Their successors in the party have continued to focus on cultural issues with limited appeal. Their focus on political correctness and conformity has left an impression on traditional Democrats that their party leaders care more about transgender bathroom access than employment, the cost of living, education or public safety. Mrs. Clinton’s “deplorables” reference struck home with these voters.
The Democrats’ post-1972 evolution also has turned upside down the party’s approaches to racial and economic justice. The Great Society approach was to enact laws, such as the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts, removing legal obstacles to justice. Medicare and Medicaid provided a health-care safety net to the elderly and poor. Job training, early education, nutrition, health and other War on Poverty programs were provided to the poor and only incidentally benefited minorities disproportionately. They were designed to help lift disadvantaged Americans to an equal place at the starting line—never to guarantee equality at the finish line. We also talked of “equal law enforcement,” which would protect citizens in minority neighborhoods while at the same time assuring race-blind treatment of offenders and suspects.