How the GOP Won the Working Class

Earlier this week David Sirota wrote what I think is the best column I've ever seen on an important topic in American politics: the role of class in American politics and how the GOP has been able to capture the votes of working class whites.  Let's be clear, it wasn't grand strategy by the Republicans that resulted in the white working class exiting the New Deal Coalition.  It was the utter arrogance of the gang of liberal elitists that have seized the mainstream party of the American Left from the working class.

Movies may be fiction, but they represent the attitudes of the media and Hollywood elite who shape pop culture. In the difference between how Ed Sadlowski and Will Hunting were treated for their beliefs, we see one of the least examined shifts in how work is presented in popular discourse -- from both blue-collar and white-collar jobs being depicted as respectable ends, to blue-collar work portrayed as respectable inasmuch as it helps the laborer reach the venerated professional class.

This is the profound but subtle message of the last scene of another movie, Office Space, in which Peter Gibbons quits his suit-and-tie cubicle job and realizes his dream is to work construction. That we are trained to see this decision as rare only shows how deep the elitists' rabbit hole goes.

Sirota goes on to lay out how blue collar work in America has been denigrated, and how those who hold these jobs have increasingly been portrayed as somehow less worthy.  Deserving of their hardship because they didn't get a college degree, and this of course is presented as evidence of their sloth.  The reason, we are told, that their "American" dream is gone is because they have don't have an education, not because they have been the unwitting victims of an economic system that treats workers as the vessels in which labor is contained with no greater importance than a potato sack.  

Now in recent years, the spreading of the pain from blue collar workers who seen their factories shipped abroad to college educated workers who have seen their jobs outsourced to India and elsewhere has called this into question.

The real possibility of a cross-class alliance in which the working classes (blue and white collar) unite against the excesses of the capitalist class has been denied. The white collar working class has sought to distance itself from its unwashed blue collar brethren, and instead ally with the capitalist class on cultural issues.  Thus, culture not class becomes the primary axis on which American politics is oriented.

And the clueless jackasses in the Democratic party who have convinced themselves that culture trumps class, have excluded the blue collar working class from their vision of the world. Blue collar work is only respectable as a step to white-collar work, and manual labor is seen to make those who perform it somehow less human.  The idea that all work should be treated with dignity and grant a man (or woman for that matter) a living wage is dismissed as socialistic. The entire working class is expected to embrace the white collar dream, and there's hardly a mention of the idea that blue collar workers are part of the American dream also.

Economic critiques from both parties are placed within this storyline, largely revolving around complaints about underfunded college grants, poorly administered job training programs or obstructive government bureaucrats who stunt professional advancement. This, rather than attacks against tax, trade, wage and healthcare policies that have made achieving the American Dream through blue-collar work increasingly impossible.

If manual laborers, farmers and small-business owners are involved in the stagecraft of national politics at all, they appear as a sepia-toned backdrop in 30-second TV ads aimed at making a candidate seem visually synonymous with Americana -- but that's about it.

And in the end, when the Democratic party is so damned intent on sticking to this white-collar dream that excludes blue collar workers, is it any damned wonder that they've left the party. The hegemony of the white collar dream and the denigration of blue collar work mean that when these men and women try to find someone who will tell them that there lives have meaning, they are unable to expect the reward of the "American Dream" in this life.  They must wait for the life to come for their reward.  

The reason that blue collar workers embrace cultural conservatism is not because they are failures (this is the way that the white collar working class has tried to put it), but instead because they have been failed by a system that sees no possibility for a dignified existence for a man who works with his hands.

What's this all have to do with the current Presidential election?

There is one group of idiots who take the cake this election cycle, and that's these "strategists" who play into the Republican's hands by insulting the life experiences of the millions of blue collar workers who have neither had nor aspired to a white collar life that includes a 6 figure salary at a major corporation, a house in the suburbs, and the rest.

They think that their lives have meaning and worth (because they do), yet the Democrats as the party of the Left have shown a remarkable capacity to push these voters into the Republicans by treating their lives as of no value.

