Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The party of the working class? Doesn't exist.

I was reading some interesting posts on Courtney's blog regarding class -- specifically, the Conservative Party's apparent disdain for the lower and working classes in Great Brittain -- and it got me to thinking about the class-based society we have here in the U.S.

The entire paternal side of my family is working class. My dad worked at a cement factory until the day he died. My uncles are retired UAW auto workers. My grandpa worked in a machine shop. They're real blue collar, and I'm a blue-collar guy who somehow managed to infiltrate the ranks of Corporate America.

Both parties here claim to be "the party of the working man and woman," which is complete and utter bullshit on both sides for a number of reasons. My question is, is it possible to truly have a party of the working class? I don't see how. When you look at Capital Hill, how many working-class folks do you see up there? No, not the landscapers. The elected officials.

I can count them on one elbow.

The working class don't have representation because, well, they're too busy working. So they have to rely on some magnanimous higher-class saviour to take on the charge of the little people.

No wonder the working class is a bit cynical and pessimistic.

Even in the rare event that "one of us" makes it into some sort of elected office, he or she isn't really one of us anymore. The compromises and arm twisting and backroom bullshit in which American politics are so deeply entrenched will squeeze the ideology right out of the most well-intentioned.

At least in Great Brittain the Conservative Party lets it be known in no uncertain terms how they feel about the working class. Here, the Repubmocrat Demolicans (term borrowed from my friend Bob Dubac) all stand in front of microphones and cameras and talk about the working class like they really care. "I promise I'll take the fight of the working man and woman all the way to the White House!" The promises, of course, fly the most fervently as we near elections.

I'm surprised we haven't heard someone resurrect Hoover's "A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage."

The working class' biggest concerns are pretty simple: Pay my mortgage and feed my family. Everything else is secondary to those two things. Pick any emotional issue -- abortion, gay rights, education, the environment or the Iraq war, to name a few -- and while they may strike a strong emotional chord on one side of the issue or the other, they're still going to fall behind the basic human needs of food and shelter for the working class.

Think long and hard about this question: Do you want a party of the working class? A party that makes all those emotional concerns secondary to allowing the working man & woman to take home as much money as possible? I daresay that many of us wouldn't list food & shelter as our #1 concerns.

I know damn well those aren't the real concerns of elected politicians. So maybe they should take a page from GB's Conservative Party and stop the pretense. Let the working class of this country know that their concerns aren't overly high on our to-do list and focus on the real issues like who should or shouldn't be able to marry whom, or what language the local WalMart is printing on its signs.


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