I wrote this post for the www.richardhowe.com blog in Lowell on August 11, 2016. Considering the presidential election result, it may be worth revisiting. Much of the post-election commentary from left, center, and right is sorting through the "big miss" by Democrats.
THIS ANALYSIS BY COLUMNIST Thomas B. Edsall in today’s NYTimes is too binary and too harsh on the Democrats coast to coast, but inside his argument are truths about trends and the record of priorities in the past 40 years, since Jimmy Carter’s presidency.
The TV show All in the Family with lead character Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor) was broadcast from 1971 to the early ’80s and captured effectively the Democrats’ problem. Here was a working-man character who should have been a solid Franklin D. Roosevelt-John F. Kennedy Democrat but who felt abandoned by what should have been his natural club and believed he was being shoved aside by activists in the commendable effort to liberate people who deserved more equal treatment in life. Archie was an avid Republican and Richard Nixon fan. I’m not saying Archie-type bigotry should be dismissed as harmless or his resentment applauded, but writing off the Archie-type is not helpful. My parents were of Archie’s “W-W-TWO” generation, and they managed to have a progressive view of change and fairness. They lived the Catholic value of love your neighbor. They watched Archie and laughed at him and sometimes griped with him. They didn't turn him off.
The national Democrats after the 1960s lacked the imagination and will required to get Archie Bunker into the party. While the circle of inclusion widened, not enough attention was paid to balancing the effects. More people deserved to be in the circle, whether in the country at first or in the world now, but the sharing of the “pie” has fallen disproportionally on persons with modest means and fewer competitive tools. Even in the face of obstruction by the national Republicans, the Democrats in Washington, D.C., especially, should have at least been able to make a more compelling case that they had better answers for the problem of growing inequality and social alienation. For example, why didn't the Clinton Foundation based in Arkansas make its primary purpose the regeneration of the economy in the surrounding "red states" and nearby Rust Belt? The work in the U.S. is dwarfed by the Foundation's international efforts.
That said, I think the partisan re-sorting has more to do with the national GOP’s racially coded “Southern Strategy” that poured gasoline on flaming resentments, as well as a cynical rejection of scientific inquiry and findings in favor of a faith-based reality. And the Southern Strategy was then applied in other regions as an accelerant for class strife, which is doubly cynical for a party that pretends there is no upper class, only “job-creators.”