Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 23, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

WHAT DEMOCRATS STAND FOR....David Adesnik recently sat in on a focus group of (Ivy League) Democratic activists and came away surprised. Conventional wisdom says that if you ask ten Democrats what the party stands for, you'll get 11 different answers:

Yet in our focus group, almost every answer was exactly the same. The purpose of the Democratic party is to help the poor and the disadvantaged.

....The organizer's response to this unexpected consensus was both sympathetic and devastating. On the one hand, this consensus suggested that there is a foundational commitment on which Democrats can build. On the other hand, if the purpose of the Democratic party is to help the disadvantaged, what can the party possibly offer to the overwhelming majority of Americans who see themeslves as middle class?

In terms of domestic politics, Mark Reutter points toward the right answer in this piece in the Washington Post today about the increasing number of large corporation filing for Chapter 11 protection:

As the prospect of other large enterprises taking a spin down Chapter 11 becomes more widely discussed in business circles ("maybes" on the list include such iconic names as General Motors and Ford), the tactics used in bankruptcy courts are shaking the very foundations of the American workplace.

Whether an assembly-line worker or middle manager, an employee can no longer assume that promises made earlier health benefits or fully funded pensions will be there when he or she retires. The loss of security arising from Chapter 11 reorganizations has introduced a new element of anxiety into the lives of baby boomers who are approaching 60, not to mention younger workers just starting out in their careers.

To a growing extent, the type of gnawing stress and uncertainty that has always afflicted the daily life of the poor is increasingly afflicting the working and middle classes as well: stagnant wages, booms and busts in income from year to year, disappearing pensions, predatory lending, unreliable healthcare, and the constant, everpresent background fear of being laid off and falling into a hole you can never dig yourself out of.

This growing instability affects a huge swath of workers in the United States, and it's something the Democratic Party should dedicate itself to addressing. For more, see Jacob Hacker's terrific New Republic article on the subject and Peter Gosselin's related take in the Los Angeles Times.

Kevin Drum 1:05 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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