Time Bomb Ticking

The Phenomenon. President-elect Trump has introduced a new element into the Republican party: white, working class people, many of them male, but all lacking higher education. They find themselves alongside two other already disparate elements: social conservatives, whose religious or moral scruples drove them into the party’s embrace; and fiscal conservatives, the Republican Establishment, who have long steered the party’s ideology and legislative agenda in favor of the monied interests.

The new Republicans may share some attitudes and beliefs with the social conservatives. But if they share the ideology of Establishment Republicans, it’s by accident and not in their class interest.

The Theory. Dialectical materialism holds that, when an entity contains two elements with antithetical class interests, movement towards a new synthesis, in which the antitheses are dissolved, begins. Internal contradictions tend to resolve themselves by any means possible. To the extent that these new Republicans are really working class, that is, proletarian, and the Establishment is bourgeois, which no-one denies, here is an antithesis as old as capitalism itself.

The Contradiction. Maybe a story can show how this is a contradiction.

Let’s say you are a small-time contractor, in roofing or siding or any number of things. How do you make a living? You can’t mark up the materials much, otherwise your customers will get their own roofing or siding at retail. So you mark up your labor instead. If your proposal has a line item for hours of work, the hourly rate is more than what you pay your workers. Or the markup on labor is just included in the bottom line.

What do you do with the money you don’t have to pay your workers? You buy another ladder, a compression nailer, a truck; you build a website, rent a storefront – whatever will increase your ability to put more labor to work. That is, you add to your capital. So now the contractor, who may have started working for himself or alongside his employees, has become a capitalist, more precisely petit bourgeois. And the labor of his workers is being exploited in an amount roughly equal to the difference between what they are willing to accept as a wage and what the contractor is able to charge his customers.

Even so the contractor and his employees may share many of the same beliefs and attitudes. They may agree that government takes too much of their money in taxes, that borrowing to spend is even worse, that climate change is a hoax – even that unions are dangerous to free labor. But when the question is whether the boss should provide and fund a health care plan, or whether employees should have an ownership interest in the profits of the enterprise, class interests obtrude.

Multiply this by a hundred- or a thousand-fold in employees, by a thousand- or a million-fold in revenue. Instead of a small business enterprise, think of the United States auto industry. The capitalist is now a big bourgeois responsible only to stockholders, while the worker is that much more likely to take proletarian class interests to heart.

There’s contradiction: a clash of class interests leading to historical movement – the bigger the entity, the more dialectically necessary the movement.

The Bomb. Now transfer the contradiction to the midst of the Republication party – a rather big entity in history. The new Republicans know they have to work for a living or fall into the subclasses they despise, but they’re not sensible of class conflicts with Establishment Republicans yet. Fortunately – and this is not asserted dialectically but rather as a judgment – these contradictions will come out through the person of the President-elect. His rhetoric drew them into the party; he created them. His government will have to address them.

Just one example. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that in Northwoods Vilas County people are signing up for Obamacare at a rate 2 ½ times that of the average for the whole state. But Trump’s electoral margin there was 26%. Many other red counties in Wisconsin have above average rates of Obamacare signups. Even nationally signups are ahead of the expected pace. This puts the interests of health care consumers who were Trump voters at odds with the interests of Establishment Republicans in control of the health care industry and the capital it generates.

Naturally, it doesn’t end there. The reader will be able to conceive his or her own examples of similar contradictions. And the time bomb will be ticking….