There Are Three Main Classes in America. Two Are Represented by Political Parties
Working class voters, from the accounting office to the construction site, of all races and genders, are forgotten once they leave the polling place. Land of the free, or of something else? (Tom Pennington/Getty; source)
by Gaius Publius
Something to think about as we return to our post-celebratory American Independence world. About 10% of the country is represented by a political party. The rest is not.
The writing below was taken from something published by Devin Reynolds at Medium. It perfectly expresses what Thomas Frank, chief among others, has also said. Here's one of Reynolds main points:
Let’s be honest, Bernie and Hillary don’t represent the same class.I would have made this the title of my own piece, if it weren't so long. It's perfect, though, as a way to capture what Frank captured in an entire book:
We traditionally think of the Republican/Democrat divide in terms of the “ruling class” and the “working class,” or “the 1% v. the 99%.” Democrats are thought to faithfully represent the interests of the working class. The Republicans, carrying the torch for the richest of the rich, manage to stay competitive by dubiously securing votes from the working class. They do this by exploiting the economic ignorance and racial prejudices of low information working class voters. While there is a significant amount of truth to this model’s description of Republicans, there is a wrinkle to the makeup of the Democratic Party that this model neglects to mention.
This wrinkle is the fact that the “99%” actually has multiple classes within it. The main division is between the “upper middle” class and various “lower” classes. At about 10–15% of the population, the upper middle class is made up of doctors, lawyers, university professors, various skilled professionals, and owners of successful local businesses around the country. These people don’t need universal hearth care, they just need their excellent employer provided health care to have its cost increases managed and they need to not be dropped from health care rolls for preexisting conditions. Their kids don’t need tuition free college, they just need manageable interest rates for their financial aid. They get generous amounts of paid vacation, they don’t need it provided on a mandatory basis. The Democratic Party, in all its incrementalism, tweaking the status quo with modest policy adjustments, represents this class.
Then there are the lower classes. Making up 85–90% percent of the population, this group is the true “working class.” This is the most diverse group in the country, it ranges from “middle class” semi-skilled office workers to truly “lower class” day laborers. While some members live more comfortably than others, this group, by and large, exchanges its labor for just enough money to get by. Their jobs have few, if any, benefits. These people would greatly benefit from policies like universal health care, tuition free public college, mandatory paid time off, and many of the other worker-empowering policies, funded by progressive tax rates, that are standard procedure for most of the developed world outside of the United States. This class has no political party.
The divide between the top 1% and the top 10% makes our political system look competitive, and there are legitimate diverging interests between those two classes. That said, in practice, our two political parties split the vote for the working class, then both ignore it in favor of their primary constituencies. The simple reality of this dynamic is that the majority of the population’s interests go unrepresented. While Republican members of the working class are exploited by their low-information status into voting for policies that benefit the top 1%, the Democratic members of this group allow themselves to be browbeaten into supporting policies that largely benefit the top 10% based on the dubious supposition that those policies are “better than Republican policies.” With one half of the working class deceived into voting Republican and the other half treated like it has no choice but to vote Democrat, 90% of the population has its interests treated like an afterthought. Bernie’s entire campaign was an attempt to change that.
in practice, our two political parties split the vote for the working class, then both ignore it in favor of their primary constituencies.This is impressively tight, clear and cogent, as is the rest of the article. For example:
The working classes had their jobs shipped overseas in the dead of night from the 1980s-2000s. No one really noticed that an economic genocide was being perpetrated on the working class until it was too late. Those people have been suffering for a generation.And immediately following:
The upper middle class suffered some recent setbacks when the 2007 financial crisis precipitated a downturn in the global economy. The owners of successful local businesses have seen their fortunes shrink and skilled professionals have seen their retirements take a hit. It was only once this creeping crisis started affecting the upper middle class that it became actual news. There was no “crisis” when the working class was being removed from the middle class over the course of 30 years. Once people with money started to take hits, the economic situation demanded bi-partisan action.And:
Of course the action that was taken in the face of the crisis also reflected the class interests that the government represented. Financial institutions that held the upper middle and ruling class’s money were bailed out while working class homeowners simply lost everything.Not new information exactly, but clear in expression. "Economic genocide" indeed. And yes, distressed working class homeowners did "lose everything." Including their life expectancy (see also here). Props to the author for writing this. I encourage you to read the rest, if you have a few minutes to spare.
This is not a "what you should do" piece. Just something to ponder as we ponder having celebrated our freedom.