From E. J. Dionne, Jr.’s “Biden and Democratic governors embrace the new (old) class politics” at The Washington Post:
Leading figures in both parties have decided that the future of American politics rests in the hands of working-class voters. With the most affluent voters now largely sorted by ideology, the “working middle class” in the poll-tested phrase popular among politicians, will be getting a lot of love.
Biden’s bet — and it’s a wager many successful Democratic governors made last year — is that Democrats can win back blue-collar voters. This means not just gaining ground among Whites without college degrees but also winning back Hispanic voters who have drifted toward the GOP, and boosting turnout among the Black working class.
The president reiterated one of his favorite formulations on Tuesday, describing his agenda as “a blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America.” His first stop the day after his big speech was at a laborers’ union training center in Wisconsin. “For decades, the backbone of America — the middle class — has been hollowed out,” Biden said, adding: “Once-thriving cities and towns became shadows of what they used to be. … Now we’re going to turn that around.”
But Biden isn’t the only Democrat zeroing in on class conflict, as Dionne explains:
Nonetheless, one group of Democrats that sees promise in Biden’s emphasis on jobs, investment and a blue-collar political blueprint is made up of the party’s governors. This is not surprising since all governors, as Utah’s Republican Gov. Spencer Cox said during a White House meeting of state chief executives on Friday, like to think of themselves as “the get-stuff-done caucus.”
Dionne quotes Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a rising star among potential Democratic presidential candidates, who notes, “In the case of schools, for example, “the culture wars … are not fueled by what the average parent of school age kids is thinking about,” Whitmer said. “They want their kids to be safe when they’re at school. They want a reasonable class size so their kid gets enough attention.” What parents are deeply concerned about is “learning loss” during the pandemic, one reason she is pushing a program of “individualized tutoring” to help students catch up.”
Dionne also quotes New York Governor Kathy Hochul, who “spoke of her family’s journey to the middle class and the need to create comparable opportunities in a very different economic moment. “We have to go back to the soul of an FDR Democrat,” she said, describing her parents’ political faith. “You take care of people. You let them know that you’re on their side.” Roosevelt, she said, “was the voice of a nation and gave hope to people impoverished and those struggling to even find a way into the middle class. Shame on us if we don’t reconnect with that history.”
Shame indeed. Reclaiming the “soul of the FDR Democrat” may be the Democrat’s ticket back to a working majority, provided they learn how to listen to the working class — and build a consensus in support of their priorities.