William Galston provides highlights from a Pew survey of how party support has shifted over the past twenty years. He writes,
Democrats’ advantage in urban counties has shot up from 18 to 31 points, while Republicans have gone from a tie with Democrats in rural areas to a 16-point lead today.
He gives many other examples. He does not say so, but most of the demographic categories that favor Democrats are growing larger, while those that favor Republicans are shrinking. I recommend the entire column.
But I was most struck by this sentence fragment:
among voters with no more than a high school diploma—the so-called working class
In 1950, if you added together manufacturing production workers and mine workers, you could get a large enough total to constitute a “class.” I would guess close to one-third of adult males, maybe more. They made the AFL-CIO a big deal.
Today, those two groups would be much less than 10 percent of all employment. So, less than 5 percent of adult males? In any case, not enough to really call a class. So Galston has to describe working class as “no more than a high school diploma,” and he has to include the qualifier “so-called.”
My point is not to knock Galston or to deny the significance of differences based on educational attainment. I’m fine talking about a social or political divide that correlates with education. I just want to get rid of the term “working class.” In the 21st century, I don’t see how it can be defined in a useful way.