In 1995, pollster Stan Greenberg published his book “Middle Class Dreams.” It was noteworthy for a number of reasons but not because Greenberg is a top-shelf political strategist who helped engineer Bill Clinton’s rise from small state governor to the presidency and advised Nelson Mandela during his campaigns in South Africa. Of all the places he has polled it is Macomb County, Michigan where he has continually returned to study as a telling indicator of national trends and the book delves into what he believes motivates Macomb County voters. Home to those who were both “Reagan Democrats” and Clinton supporters, Macomb represents an independent streak that we take for granted. Though almost fifteen years old, the book’s portrait of Macomb is as telling now as it was then. What made both Reagan and Clinton successful was that they understood at some level and could communicate about the economic issues that affect the middle class.
There are programs that make up the social safety that, although straining, provide assistance to those at the bottom. It goes without saying that those at the top, though they may not identify themselves that way, will be able to take care of themselves. It is the middle class who are increasingly feeling the strain of the economy and find themselves working and struggling to capture their piece of the American Dream. Now more than ever, the middle class is seemingly under attack by outsourcing of jobs and the resulting unemployment, taxes that don’t seem to provide a measurable benefit, and less discretionary time and income making it harder to save for tomorrow or enjoy our families.
What we need now more than ever is an agenda for the middle class. Seems to me it starts with quality schools, good-paying jobs, and clean water. It includes economic development that values jobs over corporate profits. It includes speaking out against bad trade deals and fighting to make the global economy work for us. It’s what I have spent my time in office fighting for, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, but one thing is for sure: we won’t go down without a fight. There may be blood on the floor by the time we’re done, but it won’t all be ours! I’ll keep up the fight because the fight for the middle class is one worth having.