Through the first four debates of the 2020 Democrat primary election cycle, candidates have mentioned the middle class an average of 5.3 times. Through the first six debates of 2016, candidates mentioned the middle class an average of 12.5 times. Rhetorical attention paid to the middle class has been cut by more than half on the Democrat side over the last four years, this in spite of the 2020 debates being longer than the 2016 debates were.
Though Bernie Sanders gets criticized for saying the same thing every time he’s in a televised debate, his rhetorical shift on this has been remarkable. In the 2016 cycle, he mentioned the middle class 30 times in the first four debates he was in. In his first for debates in the 2020 cycle, he has only mentioned the middle class one single time.
Mentions by candidates in the first four 2016 debates:
Sanders — 30
Clinton — 16
O’Malley — 3
Chafee — 1
Mentions by candidates in the first four 2020 debates:
Warren — 12
Biden — 6
Bennett, de Blasio, Ryan, O’Rourke — 2
Sanders, Delaney, Hickenlooper, Buttigieg, Gillibrand, Harris — 1
My working assumption is that the phrase “middle class” is viewed as a soft synonym for “white America”. Appealing to it is increasingly deemed unacceptable by the Woke. Sanders, being in touch with organic American progressivism, is ahead of the curve on this. Elizabeth Warren, the corporate conjecture of what a real progressive looks and sounds like, hasn’t figured it out yet.
Transcripts: First 2020 debate (N1), first 2020 debate (N2), second 2020 debate (N1), second 2020 debate (N2), third 2020 debate, fourth 2020 debate, first 2016 debate, second 2016 debate, third 2016 debate, fourth 2016 debate, fifth 2016 debate, sixth 2016 debate