States is poised for a more focused debate than it has had in some time. The outcome will be determined by the reactions of the electorate, but the political conditions for a sustained debate about the role of government in shaping equality of opportunity have never been more conducive.
The primary focus of the next several chapters will be on class issues, with class defined by the relative position of individuals in the income distribution. Of course, there has been considerable commentary that race and cultural issues have become significant in recent decades. I do not disclaim the importance of those issues; race issues and racism are clearly important, as well as divisions over abortion, homosexuality, and civil liberties. I argue, however, that attention to these issues has led to sustained neglect of the growth of class divisions in American politics. My intent is to argue for a reassessment of class issues. This book will present evidence for the significance of class in American politics, and will return to the role played by race and cultural issues in Chapter 6.