Monday, October 13, 2003

Winning back "natural" Democrats

Clark/Edwards could be one heck of a ticket:

But here's the secret of the Democratic primaries: They are no longer dominated by millworkers and milkmen. Steadily, the Democratic Party is becoming the party of the educated upper middle class.
This year's Democratic primary fight is, with its relentless focus on Iraq and foreign policy, pushing candidates even more toward the concerns of the educated class. Yes, it's far better for Democrats to talk about foreign policy than to be tongue-tied on the subject, as so many of them were in the 2002 election. Voters of every class care about national security.

But there also could be a push-pull effect: A campaign that fails to focus enough on bread-and-butter concerns might aggravate the Democrats' middle-class problems by burying the very themes that could draw such voters away from President Bush in the fall.

Of course, all the candidates talk about taxes, health care and jobs. And this is no longer FDR's electorate. In the three elections from 1992, Democrats won the popular vote partly because they did so well among the highly educated. This group has become ever larger as people -- John Edwards among them -- have climbed the class and education ladders.

Still, the Republicans who regularly condemn "class warfare" have shown great skill at playing the class card. They have condemned "liberal elitists" on cultural and moral issues to make deep inroads into once-Democratic constituencies.

The class war could play itself out in the Democratic primaries. Ruy Teixeira, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, says his analysis of recent Gallup polls finds that while former Vermont governor Howard Dean's constituency is rooted among "upscale, antiwar social liberals," retired Gen. Wesley Clark "does really well among middle- to low-income voters."

Dean, to gain ground, and Clark, to hold his, could usefully study up on the speeches of John Edwards. Without the votes of America's working-class heroes, the Democrats can't win.

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