Democrats and the White Working Class

by Ramesh Ponnuru

With so much going on, I forgot to plug my Bloomberg column yesterday on this topic. Its point is that Democrats in the Obama era stopped trying to meet white working-class voters even partway on cultural concerns — figured they could dispense with them, really — and are now paying a huge price for it.

Liberal Democrat Ed Kilgore concurs, at least in part:

[P]rogressive “populists” often fell into their old habit of condescendingly telling white working-class voters their most fondly cherished beliefs were just neurotic symptoms of their “real” economic class grievances. And as Hillary Clinton’s unfortunate gaffe about the “deplorables” showed, centrists often had little to say to cultural traditionalists other than “Please, hurry up and die off.”

At least one figure in the Clinton campaign thought it was making a big mistake with these voters.

Bill Clinton’s viewpoint of fighting for the working class white voters was often dismissed with a hand wave by senior members of the team as a personal vendetta to win back the voters who elected him, from a talented but aging politician who simply refused to accept the new Democratic map. At a meeting ahead of the convention at which aides presented to both Clintons the “Stronger Together” framework for the general election, senior strategist Joel Benenson told the former president bluntly that the voters from West Virginia were never coming back to his party.

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