The Democrats Still Don’t Get It

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Prof. Oren M. Levin-Waldman discusses his most recent  article: “The Democrats Still Don’t Get It” By Oren M. Levin-Waldman, on Wednesday, October 24, 2018th at 10am EDT on the Westchester On the Level Internet radio broadcast. Use the following hyperlink … … to listen “Live” or “On Demand”. Please recognize the broadcast is initiated at 9:55am EDT and is archived within 15 after the conclusion of the broadcast day at 12Noon. Share your perspective and/or inquiry of the professor by calling 347.205.9201. Participants are asked to be respectful and to stay on topic. This segment will air from 10-11am.


“The Democrats Still Don’t Get It” By OREN M. LEVIN-WALDMAN

Oren M. Levin-Waldman, Ph.D.

The economy is booming we are told and maybe based on polls voters feel good about the economy. Of course, if they do, then all the more reason for politicians to do nothing. After all, if voters are optimistic, whatever problems may have existed before no longer do. Right? Not exactly. We have come to rely heavily on polls, which is problematic because they fail to measure what is really going on.

A public opinion survey is nothing more that a guage of how the public feels about an issue. And yet, their responses are often directly related to the way the question was worded. That people feel optimistic about the future is not proof that the economy is growing at all. They may be optimistic because by objective measures there has been growth. What if they said they were optimistic because following the tax cuts their take-home pay was more, but there was no real growth?

Politicians typically take public opinion polls to be the holy grail. The problem is that respondents are being asked questions about which they know very little about. Does the typical person on the street understand the relationship between rising interest rates and volatile stock market activity? The stock market is really nothing more than a barometer of investor confidence, but it does not accurately measure the health of the economy.

A public opinion poll can tell us what issues voters would find important to address, but it is a sad day in the life of a democracy when politicians base their positions solely on polls and what they think voters want to hear. Shouldn’t they be looking at trends and changes over time and addressing them?

The 2016 election is a classic case of living by the polls and getting it completely wrong. When polled on a range of social issues, politicians assumed they could ignore the consequences of economic transformation. Even asking voters how they feel about income inequality does not address the reasons for the rise in that inequality. The political campaign that looked at census data and was able to see that manufacturing jobs disappeared, more people were working in low-paid services, and median wages were declining, was ultimately the campaign that won the election.

Why? Because the voters who were living this experience heard politicians speaking to them about their deepest economic anxiety. They want a political class that is able to speak to their having been left behind. Talk about America’s moral values and how everybody ought to behave from the mouths of wealthy elites is meaningless if given their experience they intuitively understand there is no future for them. But the stock market could still be riding high.

The Democrats still continue to engage in the politics of resistance and even destruction. They still focus on social issues and don’t seriously address themselves to the economic transformations that have been most visible in the disappearance of the middle class. The Republicans, of course, respond that the economy is strong and unemployment is down, and therefore there is nothing more to do.

If people have a little more to spend because their take-home pay has increased following a tax bill, there will be some growth only because greater purchasing power increases aggregate demand for goods and services. Unfortunately, however, lower unemployment does not really tell us whether more workers are working full time rather than several part-time jobs. It does not tell us how many workers are really underemployed or how many simply gave up and dropped out of the labor market.

Whatever economic growth the polls indicate people feel good about really isn’t going to last forever, but it could be enough for Democrats to potentially lose an election because they continue to be engaged in identity politics. Even if the Democrats pick up seats and take control of the House of Representatives, it will only be a narrow majority. It will hardly be the blue wave that everybody was anticipating. But think of the victory it could be if Republicans were truly engaged on the issues.

The structural changes in the economy is an issue that should be addressed. That one can no longer count on being employed by the same employer over a lifetime is all the more reason why a single payer healthcare system is needed now. Or maybe it is needed because it would end job lock for many, which has also contributed to wage stagnation over the years.

The Democrats should absolutely be addressing the issue of the Supreme Court, but not as a bastion to protect social issues important to the elites or to overturn the will of democratically elected legislative bodies when clearly the will of the people is found to be offensive to these elites. The Democrats would have a real winning issue if they could explain how changing the composition on the Court will affect the scope of economic policy in the future or the right of workers in the labor market. They could begin with the recent Janus decision and how it will make it more difficult for workers to unionize. If they truly cared about the middle class, they would attempt to explain how that may impact wage growth in the future or just contribute to further erosion in wage value.

For the party supposedly representing workers not to campaign on issues related to structural economic change, that inequality signifies the disappearance of the middle class, and the implications of conservative constitutional interpretation — that it mirrors the neoclassical synthesis — on labor markets is really incredible. That the Republicans campaign on tax and deregulation is to be expected. Nobody expects any different from them. But the Democrats since the 1930s have allegedly been the voice of the working and middle class.

What the election results of 2016 told us was that the Democratic party abandoned its long time base and really lost its way. It only appears from the tone of the 2018 midterm election that the Democrats still don’t get it. Of course, those who truly lose here are the middle class.



Restoring the Middle Class through Wage / Oren M. Levin-Waldman / Palgrave MacMillan

This book makes the case for minimum wage as a way to improve well-being of middle-income workers, reduce income inequality, and enhance democracy….


Minimum Wage: A Reference Handbook / ABC – CLIO 

The Minimum Wage: A Reference Handbook By Oren M. Levin-Waldman. As of 2014, the minimum wage in Seattle is $15 an hour — double the federal minimum wage.


“Wage Policy, Income Distribution, and Democratic Theory” By Oren M. Levin-Waldman


Dr. Oren M. Levin-Waldman, Ph.D., Professor at the Graduate School for Public Affairs and Administration at Metropolitan College of New York, Research Scholar at the Binzagr Institute for Sustainable Prosperity, as well as faculty member in the Milano School for International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy at the New School. Direct email to: 


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