Why Can’t We Call it Politics Based on Class Like Other Countries Do?

So Bernie Sanders says we (Democrats) need to be conscious of more than identity and some people lose their minds.

TPM mislead with its headline of Sanders Urges Supporters: Ditch Identity Politics and Embrace The Working Class

Bernie didn’t say “ditch” anything, he certainly didn’t say Democrats should “ditch” minority groups for white people, but that is what some people heard, even smart people, because there’s no end to the stupid (even in smart people, sometimes).

The alarming thing about it, although not our subject here today, is that there are factions ready to criticize anything Bernie says now, just as there are factions that do not want to hear that Hillary ran a problematic campaign.  Jeez, people, both sides can be right. We need to think in complexity to create simplicity and come together. What he actually said (transcript below):

It goes without saying that as we fight to end all forms of discrimination, as we fight to bring more and more women into the political process, Latinos, African Americans, Native Americans… All of that is enormously important, and count me in as somebody who wants to see that happen. But it is not good enough for somebody to say, “Hey, I’m a Latina, vote for me.” That is not good enough. I have to know whether that Latina is going to stand up with the working class of this country and is going to take on big money interests.

Now one of the problems, one of the struggles that we’re going to have, right now—lay on the table of the Democratic Party—is it’s not good enough to me to say, “Okay, well, we’ve got X number of African-Americans over here, we’ve got Y number of Latinos, we have Z number of women. We are a diverse party, a diverse nation.” Not good enough. We need that diversity, that goes without saying. That is accepted. Right now, we’ve made some progress getting women into politics; I think we’ve got twenty women in the Senate now. We need fifty women in the Senate. We need more African Americans. But, but, here is my point, and this is where there is going to be division within the Democratic Party. It is not good enough for someone to say, “I’m a woman. Vote for me!” No, that’s not good enough. What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industry.

In other words, one of the struggles that you’re going to be seeing in the Democratic Party is whether we go beyond “identity politics.” I think it’s a step forward in America if you have an African-American head or CEO of some major corporation. But do you know what? If that guy is going to be shipping jobs out of this country and exploiting his workers, doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot if he’s black or white or Latino.

And I know some people may not agree with me, but that is the fight that we’re going to have right now within the Democratic Party. The working class of this country is being decimated. That’s why Donald Trump won. And what we need now are candidates who stand with those working people, who understand that real median family income has gone down, that young people in many parts of this country have a very limited future, that life expectancy for many workers is going down. People can’t afford healthcare, can’t afford their medicine, can’t afford to send their kids to college. We need candidates—black and white and Latino and gay and male—we need all that. But we need all of those candidates and public officials to have the guts to stand up to the oligarchy. That is the fight of today.

  1. This is the argument that the Democratic Party needs to make AS ONE to working people of all races and religions, to Greens, Democrats, independents and Republicans.
  2. It is an argument that puts CLASS over RACE, because CLASS is the struggle we all share, no matter what race and religion.

POOR LIVES MATTER

WORKING CLASS LIVES MATTER

But even Bernie doesn’t use the word “class”.  The country is ready to embrace a message that calls out the real problematic division in our country which is that elites have been running our economy forever and in the last 50 years have made bad policy and business decisions that decimated the middle class while funneling money up to the elites.

This is how we got to where we are where the top 1% owns 40% of the assets of the country and the bottom 80% barely have the shirts on their backs (not an official statistic, but what it feels like).  More families live paycheck to paycheck, struggling on two paychecks to pay for what their parents could achieve on one paycheck. More people who had savings and retirement security with real defined benefit pension plans instead are reduced to relying on the vagaries of Wall Street in their 401k plans scams (really the biggest con job foisted on the middle class of them all).

The privileged class has been “wealthsplaining” globalism to the bottom 80% for 50 years to justify the deindustrialization of the country in the 60s, 70s and 80s by sending their jobs out of the country, decimating the blue collar middle class and private sector unions. Then in the 90s they justified the decimation of the white collar middle management segment of the middle class as a flurry of mergers, takeovers and downsizings completed the financialization of the country whereby stock prices were buoyed by increasing bottom lines of companies by finding “efficiencies” and creating a lot of joblessness and insecurity.  These economic policies were pushed by the elites of both parties as necessary and inevitable, but they weren’t and aren’t.

“This enormous transformation of the U.S. economy over a thirty-year period has been described by political leaders and media as the inevitable and therefore normal workings of the emerging global economy. Some, like former president Reagan, even applauded the changes as a historic opportunity to revitalize the economy. In a 1985 report to Congress, he stated, ‘The progression of an economy such as America’s from the agricultural to manufacturing to services is a natural change. The move from an industrial society toward a postindustrial service economy has been one of the greatest changes to affect the developed world since the Industrial Revolution.’

“A contrasting view posits that the transformation of the U.S. economy is not the result of natural economic laws or the “hidden hand” of global economic markets but, rather, the result of calculated actions by multinational corporations to expand their profits and power. When corporations decide to close plants and move them overseas where they can find cheap labor and fewer government regulations, they do so to enhance profits and not simply as a response to the demands of global competition. In many cases, the U.S. multinationals themselves are the global competition that puts pressure on other U.S. workers to work harder, faster, and for lower wages and fewer benefits…

“Despite claims by officials in Canada, Mexico, and the United States that NAFTA has been a success, an analysis of the impact of NAFTA seven years after its adoption indicates that 766,000 actual and potential jobs have been eliminated in the United States “between 1994 and 2000 because of the rapid growth in the U.S. export deficit with Mexico and Canada.”31 Thus, we lose many more jobs than we create with our free-trade policies. But free trade is not about jobs; it is about profits for corporations and the privileged class.”

From “The Global Economy and the Privileged Class” by Perrucci, Robert and Wysong, Earl. Reprinted from The New Class Society: Goodbye American Dream?, (2003), by permission of Roman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

What economic sociologists Perrucci and Wysong lay out in their brilliant article is the timeline of this economic transformation and the arguments that it was all just policy choices for the benefit of the few at the top.  That’s the economic messaging that Bernie and Elizabeth Warren will be promulgating as the ideological leaders of the Democratic Party during the Trump era.  It’s a message that should be explicitly about class, as well as race, and explicated to Democrats all over the country so they can speak this language to potential voters.

The next 4 years should be a debate where this message of economic populism is played out. The difference being that Trump is a phony billionaire populist who doesn’t even really understand it, representing a political party of corporatist hacks who don’t believe in it versus a real party that embraces and defends the working class and wants to rebuild the middle class through a resurgence in the New Deal policies that created it.

Can the Democrats become that party? They’ll have to get over the infighting and overcome the elites that co-opted the party and moved its heart from Main Street to Wall Street.

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