Donald Trump walks onto the stage at a rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania in November. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
For Lilla, the Democrats’ road to recovery means re-embracing the concept of “citizenship”, the idea that that being an American entails reciprocal rights and obligations, and that our fellow countrymen deserve to be listened to and respected even when we disagree with them.
“It is a sign of how polluted our political discourse has become,” he writes, “that any mention of the term citizen” is labeled as “racist demagoguery”.
Not surprisingly, Lilla has met with intramural opposition. Michael Eric Dyson, a Georgetown professor, minister and activist, branded Lilla’s views as those of an amnesiac with a “fang, an exposed snarl, and inconvenient messiness of real history”.
Ultimately, Lilla’s prescriptions are not a surefire remedy for a Democratic restoration. The party’s woes with white voters without a college degree go beyond just identity liberalism. Hillary Clinton’s rumination on “deplorables” at a Wall Street fundraiser, like Barack Obama’s take on God and guns, laid bare the challenges Democrats face as they head toward the 2018 midterm elections.
Even amidst the turmoil surrounding the president, polls reflect that blue-collar Americans in swing districts are committed to the Republican party. The numbers show the GOP with an overall 10-point lead on the generic ballot among such voters, and up 35% when the question turns to the economy.
The Once and Future Liberal is a dead-on diagnosis of what ails the Democrats. The open question, however, is who will ultimately be listening to Lilla.