Middle Class Struggle

Monday, June 26, 2006

A recent post at LLPN, one of my favortie blogs, dealt initially with drooping real estate among formerly "Middle Class" areas. However, in the comment section, an astute blogger brought to light the concept of single-issue voting:

Paradoxically, the majority of these ignorant voters and givers of political donations were and are from the middle class, willing repeatedly to vote against their own best interest in return for bans on things like gay marriage and flag burning, smacking down affirmative action and promoting religion in the public square, etc.

The genius of the Republican Party on the National scale is that it has found the right way to boil complex issues of national security and economics down to basic concepts and hot-button phrases. Unfortunately, I believe this is also its greatest foible. National Security, economics, safety; all of those issues should not be reduced to such simple sound bites, because they aren't. But by sequestering these massive ideas into individual slices, the Republicans have been able to find a different voter for each small slice of much larger issues. It is really an incredible strategy.

I think single-issue voting does one of two things: It either throws a smokescreen in front of much larger issues or it steers debate away from a more "global*" concept and context and instead towards a more visceral "right or wrong" discussion.

Smokescreen issues are the "moral dilemma" issues that can be tossed up to move voters away from thoughtful discussion and into the one type of discussion that all of your "how to get by in business" self-help books tell you not to engage in: religion. Failing economy? Gays shouldn't marry! Are your opponents making ground on why your tax cuts only benefit the rich? Prayer in schools! These are issues that are really really small potatoes in the grand scheme of public policy debate, but they make so much ground because of the moral implications. And televangelists.

In terms of breaking larger issues into smaller parts, it doesn't serve to have a real discussion about the ramifications of an oil-based economy and the necessity of putting American military bases in the unfriendly part of the world that holds the most massive and nearly untapped oil resources (Iraq). It is a massively effective counter-technique to put the arguments into smaller "blocks" to garner the voters you're after: terrorism, protection, supporting troops, our "way of life," etc.

What burns me is that the "freedom" and "way of life" discussed is not at all about the freedom to watch whatever movie I want, eat whatever I want, say whatever I want. It is in all honesty about what car I drive and how often I drive it. That way of life. The SUV, the long road trip. Terrorism doesn't threaten it. But anti-American governments who sit on that resource and control it to a degree certainly do.

What burns me more is that when a voter picks the one issue that matters most in the face of other, bigger issues. Certainly abortion comes to mind, which in and of itself is a powerful moral argument with massive implications. But it is folly to allow that single issue to trump all others, even on the scale of "morality and immorality." But economic violence and the immorality of giving rich people more money absolutely pales in comparison to the media mileage and screaming protests you get over the abortion issue alone.

This brings me back to the original post I reference above from LLPN, about real estate. There is hope of a resurgence of sanity and responsible policy, but it will unfortunately be at the price of the middle class. Only when the middle class, as an aggregate, can no longer sell their houses, earn a decent wage, or afford college without a home equity loan (if they even live in a house, versus an apartment) will there be an awakening.

I really think the battle ground is in the Middle Class. I see, for lack of a better phrase, a real class struggle. The middle class will fight back against the necessity of living in debt to buy groceries and live within a certain lifestyle advertised so seductively on t.v. But the messages have to reach the middle class that all of the current misery is interconnected with policy beyond flag burning and 10 commandments in front of court houses: that their $20 tax cut gives them nothing compared to the $20,000 or more that upper class earners get.

I see a huge grassroots movement potential under the "angrification" of the middle class to redirect attention towards what matters: the largest voting block's best interest, which is strangely not the Pledge of Allegiance every morning in school.

So this is just the beginning of my train of though here as I continue to read and be pissed of by American Theocracy. But I really see here what that book's author might have seen in terms of grassroots movements in the 70's.


*the definition of "global" that Kerry actually meant, not the one Bush said he did (See? See? He's talking all about taking everyone else's opinions instead of our own again...)


Anonymous,  4:52 PM  

Damn Smitty, you must be reading my mind.

Over the last few weeks, my wife and I, along with our five-month old have been pondering our child's future education and the eventual need for a three bedroom house. Despite the desire to continue living in a neighborhood made up of the best neighbors anyone could ask for, we are not sure the local schools, or the Catholic private school option are good choices for us.

My wife only works two days a week and we feel this is best for us and our daughter. So what does a couple with a modest income do?

Where are the homes that are only slightly more expensive than where we are, but offer better schools? Add the fact that we need to be in a diverse area and it seems there are two options:

One - Very affordable housing in a not-so-good school district or;
Two - Really expensive homes in a great school district.

Where's the middle?

I can see the divide between the classes and despite being college educated, in a pretty good job I am bumping up against it.

It seems like someone squandered what the greatest generation gave us: The ability to raise a family on a modest, single income in a great neighborhood.


B Mac,  9:32 AM  

Well, at least we're making progress:

The Terri Schiavo bill only applied to one person. This year (according to the Citizens Flag Alliance), three flags have been burned in America. Three.

Therefore, the flag-burning amendment would apply to a much broader swath of society. Three times as big, in fact.

It's still not quite up to the level of the 200 million middle-class Americans, but it's a step. I guess.

Otto Man 6:32 PM  

Nice post, Smitty. And thanks for the bloglove.

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