearing up to nominate the Senator from Goldman Sachs, who is primed to "push the party away from the muscular liberalism it needs." Assuming she is nominated, a few crumbs, such as the selection of a running mate more sympathetic to the interests of the working- and middle classes, will be thrown to voters who sense that the country is shifting to a servant society in which they are to be the servants (photo below from Rebecca Cook/Reuters).
But there is little hope for reversal of this trend. The centrists of the party are committed to privatization of some sectors (such as education), the euphemistically-named free trade,deregulation of business, and normalization of illegal immigration- excluding citizenship, without which equal opportunity is a chimera. In the wake of the President's decision to protect from deportation 4-5 million illegal immigrants, there has been little heard from Democrats about maintaining and growing the middle class.
That has been a positive development, for any such talk at this time would be disingenuous. But it also highlights the reality that the party, as Bouie understands, has thrown in its lot with expanding the electorate rather than reassuring its traditional voters. Bouie, as he later explained, believes the political impact of the President's Executive Order will be limited because "the status quo will hold, and both sides will be on the same ground as before.'
Still, most voters aren't suckers and it was once said "if you sit in on a poker game and don't see a sucker, get up. You're the sucker." Those working-class voters eventually will realize they don't see a sucker; unless the Party changes, they will get up.