It is not news that the Democrats have been losing white working-class voters ever since the emergence of the Reagan Democrats. But today, the party is bleeding working-class voters of all varieties. As John B. Judis and Ruy Teixeira point out in their forthcoming book, “Where Have All the Democrats Gone?” Democrats have been losing ground among Hispanics for the last few years. In 2012, Barack Obama carried nonwhite voters without a college degree by a 67-point margin. In 2020, Biden carried this group with a 48-point margin. Today, the Democratic ticket leads among this group by a paltry 16 points.

But Democrats are losing something arguably more important than a reliable base of supporters. The party is in danger of letting go of an ethos, a heritage, a tradition. The working-class heart and soul the Democrats cultivated through the Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy years rooted Democratic progressivism in a set of values that emphasized hard work, neighborhood, faith, family and flag. Being connected to Americans’ everyday experiences kept the party pinioned to the mainstream.

As the party became dominated by the more educated activist and media sectors, it lost touch with some of what can be called its psychological and emotional power sources. It grew prone to taking flights of fancy in policy and rhetoric, be it Medicare for All or “defund the police,” going to places where middle-of-the-road voters would not follow. It became more vulnerable to the insular outlooks of its most privileged and educated members.

This is what happened in 2020. There were moments in that campaign when it looked as if Bernie Sanders was going to run away with the race, sending the party into uncharted ideological waters. Most of the other candidates sprinted leftward. In a June 2019 debate, nine of 10 Democratic presidential candidates raised their hands when asked if they supported decriminalizing border crossings. Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand were even further left than their colleagues. The year prior, both of them called for dismantling Immigration and Customs Enforcement. College-educated voters are less worried about illegal immigration than high school-educated voters and that influence showed.

Joe Biden was nominated in 2020 because he was the cure to this malady. He was the guy most plainly with roots in the working and middle class. He was the guy who didn’t engage in the culture war and identity politics theatrics. He was the most moderate major candidate in the race. Democrats from James Clyburn on down swung to Biden because he offered the most plausible connection back to the Democrats’ working-class soul — and it worked. Biden gave the party what it needed to come back to life.



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