Narratives settle in and effectively become reality, even when they’re wrong. The story that the “Democratic establishment” turned around the primary for Joe Biden is not only wrong, but insulting to the very voters Democrats need in order to win. Biden’s campaign was saved by the mostly African-American, working and middle class people of South Carolina, with a huge assist from a trusted local leader, Rep. Jim Clyburn. Otherwise, Biden would have lost, or squeezed out a disappointingly narrow win, and we wouldn’t have seen the cascade of support for him on Monday. On Tuesday, he won other states thanks to a lot of other working and middle class voters, with more strong support in particular among African-Americans.
A key reason for the willingness to believe the “establishment” narrative is also a key reason why Democrats lose elections we should win: we’re strong on economics and really bad on culture. The narrative depends on the mistaken belief, going all the way back to Marx and still hanging in even among people who don’t think of themselves as Marxists, that there’s a monolithic working class and that its economic struggle against the capitalist class explains everything about history and politics.
But as Marx might have learned if he had lived long enough to overlap with the field of psychology, there is a working class when it come to income levels and some shared economic interests, but not when it comes to behavior. Instead there are millions and millions of individuals who are members of wildly variable cultures.
I’d guess, for example, that many people would be surprised to learn that even though a huge majority of African-Americans are Democrats, only about a quarter identify as liberals.
Culture frequently trumps economics when it comes to behavior — as it did with Trump, BTW. This leaves many on the left scratching their heads and wondering what just happened to them — again. They ask themselves questions like, “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” Their confusion comes from a mistaken worldview that thinks economics drives everything.
What’s the matter with Kansas is that a lot of white working class people who used to vote Democratic stopped doing that because of culture.
And more black people might too, if they keep having the experience of being overlooked, taken for granted — or outright insulted, like we’re seeing right now.