Ever get the feeling the Democratic Party isn’t very deeply concerned about economic inequality? You have plenty of company. And in Thomas Frank’s Listen Liberal, you’ll find confirmation and an explanation.
In a blistering critique of the Democratic Party, Frank explains the metamorphosis that’s taken place since the 1972 election. The party of the working class has evolved into the party of the professional class. No longer does the party answer to workers and their unions. Instead, it caters to Silicon Valley geniuses, Wall Street money managers, lawyers, and others in the so-called “knowledge industry.”
Drawing on the Clinton and Obama presidencies, the experience in states and cities where Democrats are firmly in control, and Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, Frank makes a powerful case.
Innovation, in the minds of Democratic Party leaders, is the answer to everything. Accordingly, the “creative class” has special standing. Thus, deep blue Massachusetts, for example, has become one of the most unequal states in the nation. The professionals of Boston who work at universities, leading hospitals, and hedge funds and in the city’s booming biotech industry are riding high. But a gaping chasm lies between Boston’s opulence and once thriving nearby industrial towns like Fall River, where abandoned buildings dot the cityscape, the economic outlook is bleak and the futures of those living there are bleaker.
The change in Democratic Party thinking is not merely strategic, according to Frank. At a base level, he argues, it’s attitudinal. Democratic leaders believe that the world has changed and the road to financial well-being is education. Those who left school for blue-collar work and are now hurting financially, the logic goes, probably are where they deserve to be. So much for the being the party of working people.
For those who believe reducing economic inequality is among America’s most urgent challenges, Listen Liberal is a must read. Frank’s message as to how this challenge can be met or, really, how it almost certainly can’t be met, is one that anyone who desires a more egalitarian society should not ignore.