In reality, Buttigieg, the brainy former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, exemplifies the problems that Democrats are facing in the post-Trump political environment. They’ve become the party of intellectuals and technocrats, winning over growing numbers of highly educated, white-collar voters while losing support from their old base of working-class voters of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.
That’s a bad trade-off, even in a Democratic presidential primary. Buttigieg’s own presidential campaign was an illustration of the limitations of relying on affluent professionals as a voting base. Even when he surged during the presidential primary, he always struggled to muster support among the nonwhite and blue-collar voters that typically decide the party nomination.
There’s a long list of failed Democratic presidential candidates who fashioned themselves as the smartest people in the room: Gary Hart, Bill Bradley, Howard Dean, and Elizabeth Warren, who was Buttigieg’s more-progressive counterpart in the 2020 race. Biden was able to win the Democratic nomination with ease largely because he was seen as a relatable, ordinary Joe. Anyone concerned about the Democratic Party’s future should be constantly reminding themselves that the party’s ideological problem is related to its disconnect from the interests and values of the working class.