Inequality’s the Issue 

Dumbing down the reality of the class war helps only the corporatist elite.

Like many liberal Democrats, Ruth Ogles Johnson (Viewpoint, February 7th issue) thinks that the way for the Democratic Party to win the support of white working-class voters is A) to assume they are too stupid or uneducated to understand racism and sexism and B) to win them over by appealing to that assumed ignorance.

click to enlarge working-class-joes.jpg

Johnson singles out the new national director of the Democratic Socialists of America, Maria Svart, as an example of how liberals have "insulted" white working-class men by speaking out against patriarchy and white supremacy.

She says, "This tired 'victim class' rhetoric only exaggerates the caricature of an egghead liberal from the big city. As a progressive, I find this woman's language silly and offensive, not to mention lazy and anachronistic. If my female, college-educated, solidly middle-class eyes glaze over when I hear this liberal blather, imagine the reaction of a male laborer with only a high school diploma."

Now who is "insulting" white working-class men? She just asserted that a "male laborer with only a high school diploma" would be insulted by the "egghead liberal" because he is too ignorant and uneducated to understand sexism and racism. But the reason liberal Democrats have lost white working-class male support is not because of "egghead" leftist purists who talk about racism and sexism.

The real reason the Democratic Party has lost white working-class votes is that it has become a corporatist party that has failed to defend the economic interests of the working class — white, black, brown, and yellow. Instead of taking on the corporate elites and the economic and trade policies that have decimated the "middle class" (i.e., working class), the Democratic Party alienated labor by supporting "free trade" and "free market" economic policies, and the result has been the destruction of the working class under both Republican and Democratic administrations.

Liberal Democrats like Johnson assail "ideological purists" on the left while they won't even address the class war being waged against the working class and seem to talk only about the mythical "middle class." The reason the Democratic Party has been losing white working-class voters is that they are afraid to talk about the working class and are afraid to address the class war being waged against them.

Instead of attacking the corporatist Democratic elites who have pulled the Democratic Party away from labor and aligned it with Wall Street, Johnson attacks socialists and leftist "ideological purists" for not dumbing down to talk to white working-class males.

Maybe liberal Democrats could learn something from socialists about how to appeal to the white working-class by defending them against global capitalism, which has destroyed the American working (i.e., "middle") class, betrayed by the Democratic Party time and again: by supporting "free trade" agreements that have destroyed American jobs; by being more willing to bail out Wall Street bankers than workers who are losing their homes and jobs; by caving in to health-care companies instead of pushing a single-payer national health-care system; by depending on labor unions for support to get elected but failing to defend labor once in power.

Maybe the reason the Democratic Party is losing white working-class people is not that they are too dumb and uneducated but that the Democratic Party has failed to represent their economic interests.

Democratic Socialists of America has been urging Democrats to reject Republican-lite policies like neo-liberalism and austerity and to defend the working class. Instead of insulting white working-class men and blaming "ideological purists" on the left for their political difficulties with white workers, maybe liberal Democrats should appeal to all workers, regardless of race, by defending their economic interests instead of those of the white corporate elites.

Jim Maynard is a Memphis organizer for the Democratic Socialists of America.

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