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July 11 2017

Oops! Your Disdain Is Showing . . .

by Charlotte Hays

Manhattan Institute fellow Kay Hymowitz  has the kind of background that should put her squarely in the Democratic Party's elite. She is a product of Brandeis and resident of Brooklyn.  Instead, she is a most astute commentator on and analyst of  his elite.

She has lately been writing about the Democratic Party's estrangement from a vast portion of Middle American citizens--characterized as "deplorables" by former White House hopeful Hillary Clinton. It is these people who have dealt the Democrats recent and painful electoral defeats, starting with the 2016 presidential election and most recently in Georgia's sixth congressional district.

These defeats have the Democrats pondering and analyzing what it would take for them to win. They've talked about jobs programs, retiring Nancy Pelosi, and other facets of branding. What's missing? Hymowitz explains:

What’s missing from this list is the most important—and most challenging—item of all: solving the liberal “deplorable” problem. The white working class that hoisted Donald Trump to an unexpected victory may not always admire the man, but they know that he doesn’t hate “people like me,” in the pollsters’ common formulation.

And they have good reason to think that Democrats, particularly coastal and media types, do hate them: consider Frank Rich’s snide and oft-cited article, “No Sympathy for the Hillbilly.” It’s possible that white working-class voters would back a party filled with people who see them as racists and misogynists, with bad values and worse taste, because they all want to raise taxes on Goldman Sachs executives, but it seems a risky bet.

As they rack up electoral disappointments, some Democrats are realizing that they need these Americans whom they spurn. Former Guardian in America editor Michael Tomasky, now with Democracy, has published an article on the Democrats' seemingly fatal brand of elitism, saying that "sensibilities," not policy, are at the heart of the matter. Tomasky also seeks to capture that (to liberals) elusive creature, the regular American.  Hymowitz notes:

To most conservatives, Tomasky’s depiction of Middle Americans will seem cringingly obvious. The group tends to be churchgoers (“Not temple. Church”), they don’t think and talk politics from morning till night, and, yes, they’re flag-waving patriots.

Joan Williams, a feminist law professor, also has written about her party's distance from Middle Americans:

Married to the Harvard-educated son of a working-class family, Williams is astute about the wide disparities between liberal and white working-class notions of the meaning of work, family, community, and country. One of her proposals for solving class cluelessness is a conservative favorite: reviving civics education.

(Hymowitz reviewed Williams' book.)

But the distance between Democrats and those Middle Americans whose votes, if not their values, they covet, appears unbreachable:

These writers are engaging in healthy critical self-reflection, but in the course of describing the Democrats’ class dilemma, the liberal truth-tellers unwittingly show why a solution lies out of reach. They understate Democrats’ entanglement with the identity-politics Left, a group devoted to a narrative of American iniquity. Identity politics appeals to its core constituents through grievance and resentment, particularly toward white men.

Consider some reactions to centrist Democrat John Osoff’s defeat in Georgia’s sixth district. “Maybe instead of trying to convince hateful white people, Dems should convince our base—ppl of color, women—to turn out,” feminist writer and Cosmopolitan political columnist Jill Filopovic tweeted afterward. “At some point we have to be willing to say that yes, lots of conservative voters are hateful and willing to embrace bigots.” Insightful as she is, even Williams assumes that all criticisms of the immigration status quo can be chalked up to “fear of brown people.”

No Democrat on the scene today possesses the Lincolnesque political skills to persuade liberal voters to give up their assumptions of white deplorability, endorse assimilation, or back traditional civics education. In the current environment, a Democratic civics curriculum would teach that American institutions are vehicles for the transmission of white supremacy and sexism, hardly a route to social cohesion. As for assimilation, Hispanic and bilingual-education advocacy organizations would threaten a revolt—and they’d only be the first to sound the alarm.

And yet the Democrats may well regain electoral dominance without curbing their disdain for a vast swath of the population. Hymowitz concludes:

Appeasing deplorables may yet prove unnecessary, though. Democrats’ strategy of awaiting “inevitable” demographic change in the electorate, combined with the hope that Trump and the Republican Congress will commit major unforced errors, may allow the party to regain control of the country without making any concessions to the large portion of the U.S. population whom they appear to despise.

It would be silly to say that there have not been class divisions in American society in the past. There have. What seems to be new is a kind of poisonous hatred for average, hard-working Americans who don't live in select zip codes and ascribe to a set of values embraced by those who (erroneously, I submit) regard themselves as the best and brightest--and coolest.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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