“By the late 1990s,” the organizer Jane McAlevey recalled, “I sat through numerous sessions where well-known national pollsters instructed labor leaders to replace the word working class with middle class.” Soon many labor leaders needed little reminding. Nevertheless, McAlevey’s point that the language of “saving the middle class” gained traction through electoral politics stands and her mention of the 90s nails the periodization. Earlier electoral appeals to the middle class had worked locally, mostly in the context of right-wing anti-tax and anti-integration initiatives, but it was the Bill Clinton victories during the 90s that made those appeals national and bipartisan. His pollster, Stanley Greenberg, famously made “middle class dreams” the key to progressive electioneering. The understanding of race and of class in political debates and among social movements has suffered for it.

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