Why don’t working class people come to our meetings?

Stuart Bramhall on why the left fails to attract the working class.

After posing this question to working class clients and friends for 30+ years, I have come up with the following answers:

Liberals and progressives rarely address the nitty gritty financial issues (i.e. paying the rent or mortgage and food and doctor bills) that would motivate blue or pink collar workers to become politically active. When you can’t afford a doctor or shoes for your kids, it’s hard to get excited about wars in the Middle East, banking reform or climate change.

Liberals and progressives tend to be insensitive to working class culture and are often perceived as moralizing about “political correctness” and “lifestyle changes.” This often includes a heavy emphasis on changing light bulbs and other “sacrifices” activists are expected to make to reduce global warming.

My blue collar friends complain about not being heard at political meetings because more educated activists tend to monopolize the discussions.

My working class friends tend to be mistrustful of progressives in general, owing to their tendency to stigmatize common working class issues, especially chronic illness and obesity (which increase in prevalence as income decreases), smoking and gun control.

Liberals and progressive organizers are generally urban, middle class and above, and too often patronizing to the working class whom they expect to quietly listen to and absorb the perceived wisdom from them, their enlightened betters. Marxists are just as guilty of this, if not more so, since they deliberately ignore the white working class in favor of people of color, who are supposedly more prole and thus more authentic. Plus Marxists really expect you to shut up while they tell you about their religion. Few liberal, progessive or Marxist organizers genuinely listen to what the working class says, much less encouraging them to have leadership roles in their organizations. Saul Alinsky did, and that’s precisely why he was so successful.

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