The latest news about corporate America has had a more profound shift on our society than just an increase in incarceration rates. People are being downsized and people are publicly distancing themselves from larger bastions of wealth. In short, it is become less taboo to identify as or with the working class, see the New York Times survey in the May 15, 2005 edition. This is significant for the Democratic Party.
Politicians have been accused of neglecting the working class, aiming instead for the middle class. This strategy makes sense, or rather made sense. The working class were disenfranchised, while there is a rich debate about why this is so it is an afterthought for campaigning politicians, and were the least likely to vote. Campaigning for the hearts of non-voters seemed to be a sure way to lose. The shift from the middle class to the working class changes this calculus.
Some might argue that this shift is another irrelevancy for the campaigning politicians. Voting numbers are not increasing as a result of this shift, merely the self-identification of some voters. But, this is shallow analysis. Politicians can now change their messages in the traditional forums to be more working class. While this message might still fall on some deaf ears, there are an increasing number of people that will be attuned to this message that at one time were not. This shift also means politicians can campaign in non-traditional areas and have some results to show for it. Traditionally, a trip into a ghetto would not garner any votes, but now it will garner some votes as the ghetto has become larger and as people not in a ghetto will listen to the message delivered in the ghetto.
This strategy would also help recast the Democratic Party as the opposition party. It would also help overcome a failing of the traditional middle class approach: the best way to suppress the voting turnout of the working class and to disenfranchise them is to make them feel unwelcome and unimportant. Returning to this group will also counter the low voter turnouts as well as recast the political debate in this country. “American culture promotes a deep denial about the determinative power of class.” (Entin, 2005, 1211) This class amnesia has not helped the Democratic Party and has allowed the boughs of government to be controlled by Republicans, the reason is simple: if we are classless, wouldn’t a rational person want to be the rich one? We need to deny this premise of American culture and recast in terms favorable to the Democratic Party.
Entin, J. (2005). Class, culture, and the working body. American Quarterly, 57(4), 1211-1221.