Of all the social groups essential to a winning Democratic coalition, white working-class people are the only ones who, for the most part, currently lack sturdy institutions that promote progressive ideas and policies. African Americans have their churches, the NAACP, and other groups, both formal and informal. Latinos have organizations, both secular and religious, that defend immigrant rights and push for greater power in the larger society and culture. Middle and upper-class liberals have major universities and friendly media, from the Times, TNR, and The Nation to such websites as The Huffington Post and Daily Kos. Lesbians and gay men have the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
Whether or not organized labor is able to revive in the private sector, white working-class men and women need new institutions that can speak to their discontents and offer compelling alternatives to the politics of anger and nostalgia. Nurturing them is vital not just to defeating conservatives in elections to come. It is vital to the future of progressivism—enabling its politics to convey clearly and passionately what a better country would look like and what it will take to get us there.