Writes George Packer in "Hillary Clinton and the Populist/The Democrats lost the white working class. The Republicans exploited it. Can Clinton win it back?"
Packer challenges his readers — New Yorker readers — to understand the identity group Trump was able to see and willing to rouse to self-consciousness. With references to Thomas Frank's "Listen, Liberal" — a book I've blogged here, here, and here — Packer blames the Democratic Party for letting this group slip out of its hands.
To President Bill Clinton, speaking in his last SOTU in 2000, "[e]ducation was the answer to all problems of social class."
(His laundry list of proposals to Congress included more money for Internet access in schools and funds to help poor kids take college-test-prep courses.)
“My fellow-Americans,” the President announced. “We have crossed the bridge we built to the twenty-first century.”
In our conversation, Hillary Clinton spoke of the limits of an “educationalist” mind-set, which she called a “peculiar form of élitism.” Educationalists, she noted, say they “want to lift everybody up”—they “don’t want to tell anybody that they can’t go as high as their ambition will take them.” The problem was that “we’re going to have a lot of jobs in this economy” that require blue-collar skills, not B.A.s. “We need to do something that is really important, and this is to just go right after the denigration of jobs and skills that are not college-connected.” A four-year degree isn’t for everyone, she said; vocational education should be brought back to high schools.
Yet “educationalist élitism” describes the Democratic thinking that took root during her husband’s Presidency. When I asked her if this had helped drive working-class Americans away from the Democratic Party, she hedged. “I don’t really know the answer to that,” she said.