Joel Kotkin: The Middle-Class Will Revolt Against Progressives

David and Barbara Ludwig pose for a portrait at their home Wednesday, May 28, 2014, in Reading, Pa. The Ludwigs lost their manufacturing jobs and have been struggling financially ever since. For decades, American manufacturing provided entrée to the middle class, especially for workers without college degrees. No more. Globalization, …
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

The college-trained progressives in Joe Biden’s White House are creating a bipartisan revolt by ordinary, middle-class Americans, says Joel Kotkin, a left-of-center California demographer who has long been critical of Silicon Valley’s political demands.

“A specter is haunting America, a great revolt that threatens to dwarf the noxious rebellion led by Trump … a new middle-class rebellion against the excesses of the Left,” Kotkin says in a June 4 article for Newsweek.

He continues:

This new middle-class rebellion is being bolstered by a wide-ranging intellectual rebellion by traditional liberals against the Left’s dogmatism and intolerance. Indeed, what we’re about to see has the potential to reprise the great shift among old liberals that had them embracing Reagan in reaction to the Left’s excesses of that generation.

Biden’s policies on race, housing, hiring, “equity,” and crime are deeply unpopular among many Americans, whether white, black, or Latino, he argues. Biden is similarly losing the middle class on immigration,” he wrote.

He said the Democrats’ education, anti-patriotism, crime, energy, and jobs policies are also harmful to many ordinary Americans:

Major pushback on how the progressive Left sees American history is also brewing. Americans by and large remain patriotic, including the poor and working class. This patriotism stands in stark contrast to the prevailing view among progressives, which casts America as the intrinsically and irredeemably evil spawn of slaveholders and racists. This simply does not constitute a popular program to the middle and lower classes, a gap that could become more and more meaningful—especially as the message of the Left spreads.

California shows where progressives will drag Americans unless there is a revolt against their green war on jobs, he argues:

California provides a precursor for the emerging climate regime. Our state’s fixation on renewable energy, along with the closure of natural gas and nuclear plants, has helped drive the cost of electricity and gas to the highest in the continental U.S. It has also systematically undermined key blue collar industries like energy, construction and manufacturing, which have stagnated or shrunk, while regulations designed for climate reasons have helped boost home prices to the nation’s highest.

However, Kotkin downplays the deep impact of labor migration on Americans’ wages, housing costs, and heartland states.

Still, Kotkin is getting praise from mainstream politicians, including J.D. Vance, who is now running for an Ohio Senate seat as a Republican.

Vance has a matching criticism of the nation’s investor-dominated economy. He wrote in 2020:

The [coronavirus] has revealed an American economy built on consumption, reliant for production on regimes either indifferent or actively hostile to our national interest. Production, where it still exists in our country, clusters in megacities, where “knowledge economy” workers live uptown from the low-wage servants (disproportionately immigrants) who clean their laundry, care for their children, and serve their food.

Perhaps we shouldn’t build our cities like that. Perhaps we should make things in America. And if not all things, then at least enough so that the next time China unleashes a plague, it can’t threaten us with a loss of medicines and protective equipment.

In recent days, even Joe Biden and his commerce secretary have championed wage and training policies that contradict Wall Street’s demand for more imported consumers, renters, and workers.


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