Even E.J. Dionne seems to have received a wake-up call from the Democratic defeat in California. He notes that Gray Davis did well with voters possessing postgraduate degrees, and reasonably well with those who didn’t graduate from high school, but was “clobbered in the middle range, effectively the great middle class Democrats talk so much about.” Dionne thinks that the Democrats increasingly face this problem at the national level as well, and that it may be shaping up as a particular problem for Howard Dean. He claims that the problem results from the failure of Democratic candidates, such as Dean, to focus on “bread-and-butter concerns.” Invoking John Lennon, Dionne decries the alleged unwillingness of most Democrats to present themselves as “working class heroes.”
A more likely explanation for the phenomenon Dionne identifies is that middle class voters no longer buy what Democrats have to say about bread-and-butter concerns. That is, most members of the middle class are reasonably satisfied with their “safety net” and, focused on advancing, see higher taxes and bigger government as an impediment. They aren’t looking to the government for working class heroes; only for competence in providing basic services at a reasonable cost.
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