I am talking about the so-called "working class" in this country. More narrowly, the white, self-identified "working stiffs" who probably don't belong to a union. Many are blue collar, some are gray collar, some certainly work in cubicles like girls at their sewing machines a century ago, very few are college educated, and nearly all have seen their economic prospects eroded--no, washed away--in a dam-burst of corporate exaltation and profit since the days when their first insidious hero, the now-underestimated Tricky Dick Nixon first bestrode them with a so-called "Southern Policy" that made the Republican party a manipulator of souls.
This post is inspired in part by Timothy Egan's "Working Class Zero" article in the NY Times today. But I have blogged of this working-class disconnect (or mis-connect) before.
My premise is that the American working class is easily in competition for the dumbest in the world, if "dumb" indicates an unquenchable thirst for doing what is diametrically opposed to one's self interest.
For instance, these sad Tea-Party buffoons that showed up in Washington last week: what was their purpose? Waving placards the collective sentiments of which ran the gamut from hate to contempt and back again to hate, they prompted me to ask myself if they had any clue what their actual message was, or if they knew what any coherent message might be. Did any of them seem to have a notion about what in public policy might in practice make their own lives better? Not a one, it seems. Much of the rhetoric was overtly racist (and many thanks to the Man from Plains for being plain-spoken about a very deeply shameful fact that even Obama wants to shrink from: that millions of American loathe him and his beautiful family because of the color of their skin). Race-hate seemed to be the message that got the most attention, whether the Tea-Baggers wanted it to or not. This alone makes my skin crawl, but let's not get too hung up on that just yet.
I imagine that astute observers around the world, especially those who've striven for "workers" over the long decades, including unionists, non-American centrists from large, industrial nations, socialists, and perhaps, if there are any who aren't thinking about nuking their neighbors due to their own brand of moronism, Communists, must be marveling at the overwhelming success the ruling class (roughly speaking) has had in dividing and conquering the peasants and serfs in the United States.
Where else are people who desperately need government regulation to keep themselves from being preyed on by giant conglomerates, instead spewing hate at "big government" and waving the flag for Capital? Where else are people who struggle to pay bills on the family Caravan deluded into thinking their taxation-policy should be in line with the taxation-policies that benefit those who pay with pocket change for their Bentley? Where else are people first robbed and cheated by a rapacious health-care industry literally from the cradle until the grave, then found crowding the airwaves with screeching-points written for them by the public relations experts employed by that very industry? Where else are people proudly betting their livelihoods and the livelihoods of their children on policies touting "self-reliance" and "faith" and "freedom" when what they are handed, once the race is run, a ticket worth little but an insecure, dead-end job in which they are totally dependent on plutocratic whimsy, not a nickel's worth of real assistance from their ermine-coated clergy, and a way of life constricted by prejudice, gun-violence, lack of access to facts, and only the mobility to traverse the lonely highways looking for the next town and the next job and the next mortgage?
For now, I will leave-off any discussion of the toxic form of Christianity that has taken hold of so many of these folks, for that is a subject both too deep and too complex to share space with any other. It is also a most wearying subject, and thinking about that plus the racist idiocy of the Tea-Baggers has left me in need of either a good strong drink or a restful nap.
I would like to say our nation can continue like this, with about forty percent of the country's populace living on a moonlet untethered to fact or any semblance of enlightened self-interest, but I don't think it can. The smart people won't always have an Obama to elect (and even he's got troubles in this environment); and it is in the cards that somehow, some way, a demagogue pandering to these Tea-Baggers will get put in the White House, and then heaven help us all.
Oh, wait. That already happened. I forgot, for a second, that George W. Bush had been President for eight most regrettable years. I guess I am afraid the next time it will be worse.