Sam Smith – Over the past two decades there has been a significant decline in Democratic support from non-college grads. One factor in this has been an increasingly well educated liberal constituency with a decreasing skill at reaching those less educated. In fact, if you go back to the New Deal or Great Society, liberals had a real skill at reaching the working class.
Today that’s not very true, with a few exceptions like Joe Biden who has been around long enough to act more like an old time liberal. For most of the time, though, liberals fail to show sufficient interest in issues that would enliven the non-college class or use a language that makes reaching this class easier.
Two examples of the latter are infrastructure and LGBTQ, Checking these terms on Google’s book use chart, one finds that infrastructure did not come into prominence until the 1960s. Today, it still doesn’t compare in use to, say, corruption or some other word far more widely used. Talk about new highways, bridges and trains and people will know of what you Speak.
The problem with LGBTQ is that if you’re not part of the culture or well educated about it, such a phrase is hard to remember, let alone use. Initialism is a subtle sign of higher education. Even Western Michigan University advises its staff and students to be careful:
Avoid abbreviations and acronyms to the greatest extent practical. Always identify programs, organizations and associations by their full names in the first reference, and on the Web, that means on every page.
Use words (the committee, association, office, center, institute, program) instead of the abbreviation.
Widely recognized abbreviations, such as ACT for American College Test and NCAA for National Collegiate Athletic Association, may be used without introducing the full name, provided the initials are more widely known than the name and the initials are used in context.
Which is why I use alternative sex instead of LGBTQ. The use of language little heard from those other than college graduates is just one more reason the over educated can’t connect to the working class.
Just because so few talk about these educational differences doesn’t mean they haven’t had a major effect on our politics. Go back to the 1940s and less than five percent of adults had college degrees, by 1960 it was still at 10%. Today it’s at 36% and while the majority remains without college, the college class is powerful enough to think it can call the shots without much consultation. And it has paid the price.
One reason I recognize all this is because when I got my first job as a Washington radio reporter in the late 1950s, I was careful not to tell anyone on Capitol Hill or on the streets I covered that I had gone to Harvard. It would have been too easy to be taken for an elite snob. It was similar to the problem that too many liberals face today but haven’t come to realize yet.