Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Politics: What May Lie Beyond the Shadows

Anglachel posted another superb essay last night, titled "Where the Shadows Lie." (Click here to read.) The gist of it is that the Obama campaign is driven at its heart by the bourgeois left's resentment of the traditional working-class constituency of the Democratic Party. Outside of the Clintons and their most steadfast allies, the party leadership has convinced itself that working-class people are an impediment to their goals, largely because they feel working-class voters reject the idealistic technocrats the leadership prefers as candidates (e.g. Dukakis, Kerry, Bradley, Tsongas). As such, the Democratic leadership is determined to rid the party of this constituency, which they see as traitors to the cause. They've found their candidate in Obama, because, as Anglachel writes, "Obama’s campaign is not about social goods and resources, but about cultural markers of class inclusion, such as your level of education, where you shop, whether you live in urban or rural environments, etc." The modern bourgeois left (or "the creative class," "Whole Foods Nation," or whatever one wants to call them) are the winners in the socioeconomic scheme of things, and, in their view, that gives them the right to call the shots. Working-class people are tolerated only to the extent that they get in line, and the bourgeois left (as epitomized by the Obama campaign) takes the attitude that they'll get in line because they have nowhere else to go. And if they don't, well, the bourgeois left would just as soon kick them to the curb anyway.

Thinking it over, doesn't it sound like the Democratic Party is turning into one's worst memories of high school? The bourgeois left are the "cool" clique, but instead of the right clothes, the right hairstyles, and the right extracurriculars, they have the right political ideals, the right education, and the right lifestyles. Working-class people are the plebes, and their presence is only suffered to the extent that they suck up. However, more often than not, they're dismissed with name-calling, such as "Bubbas," "Archie Bunkers," "racists," or my favorite, one that got thrown at me during the meltdown earlier this year at the Daily Kos: "Dixiecrat." People like the Clintons are just horrid, horrid people because, while they could have been members in good standing of the cool crowd, they were perfectly content to hang out with the plebes and, worse, stand up for them. Wouldn't high school--ahem, the Democratic Party--just be a better place without this icky rabble?

However, the bourgeois left's biggest problem isn't its snobbishness and cultural bigotry (now on full display in the attacks on Sarah Palin), it's that they don't appear to see government as any more relevant to their lives than the Student Council was. Elected office seems to be viewed as a status marker--a feather in one's cap that would look good on that college application. That may be why the questions of Obama's accomplishments and his neglect of his official responsibilities were so irrelevant to them. What's important is that he has the right education, the right manner, and what they assume are the right ideals. His being ostensibly African-American only gives him added cachet. They want an icon, their own version of Ronald Reagan, or a newer John F. Kennedy. How Obama would treat presidential responsibilities or exercise the office's power is beside the point with them--they just know he would do the right thing, whatever that is. It won't affect their lives one way or the other (or so they think); the worst that could happen is one of their ideals might be offended.

It's as if they have learned nothing from the experience with George W. Bush. How power is wielded is of paramount importance. It's of particular concern to working-class people, who are the most adversely affected when it's not wielded in accord with their interests. That's why the Clintons resonate with them while people like Kerry and Obama don't. The Clintons don't treat issues in terms of idealistic abstractions; they deal with everything in practical terms, outlining both problems and solutions with a straightforward sense of pragmatism. They discuss working-class issues with working-class people in working-class terms, and one has a pretty fair idea of how they'll handle the reins of power. I supported them because they understand my concerns and will use the authority of office to address them. A major reason why I won't support Obama is that I have no idea how he'll treat power, and he's such a petty, supercilious egomaniac that I don't want to find out. My worst fear is that he won't do much of anything with it, and given his aversion to partisan controversy, that's quite possible. I refuse to support anyone because I have "nowhere else to go," and Obama (with the bourgeois left enthusiastically with him) doesn't appear to have anywhere he wants to go, apart from having himself at the top of it.

One of the reasons I've been so fascinated by Sarah Palin is that she may represent a new direction for the Christian right, who are the working-class contingent of the GOP. They've been treated with contempt by the "cool" clique of their party--the plutocrats--and they've begun to strike out on their own political path and address their own economic interests. They've also been effectively told they have nowhere else to go, and they're doing something about it. Mike Huckabee was a step in this pro-working-class direction, and Palin (despite some lamentable fibbing on her part) is looking to be one as well. That's why I'm so interested in bridging the divide on social issues with them, and why I believe the Clintons have demonstrated their interest in achieving that goal. Perhaps a new coalition can be formed that doesn't involve the working class having to soil themselves with strained alliances with the bourgeois left or the plutocrats, particularly the snobbish class and culture bigotry that accompanies them. With the plutocrat-dominated GOP taking us down an awful road, and the Obama Democrats unwilling to do much of anything substantial (which probably means they'll just hand-wringingly capitulate to the Republicans), a third party seems in order. We know the constituents and we know the goals.

No comments: