There is an immortal New Yorker cartoon by Peter Arno dating to the 1930s. It depicts well-dressed (mink coats, dinner jackets) people talking to equally well-dressed friends through a window. “Come along,” one says, “we’re going to the Trans-Lux to hiss Roosevelt.”
In the 1930s, and for many years thereafter, the Democratic Party was the party of the working man, its base in the labor movement Roosevelt did so much to advance. The Republicans were the party of the country club. That’s why the Democrats were the majority party in the country for so long.
But that is no longer the case. Both Biden and Clinton easily carried the top one percent. Wall Street and Silicon Valley are solidly Democratic as is the mainstream media (with the exception of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal editorial page). But the Democratic base, expanding among the elite, who can afford its policies, has been shrinking in much of the country outside the big coastal cities.
And the Democratic Party increasingly has the policies to match its now elite base. Just consider:
- On his first day in the White House, President Biden canceled the Keystone Pipeline project. Ostensibly it was for environmental reasons, although this exhaustively studied project would, in fact, help the environment. Oil will now have to move by truck and rail, which causes far more accidental spills than a pipeline. The move pleases virtual signaling environmental activists (who are upper-middle class and Democratic to a man) while as many as 10,000 well-paying blue-collar jobs will disappear. Many similar job losses will happen in such ancillary industries as steel pipe and construction equipment. Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO, deplored the move, although he was diplomatic in how he said so.
- Senators Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer are pushing a bill that would cancel college loan debt up to $50,000. This would substantially increase the net worth of the most affluent (the median household income of college graduates is over $100,000) at the expense of households headed by high school graduates (median income $48,000).
- President Biden wants to reopen the country to immigration and admit as many as 150,000 refugees per year. This will hurt those on the low end of the wage scale as new arrivals compete for low-wage jobs. President Trump’s tight restriction on immigration was part of the reason wages increased more at the low end in the Trump years than they did at the high end.
- Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi have introduced a bill that would largely force free-lance employees out of business by requiring companies to hire them full-time, with regular employee benefits. Of course, the companies won’t because they can’t afford to. California tried this last year, costing thousands of free-lance jobs, until a referendum on last November’s ballot largely gutted the law, passing overwhelmingly, 58-42 percent.
This might go a long way to explaining why President Trump did so strikingly better in many urban areas in the last election than he did in 2016. He increased his voting percentage, for instance, in four of the five boroughs of New York City by substantial amounts, and did better than expected in cities such as Detroit and Philadelphia.
Republicans running in 2022 should look carefully at this. In the emerging political era, the country club vote won’t get them elected dog catcher. Campaigning hard in the inner cities, pointing out in just how many ways the Democratic Party has left their denizens in the lurch with policies that favor the elite, just might.