The Democrats are becoming the party of affluent, college-educated professionals with cosmopolitan and modernist values who cluster in metropolitan areas, wealthy suburbs and college towns.
“Not too long ago, it was easy to describe the demographics of your typical left-wing political party anywhere in the industrialized West. This party would be composed of low-income, working-class people who were primarily motivated by pocketbook issues.
This described Labour in the United Kingdom and the Democratic Party in the United States, both of which built powerful economic policy-based coalitions following World War II. In the UK, Labour established the National Health Service, a system of socialized provision of health care that went on to be so popular that conservative and left-wing governments alike declined to roll it back. …
A new paper by researchers Amory Gethin, Clara Martinez-Toledano, and Thomas Piketty charts the evolution of political cleavages in 21 Western democracies over 300 elections that took place between 1948 and 2020. …
What’s causing this dramatic new realignment? The paper suggests that the transition in voting across Western democracies is being accelerated by the green (environmentalist) and anti-immigration movements. The green movements tend to attract a large share of higher-educated young voters, while the anti-immigrant movements appeal more to people who have less formal education.
The long-term implications of this shift from class-based politics to a politics divided increasingly by education remain to be seen. But we know that political parties tend to respond to the constituents they rely on to win elections. …”
The same is true of the Labour Party in Britain.
It is a class divide, not a racial divide. If you turn on CNN or MSNBC or read the New York Times or Washington Post (see the recent discussion between Ezra Klein and Fareed Zakaria), you will find it is PMCs who have the same worldview, values and politics and who use the same jargon. It doesn’t matter that Jonathan Capehart is a black homosexual. He is a black bugman. The fact that Chris Hayes is a White male isn’t really that meaningful either. He is also one of these people and speaks for them. As Thomas Piketty points out, you can find this class of people in all Western countries.
“Why? How did progressive leaders go from understanding that mass immigration is a de facto tax on the poor—as recently as six years ago—to casting it as the only morally defensible position, the only non-racist one?
It has to do with who the Democrats‘ new base is. In a new paper, the French economist Thomas Piketty along with a others detailed a colossal shift that has been underway in Western democracies in terms of who populates the ranks of the Left. If in the 1960s, the Democratic Party and other liberal-leaning political parties were filled with members of the working class, over the course of the past 60 years, they have become the bastion of the highly educated—a Brahmin Left whose concerns and demands increasingly constitute Democrats’ agenda.
It’s counterintuitive, write Picketty et al., given the skyrocketing inequality across the developed world. “Given this recent evolution, one might have expected to observe rising political demand for redistribution and the return of class-based (income-based or wealth-based) politics,” write the economists. “Instead, Western democracies seem to have shifted to new forms of identity-based conflicts in recent decades, embodied by the increasing salience of environmental issues and the growing prosperity of anti-establishment authoritarian movements.”
A class-based political spectrum has been replaced by what Picketty et al. call a “multi-elite party system.” If we once had one party representing the rich and one party representing labor, today, we have one party representing the rich and one party representing the highly educated and no party representing the working class. In 2020, Biden won 84 of the 100 counties with the highest percentage of college degree-holders. But the ranks of the rich are increasingly split, too: In 2020, Wall Street donors gave more money to Biden than to Trump.
Needless to say, they didn’t do so because they are keen on economic redistribution.
The truth is, the Brahmin Left doesn’t want redistribution; it wants culture wars over identity. It wants environmentalism, open borders, and student loan forgiveness. …”
This is exactly right.
Caleb Maupin has labeled them the “Synthetic Left.”
To be sure, it is a type of Left, but it is not one based on social democracy. It is not trying to improve the material standard of living of the working class. Instead, the goal of this Left which is grounded in modernism, critical theory, Freudianism and postmodernism is the transformation of consciousness. They care a great deal about controlling thoughts, what words people use, what they eat, what they can drive, etc. They want to micromanage the working class far more than redistributing wealth.
George Packer had a good description of PMCs in The Atlantic:
“In the early 1970s, the party became the home of educated professionals, nonwhite voters, and the shrinking unionized working class. The more the party identified with the winners of the new economy, the easier it became for the Republican Party to pull away white workers by appealing to cultural values. Bill and Hillary Clinton spoke about equipping workers to rise into the professional class through education and training. Their assumption was that all Americans could do what they did and be like them.
The narrative of Free America shaped the parameters of acceptable thinking for Smart America. Free trade, deregulation, economic concentration, and balanced budgets became the policy of the Democratic Party. It was cosmopolitan, embracing multiculturalism at home and welcoming a globalized world. Its donor class on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley bankrolled Democratic campaigns and was rewarded with influence in Washington. None of this appealed to the party’s old base.
The turn of the millennium was the high-water mark of Smart America. President Clinton’s speeches became euphoric—“We are fortunate to be alive at this moment in history,” he said in his final State of the Union message. The new economy had replaced “outmoded ideologies” with dazzling technologies. The business cycle of booms and busts had practically been abolished, along with class conflict. In April 2000, Clinton hosted a celebration called the White House Conference on the New Economy. Earnest purpose mingled with self-congratulation; virtue and success high-fived—the distinctive atmosphere of Smart America. At one point Clinton informed the participants that Congress was about to pass a bill to establish permanent trade relations with China, which would make both countries more prosperous and China more free. “I believe the computer and the internet give us a chance to move more people out of poverty more quickly than at any time in all of human history,” he exulted.
You can almost date the election of Donald Trump to that moment.
The winners in Smart America have withdrawn from national life. They spend inordinate amounts of time working (even in bed), researching their children’s schools and planning their activities, shopping for the right kind of food, learning to make sushi or play the mandolin, staying in shape, and following the news. None of this brings them in contact with fellow citizens outside their way of life. School, once the most universal and influential of our democratic institutions, now walls them off. The working class is terra incognita. …”
If you turn on MSNBC these days, you will notice that the programming is bizarrely stuck on January 6th. Every show that Chris Hayes does as he sinks in the ratings even behind Lawrence O’Donnell is about the Capitol riot. The same is true of CNN because this is what PMCs care about.