Nancy Pelosi probably wants to scream every time she hears a far-left liberal claim the Democratic Party abandoned the poor and working-class whites.
Analysts of all stripes agree that Pelosi, caricatured as a limousine liberal by conservatives, was one of the most effective Speakers of the House in U.S. history. She sacrificed that power to provide health care to millions, along with Wall Street reform that established some of the country’s most stringent consumer protections ever. For all the talk of “both parties” forgetting about the already-struggling, the Democratic Party has spent the past decade fighting for policies to help that group as the Republican Party tried to roll those benefits back.
I don’t say this as a partisan. I routinely supported as many Republicans as Democrats. I voted for George W. Bush, Lindsey Graham, Mark Sanford and a bevy of down-ballot Republicans. I thought there was value in splitting the vote and guaranteeing divided government, the strongest form of checks and balances in our democracy. But that’s only true as long as both major parties act responsibly and in the best interests of as many Americans as possible, even if we disagree with the policy preferences through which they go about achieving those goals. While each party is too cozy with special and monied interests of various kinds, the GOP has largely abandoned its duties.
The uninsured rate is at its lowest ever because of the Affordable Care Act. Every-day Americans have benefited from billions in savings from credit card, overdraft fee and other protections that few people acknowledge. Democrats did not allow the domestic auto industry, and an estimated 1.4 million jobs, to go away even though conservatives argued against the auto bailout. Coal miners in West Virginia and white-working class families in Kentucky got access to the health care system to fight black lung, opioid addiction and other maladies that have claimed too many lives because they were un- or under-treated. Millions of Americans have been helped and don’t know that help came courtesy of unpopular, imperfect, laws that cost Democrats their majorities in Congress, and eventually the White House this past November. While that was happening, the deficit was cut by nearly three quarters, the country went on an unprecedented streak of job creation, and by 2015, the poor and middle class saw the biggest annual increase in their wages ever.
That’s why it must be grating on the ears of Democrats who took those votes and lost seats because of them every time ardent Bernie Sanders supporters declare there is no difference between the two parties or CNN commentator Van Jones, a former Obama administration official, says no one was there for struggling people.
Jones has become known for withering criticism of his own party and urging Democrats to empathize with lower-income supporters of President Donald Trump. He and others urge alliance-building with those voters. That sounds like good advice. But it’s little more than a fool’s errand. Despite how well Democratic policy priorities align with their interests, that group of voters has shunned the Democratic Party because of a few hot button social issues. Ignoring the bigotry they supported this past November won’t change that. They have done real damage, even if it was out of desperation inspired by real-life struggles.
If Democrats really want to help those struggling Americans, there’s only one way to do it: Beat Republicans at the ballot box and protect and improve the policies that had begun helping before the GOP took control and began threatening that progress.