Obama's now-famous celebration of arugula prices and lamentation about "bitter" Americans played right into the GOP's hands, as did his party's initial reaction to Republican vice-presidential nominee Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Instead of highlighting Palin's connection to fringe political causes, leading Democratic spokespeople focused on her inexperience by lambasting her service as a small-town mayor. James Carville, the supposedly brilliant "strategist," actually flashed a photo of the Wasilla, Alaska, City Hall. Evidently, the alleged "party of the little guy" was unaware that such an over-the-top reaction might suggest to millions of small-town voters that Democrats think they and their life experiences are a joke.

Same thing on the economy. Obama has eschewed the argot of blue-collar class struggle in favor of a vague and professorial consensus-ism and he has cautiously avoided populist language on issues like NAFTA that have become symbols of government disregard for non-professionals.

Worse, when Obama's spokespeople discuss trade, they preface any vaguely populist declaration with reassurances that Obama isn't a "protectionist" -- the implication being that Democrats believe blue-collar jobs are undesirable and thus not really worth protecting.

And for you all you Europeans reading this, this fun is coming to a town near you soon.  The root cause of this denigration is blue collar work is neo-liberal hegemony.  The myth that its a lack of education that is eroding the economic position blue collar workers is essential to keeping the white collar working class from realizing they are subject to the root problem here: the commodification of labor, as well.

If blue and white collar working class unite against the capitalist class, then the neoliberal project is over, and the market is placed back in its cage before it can totally destroy the societies it works upon.

Meta: 

Comments

Sirota

I saw this, very accurate and the reality is both parties completely ignore the realities of the working poor or how the United States became a world power due to manufacturing and creation of good wages jobs, stability.

Over and over and over again Democrats abandon the working poor, in economic reality, go off on some divisive identity politics game, often to win power. They do not get in the populist right, that taxes are a huge deal...and the reason is when the US does take their money...what do they do with it? They give it to no-bid defense contractors, corporate CEOs, useless programs and probably the ultimate betrayal, they pass things like NAFTA and the China PNTR trade agreements. It is no wonder the working poor are now torn on both sides since neither addresses them and more importantly addresses effectively the issues.

The problem I have with Sirota is what he did in the primary, which was write distortion and even flat out untruths about Obama and NAFTA versus Hillary. It was incredible and Hillary was issuing more and more truly Progressive positions. Yet while she was turning into a fire breathing Populist, the supposed Progressives completely ignored her and embraced the real Bill Clinton version 2.0 DLC clone, Obama.

We see right now, both McCain and Obama are taking pieces of her policies to use as cannon folder to win the election. Obama called for a foreclosure freeze and McCain presented a HOLC, both directly from Hillary.

I wish he would stay true to the facts more, it would help in credibility. Bending facts is a sure fire way to hurt the Progressive cause in my view.

On Professional workers, they are not only being heavily exposed to labor arbitrage through offshore outsourcing but also displacement through insourcing. That is using guest worker Visas to displace US citizens and manipulation of the US immigration policy.

That's a real problem with the left...now they can rail against offshore outsourcing, all the way enabling insourcing, claiming it's immigration and of course no one wants to be racist so it sells.

What is the difference if a worker is sitting in China with an American job or that worker was imported from India and also has that American job?

The effect is the same, the US citizen is out of a job, corporations just massively increased the labor supply, wage arbitraged and displaced yet another American worker.

The left needs to get over itself in the realities of global labor economics and what the real agenda is here in this regard. The statistics do not lie and there is a world of difference between enabling some genius to immigrate and become a US citizen versus what the real global migration corporate agenda is....it ain't no humanitarian effort!

You must have Javascript enabled to use this form.

kind of off topic

but....Anybody here not believe Obama campaign owns the media? Good God, the entire news splatters positive Obama endorsements, news, whatever on every headline and I personally recognize this level of media manipulation by corporate lobbyists whenever they want their agenda...
I mean McCain is literally getting squeezed out completely in the headlines. Colin Powell endorses Obama, well, gee wiz, so what, Colin Powell also brazenly lied or was set up to lie to the U.N.

