With unemployment at 9%, we should take two lessons. First, this is untenable long term. And second, Democrats should make every effort to win the trust (and the votes) of this unfortunately large demographic.
Unemployed Americans are a natural Democratic constituency. They’ve been wronged by corporate interests, and feel the system — the unrestrained free market, so belovéd lately by the right — has left them behind. And as they partially dependent on public support, unemployed Americans are less likely to be taken in by the right’s anti-“big government” shills (the tea party). The unemployed understand the value of the social safety net, and should (absent some bizarre cognitive dissonance) wish to see it continue. And when you’re out of work, it’s the first thing on your mind: a worker’s identity, as one of the unemployed, cuts across other divisive sociopolitical cleavages. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay or a fundamentalist: if you’re looking for a job, providing for your family is priority #1.
More, Republicans seem to be doing everything they possibly can to alienate this bloc of voters. Herman Cain essentially told everyone without a job that it’s their fault they’re out of work — when in this economy, we know that’s not the case. How easy is it to be excellent at your job, but become part of a random downsizing initiative that takes no account of your individual value? (Granted that Cain explained away his callousness at the last debate — but why should that matter? The sound bite’s on record. Run with it.) And the Republican wing of the Senate, helped along by two Democratic defectors, refused to even open debate on the only job-creating bill that any party has even proposed in months. While Republicans debate whether Cain’s “9-9-9″ plan is a secret tool of Satan, and muse poetically about how ending gay marriage and other “threats to the family” would magically restore the economy to its previous grandeur, the candidates’ Senate colleagues aggressively block any attempt to provide necessary relief to this neglected set of voters. Why should we let them get away with it?
A bizarre quirk of campaigning for the unemployed is that your goal is, naturally, to eradicate your supporters as a distinct bloc. So be it. When your voters return to the rolls of the middle class, they’ll remember whose policies helped them to get there.