I posted about this phenomenon recently, though hardly anyone of you commentators understood my point. Maybe Joan C. Williams, a liberal Democrat, can state it more clearly than I did:
For two generations, the Democrats have failed to relate to white working-class voters. Black working-class voters never abandoned the party, but the percentage of working-class whites who identified as Democrats fell from 60 percent in the mid-1970s to 40 percent in the mid-1990s. George W. Bush won his two presidential elections with landslides among white working-class men, while Obama lost among white working-class voters by 18 percentage points in 2008, roughly the same margin by which Al Gore lost them in 2000.
Democrats need to understand why Republicans have been so successful at courting working-class whites — and why Democrats have been consistently unable to do so. . . .
While Republicans have made working-class resentments a powerful weapon for achieving the policy goals of the business elite, Democrats have inadvertently fueled those resentments. For more than a generation, a substantial class and cultural gap has tripped up progressive politicians.
Salad greens have been a big problem for Democrats. Michael Dukakis got into trouble over Belgian endive; Obama over arugula. Both Howard Dean and Obama have tried, and failed, to speak about working-class voters’ values without sounding condescending. During his campaign, for instance, Obama once noted that working-class families were distressed by their economic free fall — and then he stumbled straight into the culture gap as he talked about voters’ attitudes toward guns and religion.
Democratic leaders can’t seem to speak to working-class concerns in a way that doesn’t alienate the very people they’re trying to reach. Having ceded this cultural ground, they need to win it back.
Prof. William’s recommended solution is for the Democrats to make more entitlement programs that apply to everyone–such as Social Security and Medicare–rather than targeting specific groups, such as poor people (the “have-nots”), that leave out working people who are just getting by (the “have-a-littles”). I believe, though, that she is still missing what blue collar workers really want: not government dependence, but government independence.