Let me try my best to briefly offer some choice insights from Larry M. Bartel’s Unequal Democracy (with some slight commentary added by me).
1) One of the biggest points of the book is that the lower income class, as defined as the bottom third, has never turned away from the Democratic Party. They haven’t even lost the white lower income class across the country, only in the South. They haven’t even lost the lower income class in the South, just poor whites.
Actually, Democrats are supported by the majority of eligible voters. The problem is that generations of disenfranchisement allows Republicans to control the South with only a minority by using voter purges, long polling lines, etc. This simple truth seems even lost on Bartels.
2) There is good reason the lower income class votes Democrat. Research shows that society is better for most people under Democratic administrations and Democratic majorities in Congress. Economic inequality and poverty goes down. homicide and suicide rates go down, and on and on. Bartels shows that even the rich do better with Democrats. This is based on long-term data and so appears to be strongly compelling.
3) There is a weird phenomena related to class and ideology. The lower class tends to be more socially conservative while also being more fiscally liberal. And the upper class tends to be more socially liberal while also being more fiscally conservative. The middle class, unsurprisingly, is in the middle somewhere. What is enticing about this is that, if anything, the correlation between fiscal and social ideologies, whether liberal or conservative, is a negative correlation.
4) The problem with politicians isn’t that they pander to the lower class. If anything, the problem is that they don’t pander to the lower class. Other data even shows that most politicians are clueless about the average American. As for the below average American, fuggetaboutit.