How Washington Pols—and Journalists—Don’t Connect With the Rest of the Country

I’ve lived in Washington, D.C., for more than 50 years but still have ties to my home state of Wisconsin. Over Thanksgiving one of my nieces was visiting DC with her family—she’s from Stevens Point, Wisconsin, a city of 27,000 that with surrounding towns is considered a metro area of 70,000.

It’s one of those many American cities that Washington and New York journalists consider “rural” and rarely gets written about. It’s not farm country—it’s the site of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and it’s in a county that narrowly favored Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in 2016.

If I distilled their Thanksgiving attitude about the current Congressional effort to impeach the President over something that involves politics and the Ukraine, their attitude would lean toward thinking that many Washington politicians—and most DC journalists—are very out of touch with the rest of the country.

Echoing that attitude is David von Drehle, a columnist for the Washington Post based in Kansas City. From today’s column in the Post headed “The working class doesn’t want your grand plans”:

The alienation of working stiffs from the Democrats elected President Donald Trump in 2016 and threatens to do the same next year. That name-calling, Tweet-storming enemy of elites tipped the balance in the industrial Midwest and in states where people get dirty digging, drilling or tilling for a living.

Leading Democratic theorists tend to explain their loss of the working class in terms of race, gender, patriarchy and disruption – favorite frames of reference that are necessary to understand our politics, but far from sufficient. What these frames fail to capture is the practicality of working people and their hard-earned allergy to egghead notions that cannot be made to work efficiently in the field. They’ve seen just enough college grads who design server racks that can’t be bolted into place to become skeptical of self-declared “smart” people in general. And they won’t be won over by politicians with grand, impractical plans.

When they read, for example, the Green New Deal from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., which promises to retrofit most homes and businesses in the United States while electrifying the nation’s entire transportation fleet, they bring a baseline understanding of just how much work goes into retrofitting a single building or installing a single electric-vehicle charging station. They have a pretty good idea how many people in their city or town are trained to do either of those jobs, much less are willing to do them on a blazing day in August or a freezing day in February.

The same goes for when they read that Warren is going to fix the medical delivery system by eliminating all private insurance – their union plans included. How’s that going to be bolted into place? Or when they read various plans to subsidize college debt. Won’t that just fuel tuition inflation?

Saying that such proposals are visionary or aspirational doesn’t cut any ice with this voting bloc, because those folks spend their days on the receiving end of other people’s visions, doing the hard work of turning blueprints into actual pipes, roads, buildings and wires.

Speak Your Mind