Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Following up on a previous post . . . 

I used to be perplexed about why so many working and middle class conservatives could support the Republican Party.  The party was too obviously dishonest about its economic policies, which it claimed were good for regular Americans, but which were all designed to shift wealth away from them and up the socio-economic pyramid.  

I realize now that rank and file Republicans never believed that the Democratic Party was an alternate, legitimate vehicle for their economic interests, so they settled for the "cultural politics" of conservatism (rooted mainly in religious enthusiasms harnessed to anxieties about gender and white privilege), and  in lieu of true political representation, they gravitated toward cynicism and anti-government rhetoric.

I come to this insight because, as a middle class progressive, I find myself in a strikingly similar position.  Ever since Clinton's technocrats betrayed working Americans with NAFTA and other race-to-the-bottom free-trade policies, the Democratic Party has again and again preferred practices that move wealth toward the wealthy and erode socio-economic mobility.  

Despite the cronyism and the hard-to-ignore "corporatist" turn of the party, we are supposed to choose the liberal politicians over Republicanism out of a preference for the cultural politics of progressivism (rooted mainly in civil rights, diversity and common good).  So, like working class conservatives, we are supposed to delude ourselves about (or be cynical and resigned about) the party's worsening economic policies, but still give it our vote, because they offer more support to gays, minorities, women - and, when convenient, the environment and the common good.

I can't view the Republican Party as an alternate, legitimate vehicle for my politics - since they are clearly much worse than Democrats - so I have little choice but to vote against my economic interests - or as the sociologist might say, "to my least disadvantage," by supporting Obama and the Democratic Congress.

I am curious to see whether this collapsed and corrupted politics is going to continue unchallenged, however.  The Tea Party and the Occupy Movement were both about many things, but they each put forward a similar critique of politics, media, and corruption.  But that is a post for another day.