The idea of a deep transformational political change in the Democratic rust belt was introduced to me by progressive columnist Harold Meyerson. Speaking before the 2010 election, he explained with some sorrow that there was a “triangle area” in the Midwest that was no longer captive to the unions:
From Pennsylvania up to Wisconsin and down to Missouri you have what’s now the post-industrial Midwest, which also is the post-unionized Midwest.
The loss had a major effect on the ability of unions to communicate with their members. And as factories closed down, so too did unions:
The unions served as a vehicle of communication, in a more progressive direction. You still have the folks there, but neither the factories nor the unions are there anymore.
The union communication wasn’t just an occasional email or flyer. It was daily contact to propagandize, persuade, and sometimes to apply a little pressure or even intimidation. It was a cultural connection. More than a dozen years have passed since many Midwesterners have lived in the union petri dish, and since then they’ve been living in the real world. Now they feel as if government union workers are picking their pocket.
U.S. News & World Report columnist Peter Roff illustrates the Wisconsin taxpayer antipathy towards their fellow unionized public sector worker: by astounding margins ranging from 66% to 79%, vast majorities believe unionized government workers must pay more for their health insurance and contribute more for their pension plans, and limited pay raises should be tied to the inflation rate.
But there is another underlying reason why Democrats have been losing the battle for hearts and minds in the Midwest. Simply put, they have contempt for blue-collar workers. Shortly around the time of Al Gore’s presidential candidacy, Democratic elites began to write off working class Americans who lived in the “flyover states.” They did not fit into the cultural vision of party activists who were enthusiastic about pacifism, environmentalism, or racial and gender issues.
A telling piece worth an entire read and giving hope to the notion that this country might yet overcome the election of 2008.