Friday, July 12, 2013

The Struggling Middle Class

Remember when Algore gave his wife that bend-her-backwards kiss at the 2000 Democratic National Convention?  And remember how the crowd went wild?

I thought then that something had changed in American politics, and I didn't like it.

After all, the Democratic Party is supposed to be the party of the little people, working families struggling to make ends meet.  Here was something different, and I'm not sure exactly what it was.  Perhaps reality TV rearing its ugly head.

My point is that if you are a member of the struggling middle class, struggling to get and keep a decent job, struggling to make the mortgage payments, struggling to keep your marriage together and raise your kids together you really don't belong in the party of the Big Kiss.

Because the party of the Big Kiss is the party of Obamaphones, the reversal of welfare reform, the dependency state, identity politics, IRS corruption, blithe decisions not to enforce the law if it's politically inconvenient.

Why is it then, that George Zimmerman, the "white Hispanic", was an Obama supporter in 2012?  How can a man trying to "do something" about a rash of burglaries in his neighborhood vote for the Party Hardy party?

Sultan Knish writes about the great divide that the Martin-Zimmerman case reveals.
It's a culture clash of a primal kind. Settlers and nomads. Cops and robbers. Builders and destroyers. And it was never going to end well. The elites want the settlers to make way for the nomads, the cops to acknowledge their role in alienating the robbers and the builders to admit that their construction is really the destruction of the way of life of the destroyers. They don't understand the struggling lower middle class and they don't care to. They have a great deal of empathy for the Trayvon Martins swaggering around another neighborhood that decays at their touch, but none for the George Zimmermans, sweating, mopping their brows, worrying how they're going to hold everything together.
 That is the scandal of American politics.  It is a scandal that the George Zimmermans of America don't all vote as one for the party of the responsible self, the stupid party, the Republican Party.

Of course we know why.  If you are a member of the struggling middle class but you aren't political then you are only going to hear the Democratic talking points echoed through the mainstream media.  You are not going to hear the Republican talking points, because they don't get transmitted through the media, not unless you make the decision to listen to talk radio or watch FoxNews.  So all you hear is that the Democrats care about working families, about people like you.  And the Republican Party is the party of bankers and big corporations and religious extremists.

Where's a patriotic American to go?

It was the peculiar talent of Ronald Reagan that he did communicate to the struggling middle class.  That's why I encountered a pack of Reagan Democrats, people that looked like technicians and construction guys, in the 1980 Washington State Republican presidential caucuses.

We know now that Mitt Romney struck out with the struggling middle class.  And we know why.  Struggling voters feared the ruthless corporate turn-around guy that Joe Soptic had encountered.  The struggling middle class believes in economic populism, not settled-science economics.

It's an irony, of course.  The future for struggling middle-class folks depends precisely on entrepreneurs recklessly starting up new businesses, on savings accounts that pay decent interest and don't lose their value to inflation.  It depends on ruthless turnaround guys like Mitt Romney doing a Roto-Rooter on failing old businesses.  It depends on reforming the corrupt and wasteful entitlements from healthcare to education.

But people are afraid to change.  They are afraid of losing what they still have.  They are afraid of surrendering to the market; they put their faith instead in government force to protect their meager job tenure or access to health insurance.

I'm no political genius, so I don't know how to put together a political narrative that turns the table on the liberal narrative, one that sells the struggling middle class on the notion that Democrats don't care about people like them, that the big corporations and the banksters all toe the line of the Democratic Party, that the dreadful insurance companies are trapped in the system that Ted Kennedy set up 30 years ago when he boosted Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs), that politicians will always try to divide us, and government is force.

But that's what the Republican candidates for 2016 need to figure out.  Ronald Reagan did it.  Mitt Romney didn't.  Go figure.

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