May 03, 2005

The politics of backlash. Great article on why blue-collar America is going over to the Republicans and how liberals still don't get it.

"Conservatives generally regard class as an unacceptable topic when the subject is economics—trade, deregulation, shifting the tax burden, expressing worshipful awe for the microchip, etc. But define politics as culture, and class instantly becomes for them the very blood and bone of public discourse. Indeed, from George Wallace to George W. Bush, a class-based backlash against the perceived arrogance of liberalism has been one of their most powerful weapons. Workerist in its rhetoric but royalist in its economic effects, this backlash is in no way embarrassed by its contradictions. It understands itself as an uprising of the little people even when its leaders, in control of all three branches of government, cut taxes on stock dividends and turn the screws on the bankrupt. It mobilizes angry voters by the millions, despite the patent unwinnability of many of its crusades. And from the busing riots of the Seventies to the culture wars of our own time, the backlash has been ignored, downplayed, or misunderstood by liberals."

  • Nation’s Poor Win Election for Nation’s Rich WASHINGTON, DC—The economically disadvantaged segment of the U.S. population provided the decisive factor in another presidential election last Tuesday, handing control of the government to the rich and powerful once again. “The Republican party—the party of industrial mega-capitalists, corporate financiers, power brokers, and the moneyed elite—would like to thank the undereducated rural poor, the struggling blue-collar workers in Middle America, and the God-fearing underpriviledged minorities who voted George W. Bush back into office,” Karl Rove, senior advisor to Bush, told reporters at a press conference Monday. “You have selflessly sacrificed your well-being and voted against your own economic interest. For this, we humbly thank you.” Added Rove: “You have acted beyond the call of duty—or, for that matter, good sense.” According to Rove, the Republicans found strong support in non-urban areas populated by the people who would have benefited most from the lower-income tax cuts and social-service programs championed by Kerry. Regardless of their own interests, these citizens turned out in record numbers to elect conservatives into office at all levels of the government. “My family’s been suffering ever since I lost my job at the screen-door factory, and I haven’t seen a doctor for well on four years now,” said father of four Buddy Kaldrin of Eerie, CO. “Shit, I don’t even remember what a dentist’s chair looks like… Basically, I’d give up if it weren’t for God’s grace. So it’s good to know we have a president who cares about religion, too.” Kaldrin added: “That’s why I always vote straight-ticket Republican, just like my daddy did, before he lost the farm and shot himself in the head, and just like his daddy did, before he died of black-lung disease in the company coal mines.” Kaldrin was one of many who listed moral issues among their primary reasons for voting Republican. “Our society is falling apart—our treasured values are under attack by terrorists,” said Ellen Blaine of Givens, OH, a tiny rural farming community as likely to be attacked by terrorists as it is to be hit by a meteor. “We need someone with old-time morals in the White House. I may not have much of anything in this world, but at least I have my family.” “John Kerry is a flip-flopper,” she continued. “I saw it on TV. Who knows what terrible things might’ve happened to my sons overseas if he’d been put in charge?” Kerry supporters also turned out in large numbers this year, but they were outnumbered by those citizens who voted for Bush. “The alliance between the tiny fraction at the top of the pyramid and the teeming masses of mouth-breathers at its enormous base has never been stronger,” a triumphant Bush said. “We have an understanding, them and us. They help us stay rich, and in return, we help them stay poor. See? No matter what naysayers may think, the system works.” Added Bush: “God bless America’s backwards hicks, lunchpail-toting blockheads, doddering elderly, and bumpity-car-driving Spanish-speakers.” Source: The Onion
  • "the backlash has been ignored, downplayed, or misunderstood by liberals." This article can be summed up in one sentence (a slight variation of a famous quote attributed to either P.T. Barnum or H.L. Mencken): "Nobody ever lost an election by underestimating the intelligence of the American public."
  • Good read. Damn liberals need to realize the uphill battle they have, because comments about how dumb Americans are just playing into the Dark Side's hands. The left and the Democrats still haven't figured out to get their message out, and the only way they aren't going to lose badly in 2008 and beyond is if they convince the blue collars the Republicans aren't on their side, which you think would be easier. Or just wait for the baby boomer generation to die off, but that will take a few decades. And Whoopi Goldberg is not funny. Stop inviting her to your fundraisers.
  • *stirs the tar, fluffs the basket of feathers*
  • This is why the nation's top schools are jam-packed with buff, outdoorsy, conservative thinkers. Because important issues ain't complicated. Now watch this drive.
  • This would have been cutting-edge news, what, 25 years ago? And I think that the rust-belt class has gone over to the repubs more because the repubs promise the return of JEE-ZIZ! A campaign promise that never need be fulfilled... Maybe the rust-belters realize that they have no other chance.
  • This would have been cutting-edge news, what, 25 years ago? well the left still doesn't seem to get it.
  • Oh, I get it. Let me see now. . . There's a sucker born every minute.--P.T. Barnum. Now the republican national motto. Convince the rubes there's a liberal media when it's all corporate owned. Convince the rubes that a political party that's all about labor and human rights are the 'bad guys' (them danged liverals) Convince the rubes that that ole' freedom o' speech ain't nothin' special, you all don't need something ya never use no how ho whar, so why should any liverals need it anyhow? Neither are any o' them other rights and such ya'all got with the Bill o' Rights, Ta Constitution and the Dee-Clar-Ation o' In-De-Pendence supposed ta' mean anythang neither 'cause let's all face it folks, ya'all owe yer lives ta' the rich, thems what employs ya an all. . . Don't go sniffin aroun' yer master's crotch an ya won't get slapped . . .
