In the popular imagination, politicians are calculating crowd-pleasers: poll-tested and focus-grouped to death, delivering messages honed to win an election. In fact, they are just people, susceptible to the same biases as everyone else. Most of what they know about public policy and voters they learn from the advisers who surround them and the donors who pay to be near them. Most of their judgments about popular opinion reflect the views of their friends.
As US society has stratified, the highly educated and compensated professionals who dominate politics can rise through the system while interacting only with people like themselves. As a result, parties have unmoored from working families’ priorities and become preoccupied instead with the passions and bugbears of elites in universities and on Wall Street.