In the ever-changing Clintonian metric of voters that actually matter (tm), the HRC campaign seems to have finally settled, by the Pennsylvania primary, on the white working class. Yep, the good old solid white working class. To hear them say it, joe sixpack types are obviously the necessary people for a Democratic victory in November.
But my my, this is certainly a DRASTIC and abrupt turn around from the historical Clinton and DLC position - embraced as orthodoxy from 1994 through 2007 - that the upwardly mobile "suburban moderates" were the key to Democratic victory. Follow me below the fold for a brief look at this dramatic change of heart of convenience.
Recall that after the Republicans rolled to victory in 1994, essentially completing the political conversion of the white working class begun by Nixon, the conventional wisdom in DLC circles coalesced around "suburban moderates" as the future of the Democratic party. It was not inherently a bad idea - with the tech boom and demographic and cultural changes of the late 90s still in the future, this seemed a ripe place to find votes. The Clintons, like the rest of the DLC crowd, embraced the strategy wholeheartedly, and we soon became familar with "soccer moms", "office park dads" and the like.
Like I said, it was not a bad idea to start with, and in fact the suburbs as a whole switched from being solidly Republican ever since the 1950s to toss-up territory today. However, under the influence of hack demographers like Mark Penn and corporate shills like Terry McAuliffe, the Clinton/DLC strategy was to bet the entire farm and then some on these voters. This outlook was responsible for some of the classic right wing economic 'triangulation' of Clinton - endless free trade, further deregulation, and so on. These were definitely not positions designed to win over the working class, because the thinking was emphatically that the working class was not where it was at.
This 'swing state' 'suburban moderate' 'swing voter' strategy actually worked exactly one time ever, in 1996. But Clinton and the DLC and consultants were hooked. Both Democratic presidential campaigns since have been informed by it to some extent, to the disastrous results we all know.
And, lo and behold, this is how Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign started out - by basing it on the same suburban moderate strategy as always. Now Mark Penn was more powerful than ever in a campaign, and so fixated were they on the white middle and upper middle class that when he looked at American demographics in his book Microtrends, he almost didn't even see anyone else! I have a long explaination of Mark Penn's facile demographic analysis here, but the gist is that he saw an America filled with these middle and upper middle class voters, and little else. The white working class were definitly not what Hillary's campaign was about. It fit in with their world view, aesthetics, and politics to run the same old campaign.
But a funny thing happened... it turned out that the white working class, or at least the small percentage of it that still vote in Democratic primaries, was one of the only demographics that Hillary could win!
So what happened to the "suburban moderates" that Hillary and Penn bet the farm on? Well, I think that between 1996 and 2008 they pretty much disappeared as a group! Some of them became "security moms" and the like after the Lewinsky affair and 9/11, and returned some of the suburbs and the new exurbs to their conservative roots. They are now Republicans. The rest transitioned to the knowledge economy of the late 90s and the present day - they (and many of thier kids) are now the 'creative class' and are voting for Obama.
So now we've seen the radical switch. With the Clinton campaign needing some rational for continuation, Hillary and Bill now love the white working class as the only demographic that matters. Funny thing that is, after more than 10 years of completely ignoring them!
Sadly this is the kind of hypocrisy we now expect from the Clintons. To the superdelegates I would say: when the Clintons argue that the white working class is what's important in this election, as them why they didn't feel that way until a few months ago.