But I saw something else that is buried and that is the misogyny is alive and kicking over in team Obama land with t-shirts saying Palin is a cunt showing up at rallies.

Now of course most newspapers will not print the C-word and of course that also means such t-shirts with huge lettering saying this....will not be shown on T.V. hence the entire segment is blocked out...

but why the hell are these people not arrested? It's even a media black out.

All we heard about was some psycho who supposedly shouted out, but actually didn't shout out, something about violence towards Obama, yet these t-shirts at Palin rallies are not getting any press!

I mean Good God, I don't care what someone thinks about right-wing Populist Palin but sending out supporters in those kind of t-shirts gets no press?

If someone had a noose at an Obama rally that would be front page news and felony charges yet this gets nothing? No consequence?

You must have Javascript enabled to use this form.

What!@#$

I don't think that you can arrest someone for lacking common sense and going and saying that.

I think that the difference if someone took a noose to an Obama rally is that there would be an implicit threat of violence.

Do note however that while the fucking retards who took monkey stuff to Obama rallies got a lot of coverage that this thing with Palin has been overlooked.

I wonder if this is what they were talking about when they said that the crowd at a rally in Hamilton county, Indiana got raucous?

You must have Javascript enabled to use this form.

similar T-shirt @ Hillary

Something about Bro's before Ho's but I would say this "C" word one is implying violence against women, it's a verbal violence, the same level as the "N" word ...so I'm sure someone came in with a N word t-shirt or banner would be arrested or at least kicked out...
yet these are getting no action it seems.

I'm fairly certain something with the "N" word would constituent a hate crime or some sort of at least misdemeanor event....so this should as well for they are equally odious.

Seriously if someone walked in with a big letter, "glow" so it can be read from a distance T-shirt that said "Obama is a N#####" and try to position themselves so they get on camera... wouldn't for sure those people would be arrested or at least kicked out and probably charged with something?

You must have Javascript enabled to use this form.

Words alone

as symbolic violence aren't generally going to cross that threshold into illegality. That isn't to sat that they aren't reprehensible, just not illegal. I suppose that there's a "fighting words" argument, but I don't know enough to say anything more.

The broader point though, stands. Why is it that one is taken so deadly seriously, while the other is not?

Neither has a place in political discussion, but I'd suggest that the best way to handle this is to just say, "no" like you do when I kid does something wrong.

You must have Javascript enabled to use this form.

Have any women friends pal?

Call one of 'em a 'Cunt' and see what happens.

You attitude, that these are merely 'fighting words, is typical of those who don't understand what game is being played here. The stripping of all humanity from groups which the ReichWing wants to destroy or keep enslaved.

And brother there are many in Obambi's camp who are 'wingers' under the skin. ID politics was invented and perfected by Hitler and Rove. The fact that Axelrod, Donna and Howie and Kos and Bowers think that they can 'use' it to make a progressive society just shows how pig-ignorant they are. You cannot use a divisive, regressive tool to build a progressive structure. Just don't work as witness Obambi's struggle to 'win' what should be a walkover. If only all those 'cunts' would do as they are being told...

As for Sirota I've shit him. My personal interactions with him show him to be an arrogant clueless 'writer'. Yep, he writes about things. Doesn't mean he believes in anything particularly progressive, he does not, just that there is a niche for the 'progressive' writer and he fills it.

Mind you just the one is all there is room for...

You must have Javascript enabled to use this form.

'When you see a rattlesnake poised to strike, you do not wait until he has struck to crush him.'

Wait a minute

to start with, the fighting words reference was to the legality of saying what was said.

The fighting words doctrine, in United States constitutional law, is a limitation to freedom of speech as granted in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. In its 9-0 decision, Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire (1942), the U.S. Supreme Court established the doctrine and held that "insulting or 'fighting words,' those that by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace" are among the "well-defined and narrowly limited classes of speech [which] the prevention and punishment of...have never been thought to raise any constitutional problem."

