The problem with middle-class populism

In many respects, the Democratic Party is in the midst of a class-based upheaval. In 1981, after Ronald Reagan won the presidency, Republicans took control of the Senate and a conservative alliance dominated the House.

As Tip O’Neill used to tell reporters, “We in the Democratic Party raised millions out of poverty into the middle class, and made them so comfortable they could become Republicans.” Now, three decades later, the Democrats’ dilemma grows out of the fact that they have won back the loyalty of many who have reached the upper rungs of the middle class.

These developments do not bode well for the party’s new priorities. If such a simple and straightforward proposal as the shift of government dollars from affluent families to far less advantaged families scraping to pay college tuition gets an instantaneous thumbs down from Pelosi, Schumer and Van Hollen, the realistic prospects for a middle-class agenda, if the Democrats return to power, are marginal at best.

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