Class is back. Arguably, for the first time since the New Deal, class is the dominant political issue. Virtually every candidate has tried appealing to class concerns, particularly those in the stressed middle and lower income groups. But the clear beneficiaries have been Trump on the right and Sanders on the left.
Class has risen to prominence as the prospects for middle and working class Americans have declined. Even amidst a recovery, most Americans remain pessimistic about their future prospects, and, even more seriously, doubt a bright future (PDF) for the next generation. Most show little confidence in the federal government, although many look for succor from that very source.
To understand class in America today, one has to look beyond such memes as “the one percent” or even the concept of “working families.” As Marx understood in the 19th century, classes are often fragmented, with even the rich and powerful divided by their economic interest and world view. In our complex 21st century politics, there’s a big divergence among everyone from the oligarchic classes to those who inhabit, or fear they will soon inhabit, the economic basement.