Issue #363

Why Democrats must take sides in the class war

The waning of America’s middle class presents a huge challenge to the nation’s oldest political party. The Democrats’ ability to improve the economic lives of most Americans has been their primary calling card to the nation’s voters ever since Franklin Roosevelt became president. Since the 1940s, however, the Democrats’ preferred method of helping working- and middle-class Americans has tilted more toward spurring economic growth than aggressive redistribution. So long as the growth in the nation’s economy registered in the pocketbooks of most Americans, there was little need to adopt policies that put a high priority on, say, redirecting profits into wages. But the kind of economy that once allowed the Democrats to be the world’s leading cross-class party has almost completely disappeared. American economic growth today goes to a relative handful of its wealthiest citizens—indeed, since the recovery began in 2009, 95 percent of the income growth has accrued to the wealthiest 1 percent. The Democrats are hardly at death’s door. Abetted by the intransigence of a nativist, patriarchal, increasingly anti-science and fanatically anti-government Republican Party, they hold a commanding lead among the nation’s growing constituencies—Latinos, Asians, single mothers, millennials, and professionals. Demographics give the Democrats a clear edge in high-turnout elections, presidential elections most particularly. But demographics devoid of economics will sustain the party’s advantage for only so long—especially absent a serious plan for improving the prospects of today’s downwardly mobile. Harold Meyerson, the American Prospect, 10-9-14.