The financial crisis and ensuing recession scrambled Americans' fears and desires, leaving an electorate defined by some variety of anger: at stagnant paychecks, at bank bailouts and government spending, at police shootings of blacks and at women's lower wages; anger against a "rigged system." Unfortunately for the Democratic Party -- the party of government -- most voters tend to think government is doing the rigging.

The most inspiring campaigners, Senator Sanders on the left and Donald J. Trump on the right, did not convince voters of the wisdom of carefully honed policy prescriptions. They ran on an apocalyptic vision of America under siege, with clear enemies in sight. Mr. Trump, an interloper of scant ideological baggage who took over a Republican Party at least as clueless as Democrats about voters' preoccupations, offered the more powerful apocalypse.

The question for Democrats looking for a path out of the wilderness -- for Mr. Cowan and Senator Sanders; for Senator Warren and the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, who hopes to woo voters by offering a "Better Deal" -- is whether they can appeal to voters still angry because their lives, their aspirations and their sense of self have been derailed over the last few years.


To recapture the presidency, Democrats must recover the support of the middle class -- people in families earning $50,000 to $150,000, whose vote went to Mr. Trump. Three-quarters of voters in swing states are white, according to data from the Cook Political Report presented by Third Way. Mr. Trump won white voters by 21 percentage points.


Joan C. Williams, a professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law who this year published "White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America," a critique of liberals' inability to understand this constituency, argues Democrats can offer an inclusive platform that appeals to all Democratic constituencies, like the proposal presented by Senator Schumer focused on jobs.

... Professor Williams argues against a move to a Democratic center that is friendly toward Wall Street and favors trade agreements, "two of the reasons that the working class is so done with the Democratic Party."

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