by James Billot
Tuesday, 24
May 2022
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16:45

Oren Cass: the fight is over on the Left

Like the Labour Party, the Democrats have given up on the working class
by James Billot
Oren Cass (above) speaks at the Restitch conference in London

The Democrats and the UK’s Labour Party have a long and intertwined history — something Joe Biden himself can personally attest to. Their recent electoral outcomes may have differed, but both have been going through a similar kind of identity crisis: two historically working class parties drifting from their base. It is a problem recognised on both sides of the Atlantic, but what are leaders Joe Biden and Keir Starmer doing about it?

According to Oren Cass, former political advisor to Mitt Romney who spoke at the Onward and Create Streets’ ‘Restitch’ conference in London, the President has effectively given up on trying to reclaim the working class. Asked by the BBC’s Justin Webb about the division between “those interested in identity versus those who believe in place and the dignity of labour?”, Cass responded:

Unfortunately the fight is close to over on the Left and it’s going in the wrong direction… If you look at President Biden’s actual policy agenda, what he’s stuck his neck out on, is almost all the identity-related issues and things like student loan forgiveness, which would overwhelmingly favour the upper class. So I think there is an overriding shift away from the concerns of the working class on the Left.
- Oren Cass, Restitch

Labour, meanwhile, is not in much better shape. Jon Cruddas MP warned that the differences within the Labour party today are far more “profound” than they were during the Blair era:

It is very challenging for the Left. Under New Labour we discussed bolting the working class back into the economy, but instead we pursued a pact with capital based on low regulation and tax credits. We chose this ahead of rebuilding the status of vocational work.

There’s a similar sort of debate going on in Labour now that is even more profound around the very nature of work. It’s now between whether we should be seen as a post-work movement that celebrates a life of luxury and abundance and universal basic income.

- Jon Cruddas MP, Restitch

Radical ideas like universal basic income and student loan forgiveness do not hold much sway over the ordinary voter. But as David Schor argued after the 2020 election, the Democrats have been “hijacked” by liberal activists — a problem that the Labour party faces too. This disconnect between the party machine and voter base has widened in recent years, yet this has not let to any kind of change of tack from Biden, whose approval rating hit an all-time low this week, and Keir Starmer, who is seemingly incapable of capitalising on a scandal-prone PM. With the midterms in less than six months and a General Election on the horizon, both leaders may wish to take heed of the warnings heard today.

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Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 month ago

Yes, we know. This has been going on since Blair and Clinton decided they could dispense with their working class base and depend on a new coalition of middle class angst and group identities. What is different is how the Right responds. In the States it has the measure of what it is up against; the Tories in the UK have – had – a brief opportunity to creat a counterweight coalition of the working class and the still socially conservative middle class. For whatever reason they are busy throwing this away.

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
1 month ago

Look. All politics is about “hey kids Want some free stuff?”
There’s not much that the educated ruling class is interested in tossing to the working class. Not these days.
But nice educated career women that believe in climate change and N95 masks and lockdokwns and helpless oppressed peoples? “Wow, do we have a deal for you!”

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 month ago

“… the Democrats have been “hijacked” by liberal activists — a problem that the Labour party faces too.”
The Tory Party is no better.

R Wright
R Wright
1 month ago
Reply to  polidori redux

The Tories’ issue is that they DON’T listen to their membership.

Derek Hilling
Derek Hilling
1 month ago

Politics is fundamentally a middle-class activity and so it is not surprising that many of the political parties in the Anglo-sphere are succumbing to liberal / ‘bleeding-heart’ activists who are ashamed of their wealth / identity / and their countries’ history.
I can only think that there is something very wrong with their privileged / university education. Lots of facts, particularly selected ones from the last 200 years of history, do not necessarily create a well-rounded, educated person. For that, one needs a sense of perspective which is precisely what history gives us. History, of course, has been one of the subjects that most suffered under successive governments ‘modernisation’.
Those who don’t understand their nation’s history are more easily pray to all those charlatans out there, telling their ‘bleeding-heart’ tales, to those with the mentality to be listen. Charlatans like BLM (who are apparently feathering their nests very well) and many charities, paying absurdly high salaries to glorified Chief Execs!
The Victorians were a similar privileged elite, riding the wave of the first great industrial expansion, but they did manage to make a long-lasting contribution. I would hope that we can find leaders who have a better perspective, who don’t fritter away our resources supporting ingrates who will only use it to aggrandise themselves.

Philip Stott
Philip Stott
1 month ago

And ironically, this issue with the Labour party, here in the UK, abandoning the working class has given carte blanche for our notionally, conservative government to abandon their usual base.
At least you lucky U.S. voters get to choose between parties with different policies!

diana Mackin
diana Mackin
1 month ago

People in the US do not understand class in the US. Student loan forgiveness would definitely benefit and is popular with the working class. Despite our misgivings, we did send our children off to colleges and universities so that they might have better opportunities — often with student loans, as our incomes didn’t allow for full pay!

There are levels of class beyond “upper” and “working” class, in both directions. Elites, the top 1% or fewer; upper class; middle class (with its own upper, mid and lower-middle); working class (shower after work by necessity); working poor (two minimum wage possibly part-time jobs + shower after work), and poverty class (the group pulled in and employed temporarily, to keep those just above in line).