May 15, 2008 - Issue 277
Click here to listen to Mark's interview with Carl
After decades of the major media’s refusal to link the word “working” with “class,” the print pages and airwaves are now alive with talk about the conditions, aspirations and views of working people. Journalists, who only a few weeks ago would have scoffed at the mere mention of there being a “working class.” are now throwing the term around with abandon. The problem is that it being employed to only cover part of that class; African American, Latino, Asian and Native American working people are somehow being left out of the demographic equation.
Up until quite recently there was only
the “middle class.” The term always defied precise definition. In contemporary
On the other hand, traditionally and more logically the working class is defined as being made up of people employed by someone else – usually the rich, but sometimes the government – making refrigerators, waiting tables or data processing. In it are people of all races and creeds. However, as this year’s presidential campaign got rolling, “middle class” began to give way to “blue collar” as the nom-de-choice for describing working people. But that didn’t last long. Soon the group whose votes the candidates were targeting became not just the working class, but the “white working class.”
There is method to this madness.
The experts may argue over just how bad the economic situation is but there is no question we are in the middle of a downturn, and a lot of people are feeling insecure about the future, or are already feeling the pain of unemployment and a rising cost of living. Never mind that – as usual – African American and other non-white ethnic groups are experiencing the negative effects disproportionately. We are being told that economic issues are the concern of white people. Black people do not vote according to their economic interests but on racial identity and, conversely, white people vote their interests and not their racial identity – or so this nonsense goes.
If you want to see how stupid (and devious) all this is, consider the words of former Bush Administration political strategist Karl Rove: “The primary has created a deep fissure in Democratic ranks: blue collar, less affluent, less educated voters versus the white wine crowd of academics and upscale professionals (along with blacks and young people),” he wrote in the Wall Street Journal last week. African American voters here become a throwaway category, not part of the working class. This despite the fact that they are overwhelmingly working class and make up nearly a third of the Democratic Party.
“MSNBC's Chris Matthews, for example, differentiated between ‘regular people’ and black people,” wrote columnist David Sirota wrote last week. “Pundits refer separately to the ‘working class’ and to African Americans - as if they are mutually exclusive.”
"I have a much broader base to
build a winning coalition on," presidential candidate Hillary Clinton
told USA Today last week, going on to quote an Associated Press
article that showed how Sen. Barack Obama's support among "working,
hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites
in both states who had not completed college were supporting me."
That was not a poor choice of words. It was part of the effort to make
the racial equation the only important one in the primary campaign - and
Actually, MSNBC pundit Buchanan (who
by the way recently penned a piece in Human Events called “The
Way the World Ends,” in which, citing world fertility rates, he concluded
that “God has another end in store for us” and rued that “The Caucasian
race is going the way of the Mohicans” by the year 2060) got most of that
wrong. He, Rove and some other commentators want us to think that young
voters are classless. They overlook the fact that in
The reaction to Hillary’s statement in the blogosphere was hot. “OK, I think I’ve got it,” Tom” wrote in the New York Times space. “White = hard working, African American, Latino, Asian, Native American, others = not hard working. Thanks for clearing that up, Hillary. The non-use of ‘and’ between ‘hard working Americans’ and ‘white Americans’ is telling.”
On May 8, M.S. Bellows, Jr. writing on the The Huffington Post described a May 7 telephone press conference the previous day, called by Clinton Communications Director Howard Wolfson, wherein the Clinton campaign “firmly reiterated its intention to keep seeking the Democratic Presidential nomination, spinning both her striking loss in North Carolina and her slender win in Indiana as positive developments - while also appearing to admit that she is not going to win a majority of elected delegates even if Michigan and Florida's delegations are counted - and parsing primary results in starkly racial terms that are likely to exacerbate the tensions of the contest and her increasingly significant troubles reaching out to minority voters.”
“At points, the
All this will feed the speculation that’s already out there that there are some in the upper echelons of the Democratic Party who care far less about who wins in November than who captures the party nomination and for whom it’s anybody but Obama. If they keep dissing black voters they could get their way.
There are black, white and brown members
of the working class but there is no white working class. The term has
been trotted out in an effort to portray African Americans as something
apart from the class to which most of them belong. Yes, African Americans
know that racism is always a factor in the politics of our country. The
last few weeks have made that abundantly clear despite Obama’s attempt
to have it otherwise. But I have some news for Rove, Begala and the others.
Black working people also know a lot about what their interests are and
what side of the bread their butter is on. The price of gasoline is an
issue for them as is the home mortgage crisis, the awful state of the
educational system, the country deteriorating physical infrastructure,
unemployment, healthcare and that ghastly war in
What is needed now is for leaders in the unions, churches and working class communities to come forward and say clearly that this splitting campaign is repulsive, immoral and defeating. To say that without unity among the social forces some people are trying to slice and dice to serve their own ambitions, we will never have a progressive majority.
Board member Carl Bloice is a writer in