Today's Democratic Party has an ingrained cultural aversion to the Booker T. Washington school. Liberal elites see themselves as a multiracial talented tenth, planning the economy and guiding society. In power, they lavish support on fashionable but unproductive sectors of the economy, such as green-energy boondoggles, and they buy off big constituencies invested in ever larger government such as public-sector unions, the "helping professions" and even too-big-too-fail businesses.
Their arguments sound economic and empirical, but ultimately they're cultural in nature. The upscale white professionals the Democrats are courting disproportionately share a cultural affinity for government and faith that statist interventions are for your own good. They also believe government needs to help people succeed -- or escape -- the rat race of the private sector. (Remember Michelle Obama's advice to working-class women? "Don't go into corporate America. ... Become teachers. Work for the community.") In his acceptance speech at the 2008 Democratic convention, Obama mocked the Booker T. Washington concept of self-reliance: "In Washington, they call this the ownership society, but what it really means is, you're on your own."
Later, Rep. Nancy Pelosi sold health-care reform as a "jobs bill" because "if you want to be creative and be a musician or whatever, you can leave your work, focus on your talent ... your aspirations because you will have health care," she explained as if speaking straight to Joe the Puppeteer. "You won't have to be job-locked."
That might be a compelling message to the white left represented at Occupy protests. The question is whether it sounds condescending or aloof to the rest of the Democratic coalition that wouldn't mind being "job-locked" right now.
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