What I was trying to say is that that while there's nothing explicit in employing these ephithets that crosses the line into threatening violence, it may well be the case that in the context described they are almost certainly going to start a fight. And as such, they aren't covered by the first amendment.

As for the Obama nation.

Really, you're preaching to the choir. Honestly the only other people that I've seen exhibit the same sort of extremism were members of Basque nationalist parties linked to terrorist groups. And I'm speaking from personal experience with the little shits now.

As for Sirota, I'm disappointed with what he did in the primaries, but I'll take him over Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann any day. These are limousine liberals, and frankly they are part of the problem. Sirota is guilty of being a political hack, but when he writes on policy it's normally very good. He says things that others refuse to. The column I've linked to above being a case in point.

You must have Javascript enabled to use this form.

middle is aok

He's just pointing out whether it's a crime or not, but middle has been highly critical of the Obamanot machine steam rolling over people and probably has the same opinion of all of this as you.

You must have Javascript enabled to use this form.

Unlike many in our 'progressive' movement....

....I can get it wrong. So...I withdraw my unjustified allegation; mainly on the strength of Robert's character reference.

Sirota has written some cogent analysis and is to be commended for that. He's just not interested in anyone else's real situation....

Just his own.

A typical Obamacan. Real progressives as I've pointed out before are concerned with 'Peace, Health and Prosperity for Everyone'.

Again, everyone.

Obama and his followers are only concerned with those Americans who support him. It really shows and brothers that's not the way to build a movement.

That's how Karl Rove runs....

You must have Javascript enabled to use this form.

'When you see a rattlesnake poised to strike, you do not wait until he has struck to crush him.'

I'm not sure where you got that from

Obama and his followers are only concerned with those Americans who support him.

No one will ever accuse me of being an "Obamacan". Hell, I don't even plan on voting for him (I'll vote 3rd party, as usual).
With that said, I'm not sure how you came about to that conclusion. I've seen nothing in his statements and actions to support that.

As far as I can see, Obama is just a typical centrist Democrat. His concern isn't for everyone, or even for those who support him. Obama supports Wall Street, just like the Clintons and the Republican Party.

You must have Javascript enabled to use this form.

I have to say

that every time I see an article critical of the Democratic Party that uses the word "elitist" I am suspicious and skeptical. The reason is because "elitist" is a code word that the Republican Party likes to use.
You don't ask partisan Republicans what is wrong with the Democratic party if you want a truthful answer, just like you don't ask partisan Democrats what is wrong with the Republican party.

Now that's not to say that the Democrats haven't screwed up by abandoning their labor union roots. People seem to forget that the 1994 election wipe-out that swept the Dems from power came right after the 1993 NAFTA sell-out. The Republicans didn't get any more than their normal amount of votes in 1994. The difference was that the labor votes for Democrats didn't turn out.
Another problem is that Democrats have almost completely abandoned their socialist ideas. Leftists have no representation in Washington today, unlike right-wing kooks who have plenty of representation.

Either way, when someone uses the term "elitist" I immediately disregard it as Republican talking points.

You must have Javascript enabled to use this form.

NAFTA

I agree, that was the turning point and when the Democratic party turned full-bore to Corporatism and lost the working class.

On the elitism, I've seen, from the partisan left, many posts on the new creative class and how they are all educated professionals....and why can't the working class understand (those stupid shits) at how great Obama is and on and on...

so I think there is a ring of truth to the elitism charge here.

For myself, I was posting comments over and over on how I was a member of the math class and why is it if people are so damn educated they could not read the actual policy positions, money behind the scenes, voting records and advisers? ;)

To this day what bothers me more is while NAFTA is now the rallying cry to say "dirty scum sucking bastards who sold us down the river", the focus is not more on the China PNTR...for the trade deficit, debt to China just blows away the issues with Mexico/Canada and NAFTA. Although NAFTA is the bad model for CAFTA-DR and so on...
but the killer bad trade deal is the China PNTR. Talk about a giant sucking sound....it's like the job vortex of black hole economics.

You must have Javascript enabled to use this form.