Too many liberal critics wave away the nostalgic-sounding laments about how America used to be great. To them, this is just the revanchist griping of old, straight, white dudes who are upset that their privilege is eroding. But when the population of your town is shrinking, when the churches and coffee shops are closing down, when the Memorial Day Parade has disappeared, there’s a real loss.
Trump exploited that loss by promising he could bring back what used to be. Of course he can’t — in fact, turning to a strongman just exacerbates the problem of community erosion by drawing power and attention away from the human level. But Hillary played into Trump’s hands by trying to deny that the suffering was real, and by portraying all the changes as progress.
Can any 2020 Democrats do better? Maybe. But right now it appears doubtful. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio is reaching out for the working class, and willing to talk about the “dignity of work” — a concept many on the Left like to mock. But even he demeans the importance of community connections. He penned a snarky retort to an insightful David Brooks column recently.