Class of '24


Most political coverage in America revolves around personalities, stratagems, and the cultural issues that appeal to the activist class in both parties. Yet the real determinant in 2024 will not be abortion, “systemic racism,” gender fluidity, or climate change, but deepening class divides. Once you analyze voters by class, and how they make their livings, racial categories—so critical among progressives today—recede in relevance.

Politicians in both parties pay lip service to working- and middle-class interests, but generally ignore their major concerns. In poll after poll most voters identify their main concerns as inflation, lack of economic opportunity, health care, and issues such as crime and immigration that directly affect their jobs, their earnings, and their families. Relatively few, well under 5 percent, mention such things as the environment, racism, abortion, or even foreign policy, notes Gallup, a finding confirmed in recent Pew surveys.

This process is best seen by comparing education levels. Once a minor factor, educated voters since 2017, particularly with graduate degrees, have tilted toward the Democrats, beating Republicans by almost 30 percentage points. In contrast, those without a college education have gone from 14 percent more Democratic to 14 percent more GOP leaning.

The predominance of class is a key determinant amidst what are perceived as bleak times for working people. Many are simply dropping out; labor participation of men is now lower than in 1940, notes demographer Nicholas Eberstadt, when unemployment was three times higher. One recent poll found that only 34 percent of Americans approve of Bidenomics. By last summer a Reuters/Ipsos poll found that nearly 70 percent of Americans think the economy is worse now than in 2020, when the pandemic started in the U.S.

So why are Democrats, the putative party of the people, so disconnected from their historic base? One reason may be that, for many in their increasingly well-educated pool of support, things are going swimmingly. Pollster Scott Rasmussen has done a deep dive on “the one percent”—urban dwellers with post-graduate degrees and incomes over $150,000. These, by a four-to-one margin, support Joe Biden and his climate policies and progressive agenda. These professionals, particularly women, are increasingly the base of the Democratic Party.

Whether as professionals or the ultra-wealthy, these Democrats may be voting their consciences, but also their class interests. Government, social assistance, and healthcare account for 56 percent of the 2.8 million net new jobs over the past year, notes the Wall Street Journal, and for nearly all employment gains in blue states such as New York and Illinois. Professionals concentrated in government and largely public funded health programs have benefited mightily under Biden. Those who work directly for Washington recently a nice 5 percent raise from their president.

The other side of the Democratic base, wealthier voters, are beneficiaries of the strong stock market. The top ten percent own roughly 60 percent of all stocks, while most others have holdings averaging $40,000. In contrast to real incomes, which have grown barely 1.7 percent since 2020, stock income has burgeoned by nearly 50 percent.

So Paul Krugman is not entirely delusional when he thinks things are pretty good; they are indeed excellent for private jet flying tech oligarchs and tenured Ivy League professors. But the gap between the upper classes and everyone else continues to grow. No surprise then that only 36 percent of voters in a new Wall Street Journal/NORC survey said the American dream still holds true, substantially fewer than the 53 percent who said so in 2012 and 48 percent in 2016 in similar surveys. 

Read the rest of this piece at American Mind.

Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.