Years ago, I bought and read Thomas Frank’s book What’s The Matter With Kansas? when it came out in the 2000s when George W. Bush was president. I agreed with Frank’s critique of mainstream conservatism. Just read what I wrote about the Trump presidency for four years. It is basically the same idea. I had forgotten that Frank had used language that is almost identical to which I have been using as of late to describe what the Democrats were on their way to becoming back in 2004.
“Few, however, remembered the end of the book, which warned of a negative trajectory within the Democratic Party. While Republicans “were industriously fabricating their own class-based language of the right” and “made their populist appeal to blue-collar voters,” Democrats were “giving those same voters—their traditional base—the big brush-off.”
This warning — that becoming the party of “affluent, white-collar professionals who are liberal on social issues” would ultimately backfire — proved prophetic, not that it did Frank any good. As he continued to issue this same warning with books like Listen, Liberal — which came out during the 2016 presidential cycle and predicted with hideous accuracy what was to come — he found himself less and less in demand as a green room invite or guest editorialist.
Nobody in the commercial press wanted to hear that ditching the Democrats’ historical blue-collar coalition formed during the F.D.R. years had been a bad idea. Big media companies now wanted voices who made railing against Trump their expertise. …”
Frank was Nostradamus.
“Although Kansas voters have chosen self-destructive policies, it is clear that liberalism deserves a large part of the blame for the backlash phenomenon. Liberalism may not be the monstrous, all-powerful conspiracy that conservatives make it out to be, but its failings are clear nonetheless. Somewhere in the last four decades liberalism ceased to be relevant to huge portions of its traditional constituency, and liberalism just as surely lost places like Wichita and Shawnee as much as conservatism won them over.
This is due partly, I think, to the Democratic Party’s more-or-less official response to its waning fortunes. The Democratic Leadership Council, the organization that produced such figures as Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Joe Lieberman and Terry McAuliffe, has long been pushing the party to forget blue-collar voters and concentrate instead on recruiting affluent, white-collar professionals who are liberal on social issues. The larger interests that the DLC wants desperately to court are corporations, capable of generating campaign contributions far outweighing anything raised by organized labor. The way to collect the votes and — more important — the money of these coveted constituencies, “New Democrats” think, is to stand rock-solid on, say, the pro-choice position while making endless concessions on economic issues, on welfare, NAFTA, Social Security, labor law, privatization, deregulation and the rest of it. …
Curiously, though, Democrats of the DLC variety aren’t worried. They seem to look forward to a day when their party really is what David Brooks and Ann Coulter claim it to be now: a coming-together of the rich and the self-righteous. While Republicans trick out their poisonous stereotype of the liberal elite, Democrats seem determined to live up to the libel.
Such Democrats look at a situation like present-day Kansas, where social conservatives war ferociously on moderate Republicans, and they rub their hands with anticipation: Just look at how Ronald Reagan’s “social issues” have come back to bite his party! If only the crazy Cons push a little bit more, these Democrats think, the Republican Party will alienate the wealthy suburban Mods for good, and we will be able to step in and carry places like superaffluent Mission Hills, along with all the juicy boodle that its inhabitants are capable of throwing our way.
Though I enjoy watching Republicans fight one another as much as the next guy, I don’t think the Kansas story really gives true liberals any cause to cheer. Maybe someday the DLC dream will come to pass, with the Democrats having moved so far to the right that they are no different from old-fashioned moderate Republicans, and maybe then the affluent will finally come over to their side en masse. …”
Well, it finally happened with Trump.
Populism also runs deep where I am from in Barbour County, AL.