Class In America Today
|From Timothy Scanlon's Facebook page|
As the Romney-Ryan campaign lurches from disaster to disaster and Barak Obama solidifies his leads in important swing states, and "down ticket" candidates like Democratic US Senate hopefuls Bill Nelson in Florida and Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts also gain in the polls, in a CNN column, LZ Ganderson, referring to Mitt Romney's surreptitiously recorded remarks disrespecting people who don't make enough to pay federal incomes taxes, points out one of the great ironies of politics.
"Eight of the 10 states with the highest percentage of filers who didn't pay federal income taxes are red states that voted for John McCain in 2008: Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Idaho. Only New Mexico and Florida voted for Obama. Conversely, of the 10 states with the lowest percentage of filers who didn't pay federal income taxes, seven voted for Obama. Only Alaska, Wyoming and North Dakota voted for McCain."
Dave "Mudcat" Sanders, a Virginia politico who is a weekly guest on the Stephanie Miller radio show, a Liberal, Democratic party oriented program, was pointing out the mistakes Democrats make that cause them to lose Southern working class votes, like Al Gore promising to tighten gun control laws in 2000. He said Democrats focus too much on class and not enough on culture.
"Culture beats class every time," Sanders said.
Maybe in Virginia, a Southern state, it does. But where I grew up, in the rust belt Midwest, class is culture. I'll give you an example. In the South, it's respectable to be a supervisor. When I lived in rural South Carolina, if someone was a supervisor, that fact was in their obituary. In New Mexico, which shares some characteristics with the South, both having low wage economies that evolved from plantation economies, if I run into someone and we engage in conversation, if they are a supervisor, they work that fact into the conversation within the first sentence or two.
Where I grew up, Michigan, where not everyone was in a union but where the value of a well paying union job with good benefits was appreciated, you could become a supervisor if you wanted to, but you were seen as having gone over to the other side. People talked about you behind your back. "You know how he made supervisor, don't you?" someone would say. Some would just come out and say it. "Ass kisser."
The difference between the two cultures is the difference in the way class is viewed, and in the way a person's own class is viewed, favorably or unfavorably.
Barak Obama, who counts among his close friends billionaire hotel magnate Penny Pritzker and anti union DLC Democrats like Rahm Emanuel, has been no friend of the working class but has played the class card in this election, albeit in measured amounts as he has been aiming mainly at the few undecided voters in a few swing states some of which are in the South.
But he is pulling away from Mitt Romney, whose problems stem mainly from the fact that his reality is defined by his class. While it's been fun to see the Romney-Ryan campaign flail about, they are flailing because they never found a way to eat into the solid electoral vote lead Obama has maintained throughout the summer.
Remember that the Occupy Wall Street movement changed the way many Americans think about class. Republicans can no longer hurl epithets about waging class war whenever anyone mentions the unfairness of American society, not with any effect, because America as a whole is becoming more class conscious. They understand that there are sides.
It will take awhile for that fact to work its way into the cultures of places like South Carolina and New Mexico as fully as it has in some other places, but we can see from the fact that Obama is headed toward victory that it has begun to.
Obama is winning despite the fact that unemployment remains above eight percent, despite having created no jobs to speak of, despite leaving millions of foreclosed homeowners to fend for themselves while bailing out the criminals who are profiting from the foreclosures, despite etc., etc., and despite a recession with no end in sight and bleak prospects on the horizon as incomes and living standards continue their downward trends. But he's winning because he's not a Republican. The Republicans primary way to attract working class votes (besides race, which to a White Southerner who doesn't see her or himself as racist would be thought of as a cultural issue), using cultural issues like abortion and guns that push emotional buttons in people and distract them from class issues, isn't working any more.
Remember, too, that America is becoming relentlessly less White and made up more of people from other cultural backgrounds, to whom the American mythic narrative is foreign, who are from cultures that are more politically sophisticated in understanding class issues.
So how class conscious is America at this juncture?
How badly will Mitt Romney lose?