Rhetoric within the Democratic Party continues to focus on how working America could continue to be duped into voting against their own best economic interests by the Republicans. I recently read an article by Joan Walsh on Alternet where she identified the same class warfare issues that I have talked about repeatedly. She identifies these issues as beginning with Viet Nam War protests and the “hardhats” and college students differences over our reasons for the war. I think for working America it always goes back to simple economics.
Starting with Bill Clinton, the Democratic Party has been beset by an intellectual arrogance against working people that is just as elitist as Mitt Romney’s view of workers as little more than a resource and a drain on his right to profit. This classism still continues with the elitist attitudes demonstrated by the Rahm Emmanuels, and Arne Duncan’s of the Obama’s Administration in their Union busting tactics against teachers and willingness to privatize the public schools with more vehemence than any Republican making education increasingly a question of the ability to pay not equality of opportunity.
I have had the opportunity, living as I do in central Pennsylvania, to attend Tea Party meetings and talk to a good many members about their beliefs. While that in no way makes me an expert on all things Tea Party keeping an open mind and listening gives you a much different perspective into the Tea Party belief that government is the enemy and that Democrats are the symbol of an unfair system of racial exploitation where white folks pay to give others advantages they are then not able to give their own children.
I was fascinated by finding out that Tea Party members identify many of the same issues regarding the problems and future of America as I do. Where we differ is in what we believe caused these problems. The difference is so great that I have often remarked that we all must live on alternative universes. As a working class kid with college degrees I have been exposed to both sides of this equation.
The first observation I have is that the vast majority of Tea Party people I have spoken to were once members of the Democratic Party. The jumping off place for the belief that the Democratic Party left them behind is not Viet Nam but Clinton. It is not really over Monica but with passage of NAFTA that this group began the migration to Conservative ideology egged on in their anger by the Rush Limbaugh’s of Talk Radio who understood the origins of the justifiable anger and exploited understanding it for their profit rather than providing solutions.
NAFTA began the destruction of high wage manufacturing jobs with their exodus first to Mexico and ultimately to China. It is the second exodus of jobs from Mexico to China that sets up Corporate America’s ability to manipulate the American free market for labor by utilizing illegal immigration of a desperate Hispanic population whose economic prospects had also been destroyed by global capitalism, thus providing the surplus labor supply to drive back American wages even more. Here is the origin of the long since disproven excuse they are taking jobs Americans won’t do as a reason for why we should tolerate corporate law breaking.
Despite the fact that corporations were willfully and openly violating labor, wage, hour, workplace safety, and American tax law, there was no enforcement because those at the top got rich and used their riches to begin buying the whole political process. Now corporations that could not out source jobs could in source cheap labor driving American wages back wards still further in the process by creating an artificial surplus of labor looking for work, thus creating competition for jobs and holding down wages that would not have existed. The group that was hit by both economic forces was the white working class.
To their eternal discredit, the arrogant young Yuppies on Wall Street never saw anything but the rising values of their own stock portfolios and pretended to themselves that it wasn ‘t peoples lives they had wrecked with their Utopian ideas of Neo-Liberal economics changing the world and bringing international peace and brotherhood, but that one would merely need to simply go out and get retrained for the high wage high tech jobs of the future if you had any gumption and drive. The unreality of this belief for displaced factory workers, even if highly skilled in the jobs they had just lost, has to this day never been acknowledged by Democrats.
At the same time Democrats ignored the needs of white working folks, who Yuppies pretended had always had a so called skin priviledge that gave them opportunities they hadn’t even deserved so don’t worry about what is happening to poor whites, those who dared to ask were simply brushed off as lacking understanding of how economics really worked. Democrats were very attuned to the real needs of minorities and imigrants because of the economic privation of an economy that was all about profits but not people but have maintained a fantasy of middle class America, where everyone was making it despite the many stories like Ehrenreich’s Nickeled and Dimed and Jim Goad’s Redneck Manifesto that proved this was a demonstrably false premise if only you took your class prejudiced blinders off to look.
Here is the reason Republicans have such ease duping white working folks into voting against their real economic interests. It very often hasn’t really been in their economic best interests. Neither party ideology has been, but at least Republicans pretend to protect their social values even if that is also untrue in practice. Remember the dust up over Obama’s they cling to their God and guns?
If you practice the walk the mile in my shoes routine that many Liberals preach if you are white and working class for minorities, then realize in your white working class experience NAFTA has plundered your good paying middle class job and illegal immigration is pushing your wages in the non union job you found down even more all the while you are being taxed to pay for your own economic demise as well as provide support for others in need while your very real needs go completely ignored and often are denigrated. If that is your perception is it really so hard to see where the anger and resentment come from and a refusal to listen to the Democrats at all?
The Democratic Party response to all of this was to attack working whites as racists when they voiced their dissent with a system that ignored their needs while expecting them to pay with taxes for the same needs of minorities. Whether this perception is real or not doesn’t matter at this point because the perception has become the established fact through Republican repetition as a political talking point so they could harvest even more of the lucretive parts of America for their own personal profitability, while keeping the middle class divided and an ineffective political force in its own behalf.
While we know there is an element of racism among some in the Tea Party a much larger segement of this group are angry at their exploitation and blame immigrants, the government, and primarily the Democratic Party for the destruction of the promise for many of them of the American Dream that in the 1960’s many working class families, including my own, gave me.
The Democrats now face this prospect again with resistence to their demand that we rapidly move to sustainable sources of energy. Global warming is very real and is accelerating rapidly but we are making no progress on addressing this issue and here is why.
While Democrats have plans for the transition to renewable sources of energy they have no such plan for those who earn a living from coal, oil, and natural gas. Until we plan equally for the transition of the work force to renewable energy jobs Republicans, who are only worried about profits, will be able to demagogue the issue. The Democrats once again look like arrogant classist idiots for leaving working people behind unless you are poor and none white.
Through their classic intellectual arrogance, they run the risk of dividing American political party’s up by gender and race because of their own sterotypes of the white working class. The values and ideals of human ralationships many of us grew up cherishing, even in their imperfect use, will be lost if this is allowed to happen. We have become a nation more divided than at any time since the Civil War. The Democrats classism against working class whites is the underlying dividing factor.