  • Ha-yall, ya'all proly never read any o' them documents thar anyway, what few of ya can read . . .
  • So are you parodying the real rubes or these Republican imitation rubes? The bit I find interesting is how as the Democrats have abandoned class struggle populism, the Republicans have picked it up and run with it so successfully. And what was so wrong with class politics anyway?
  • As a foreigner, Bush's effort at the golf course is for me the defining moment of his Presidency. I remember seeing it live, or shortly after and just sitting there, mouth agape. Never has a politicians vanity been more clearly laid bare.
  • I don't think there is anything wrong with class politics. But I'm a pinko. Something I've been thinking about, though, in relation to class, is about how so many people define themselves as middle class. It's like most people in North America centre the class system on themselves. So someone who makes $30,000 a year says they are middle class, and someone who makes $100-200,000 a year says they are. Maybe they might add the qualifier "upper middle", but maybe not. These people don't all have the same economic interests, but how aware of that are they? Or when they hear the politicians say "X will be good for the middle class", do they just assume they are talking about them? Many middle class people don't believe they use government services, they think taxes are too high (often because they are higher on the middle class than the upper middle and upper, when you think about how much disposable income they have), they don't identify with workers' unions or poverty advocates, because they aren't workers or the poor, in their own minds, even if their income puts them well below what someone else would think was middle class, and very close to that of someone who might identify as working class in a different situation. I live in a North East, pro-union city - here people making comfortable livings consider themselves working class. Partly that's old working class pride still around from when it was a big factory town; partly it's that the costs of living are high enough that you need much more money to have what are normally considered necessary for a middle class lifestyle. I think property owning also matters - people who own property, like a house, feel like they have more at stake in protecting that property from the government. In Toronto, people in apartments pay far more property tax (hidden in their rent, but there), but it's house owners who complain. It's never fun to pay taxes, even if you are like me and you believe that it really is the best thing for everyone in society. If I owned property, maybe I would mind even more - right now, my self-identification is just very under-class, non-property owning oriented. I support welfare because I've been on it, and might be again; also because I've studied poverty and done a great deal of thinking about it, and believe that a good welfare system (along with health and education) are essential for being a first world country. But is this more important than the fact that I explicity don't self-identify as middle class, and find many middle class values (like owning a detached house or having a yard, though a small garden of about 4'x4' might be nice) difficult to understand? Sometimes I even worry about becoming middle class - not because I don't like middle class people, but what I mean is that I worry about adopting what I see as undesirable aspects of middle class culture, like overconsumption. I live too heavily as it is (and I am currently divesting myself of most of my belongings other than clothes, computers and books to move overseas). Sorry, I've been feeling reflective today, and have been producing monster meandering comments. So a precis: Maybe many people are voting against their own economic interests because of the way they self-identify? They throw in their hand with those who are richer, because they believe themselves to be more like them than like those who are poorer? ------------------ So my meandering and the article's pontificating aside, does it propose any solutions? Does anyone have any ideas? Or is it yet another few months, years, decades of the wringing of hands?
  • How often do you hear a politician say 'working class'? No, almost everyone is middle class, with a few of the 'rich' and 'poor'. Don't have time to post a proper reply to your thoughts jb, but they touch on something that has frequently been discussed in political theory and sociology, not to mention uppity plebs like myself.
  • I would definitely appreciate your thoughts if you do get time.
  • Am I the only one who gets really confused when jb and dj get into a dialogue? I have to keep doublechecking who's who.
  • no, you're not. I'm weighing the distinct possibility that they're the same person. Or personalities of the same person. A two-minded monkey. Given the right font, aren't they a mirror image of each other?
  • I thought it was jb and js who were really confusing, as I've been confused for him several times. Actually, I really wanted to be "j", which is my nickname, but the system wouldn't accept one letter. If it ever does, I'm switching to a new account.
  • Good article. Glad I read it.
  • js is way more succinct than I am.
  • Sorry to be so cynical, but seeing how this country's poor and disenfranchised behave, I have an image of a homeless or deeply poor mentally ill person running around stabbing at his brain with an icepick. He hears voices, is experiencing hallucinations and believes if he can just stop the voices everything will be okay. Unfortunatly, he's stabbing at the heads of everyone in the crowd . . .
  • jb, I will try to reply later today, or on the weekend. Not that I promise any enlightenment!