The Right Coast

December 06, 2004
Democrats Losing on Class and Ideology
By Maimon Schwarzschild

Very interesting piece by William Galston in The Public Interest on the troubled state of the Democratic Party. Galston was a domestic policy advisor in the Clinton White House. He is also a serious scholar, the author of an excellent, very readable book on the implications of philosophical pluralism for liberal democracy.

Galston shows how America's growing economy, and the leftist drift of the Democrats, are combining to work against the Democrats' electoral prospects.
The shrinkage of the middle class and the widening gap between the wealthy and the poor are some of the most frequently discussed features of contemporary American life. Some see these developments as the basis for restoring a class-based politics. Lower-income groups, it is argued, might be mobilized to support a return to a more interventionist central government that buffers Americans against economic insecurity.

The tacit assumption behind this line of argument is that the income gap is growing because of downward mobility — that is, because a substantial portion of the population is being forced out of the middle class into working-class poverty. No doubt this is the case for some individuals. But, in the aggregate, this assumption is false. At the end of the 1990s boom, the percentage of low-income families was lower than it was in 1972. The middle class is shrinking, not because poverty is on the march, but because millions of Americans are surging into the ranks of the upper-middle class and wealthy.
Read the whole thing.