Mark Schmitt sees two competing theories of the Democrats' relationship to the bitter class that have hitched themselves to the campaign narratives of both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama:
But Gore was just collateral damage in the story that Clinton is trying to tell, in which she and Bill Clinton, alone among national Democrats in the last three decades, had the secret formula to reassemble the New Deal coalition that connected working class whites, minorities, and educated professionals. According to this account, Bill Clinton brought the "Reagan Democrats," who abandoned Mondale and Dukakis, back into the fold, but Gore and Kerry lost them again. Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton has lost much of the 1990s coalition already, and is, forgive the word, "clinging" to what remains. ...
Obama, meanwhile is telling another story about the recent Democratic past. His remarks in San Francisco have been taken as a version of Tom Frank's argument in What's the Matter with Kansas, that working-class whites are drawn to Republicans or conservative social causes because they are distracted from their true economic interests. There are several good responses to Frank. One is to question why people's economic interests should be seen as more legitimate than their spiritual or social commitments; this is the essence of the Clinton/McCain counterattack. The other is to ask why working-class whites, especially those in once-prosperous, now dying towns should see Democrats as supportive of their economic interests. What has the Democratic party offered that would really address the economic crisis of, say, Hazleton, Pennsylvania?
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