Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

October 24, 2005

Do Workers Understand Their Class Interests?

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 10:00 pm

(Swans – October 24, 2005) In the aftermath of George W. Bush’s 2004 electoral victory, Thomas Frank became the pundit of the moment. In a New York Times article dated only 3 days after the election, Frank put forward the notion that blue-collar voters chose Bush over Kerry because culture (abortion, gay marriage, etc.) trumped economic issues:

The first thing Democrats must try to grasp as they cast their eyes over the smoking ruins of the election is the continuing power of the culture wars. Thirty-six years ago, President Richard Nixon championed a noble “silent majority” while his vice president, Spiro Agnew, accused liberals of twisting the news. In nearly every election since, liberalism has been vilified as a flag-burning, treason-coddling, upper-class affectation. This year voters claimed to rank “values” as a more important issue than the economy and even the war in Iraq…

Like many such movements, this long-running conservative revolt is rife with contradictions. It is an uprising of the common people whose long-term economic effect has been to shower riches upon the already wealthy and degrade the lives of the very people who are rising up. It is a reaction against mass culture that refuses to call into question the basic institutions of corporate America that make mass culture what it is. It is a revolution that plans to overthrow the aristocrats by cutting their taxes.

In some ways, Frank’s analysis simply builds upon observations first made around the phenomenon of “Reagan Democrats.” Supposedly the Gipper’s macho style endeared him to lower income voters who traditionally voted Democrat. Despite their ostensibly pro-working-class economic policies, the Democrats lost because they were “wimpy.” In Reagan’s time, the emphasis was on appearing more “muscular” vis-a-vis the Soviets, while today it is on “family values” and “the war on terror,” but in either case liberal pundits felt that workers were suckered into voting against their own class interests. Of course, as Frank points out, it doesn’t help when Democrats — especially after the rise of the Democratic Leadership Council — appear more like Republicans on questions such as NAFTA, etc.

full: http://www.swans.com/library/art11/lproy30.html

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