Fareed Zakaria’s recent op-ed and Sunday morning TV show raise the question of whether the Democratic Party really represents the poorer, working-class base that it claims to. Discussing a new book by Michael Lind, “The New Class War,” Zakaria points out that the Democratic desire to keep the country closed because of Covid-19 benefits educated elites who can work from home, but punishes lower paid workers who cannot.
Whether the Democratic Party is failing depends partly on who you believe its constituency is? Is it the low-income black and brown immigrants, or is it the elite graduates of the most selective universities? In the time of Covid-19, these two constituencies are in conflict. As Fareed notes, the elites can work from home, while most low-paid workers cannot. They have to go into their jobs doing maintenance, driving trucks, stocking shelves, working cash registers, etc. The elites say we can’t take a chance by stopping stay-at-home too soon; the workers say they need to get back to work to feed their families. Ironically, the lower-paid workers are the most likely to catch Covid-19 on the job. The Democrats say they want to protect them, but it is almost lke the old Vietnam cliché, “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.”
An added Democratic incentive is the opportunity to get Trump out of office. If the Democrats can keep the economy closed long enough, Trump may lose many of his supporters. Since the elite Democrats are not losing their jobs or income, especially with the stock market going up, keeping the economy closed affects them very little, while it is hard on many Trump supporters.
One of the most conspicuous examples of Democratic elitism is Hillary Clinton. A product of the Ivy League, she despised the people of Arkansas when Bill Clinton was their governor and she was first lady of Arkansas. She delighted in her elite status as New York Senator and Secretary of State, but average people perceived that she looked down on them. Thus, one of her campaign handicaps was that she was not likeable. This perception of her was one of the main reasons for her defeat by a terrible candidate, Donald Trump. Culturally, the Democratic Party is still Hillary Clinton’s party, dominated by highly educated elitists. Even as black and brown politicians increase their share of the Party, the elitists remain dominant, as illustrated by the recent Democratic primary.
Reviews of “The New Class War” by the NYT and The Guardian are not very complimentary because it challenges their liberal biases. They criticize the book as a failed defense of Trump supporters, but they miss the point that it illustrates the Democrats own failure to appeal to its base. They fail to see that the Democrats’ elitism has alienated many who should be their supporters. It is similar to the Democratic failures pointed out in “What’s the Matter with Kansas” by Thomas Frank. Additionally they tend to see the difference between Middle America and Coastal Elites as racial, when it is much more than that. Middle Americans perceive that the Coastal Elites despise them, not on a racial basis, but simply as inferior human beings. Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi know that they are God’s gifts to the fools in the heartland, whom they need to save from their own idiocy.
The voters in the heartland may not like Trump a lot, expecially farmers who have lost much because of him, but at least he doesn’t despise them and look down o them like the Democrats. Joe Biden is not really a card-carrying member of the Coastal Elites, but neither does he bring anything new to the Democrats. He is basically an empty suit saying “I am not Donald Trump.” Because he doesn’t personally alienate people like Hillary Clinton did, he may have a chance in the coming election, but he is not going to change the nature of the Democratic Party, many of whom of Hillary’s cultural heirs.
Fareed is smart enough to realize that no matter how terrible a President Trump is, he sitll has a chance of reelection mainly because of the failures of the Democratic Party. He is warning the many decent people among the Coastal Elites that they had better worry and get busy to make the Democratic Party more attractive to average, ordinary people.