Posted by: Donna
Last week Gubernatorial candidate Christine Jones got national attention for revealing her comedic and musical stylings, along with her ignorance, at a performance at a fundraiser for Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
In addition to her song, a tune from the musical “Wicked” that at one point she forgot the lyrics to, Jones managed to make an eyebrow-raising comment about Arpaio, who was recently slapped with by a federal judge over his treatment of immigrants.
“It turns out that [Arpaio] does a lot of cool stuff that nobody knows about,” Jones said at one point. “Do you know this guy goes down into the desert and puts out water so people won’t die coming across the Rio Grande?”
The Rio Grande flows through Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. Officials for Arpaio’s office said they had no knowledge of Arpaio ever putting water in the desert for people, according to Phoenix TV station KTVK, which broadcasted Jones’ remarks.
I hasten to point out, once again, that Jones is a wealthy former executive of GoDaddy. This is not a fact that shocks me at all and I have more than belabored the point on this blog that the Tea Party has, from the beginning, been a movement of middle class to affluent white people and not a populist working class phenomenon. I’m not the only liberal who has known this from the very beginning but I have seen more than a few of my fellow lefties derive smug satisfaction from characterizing the Tea Party as “toothless yokels”. That is far from the truth and underestimating them in that way may have contributed to them sweeping the 2010 midterm. Tea partiers have teeth. They have nice vehicles and homes, and they’re more likely than average to have college degrees.
The often controversial but always intriguing author and analyst Michael Lind makes the same argument in Salon, drawing from academic history and demographic data. I had attributed the anti-populist tendencies I often encounter in liberals (which definitely feed their assumptions about the Tea Party) to simple vanity but they also have deep intellectual roots.
Against progressives and pundits who insist on blaming the white working class for Tea Party radicalism, I have argued that the radical right agenda serves the interest of the economic elites of the South and some areas in the Midwest and other regions — particularly those whose business models are threatened by unions, high minimum wages and environmental regulations...
…But this is not rocket science. All of this has been obvious to anyone who bothered to examine the polling and voting data, since the term “Tea Party” first entered the national dialogue following the crash of 2008.
Why, in the face of all of this evidence, are so many progressives and pundits convinced that the white working class, rather than affluent and educated conservative elites, are the driving force behind the right? Why do so many American progressives blame the masses for a movement of the classes? The answer is that the American center-left has been misled for half a century by the bad scholarship of the historian Richard Hoftstadter (1916-1970) and by German Marxist emigres of the Frankfurt School.
In the U.S., as in Western Europe, coalitions of populist farmers who united with organized urban workers were the social base of progressive movements like the New Deal. This was recognized by the liberal historians of the 1930s and 1940s, who tended to celebrate the contribution of populism to the evolving New Deal tradition.
Throughout the progressive and New Deal eras, to be sure, urban American intellectuals like H.L. Mencken tended to despise rural people, in every country; Mencken despised European “peasants” as much as he despised the provincial American “booboisie.” Hoftstadter infused Menckenseque contempt for rural and working-class Americans into postwar intellectual liberalism, by means of influential books like “Social Darwinism in American Thought, 1860–1915″ (1944); “The American Political Tradition“ (1948); “The Age of Reform” (1955); “Anti-Intellectualism in American Life” (1963). By emphasizing genuine examples of racism and anti-Semitism among agrarian Populists, without pointing out that these biases were widely shared among American Anglo-Protestant elites who often despised the Populists, Hoftstadter convinced several generations of American college students and professors that the Populists were a kind of incipient fascist force. By the 1960s, all too many American liberal intellectuals looked at their working-class fellow citizens and saw, not the heroic workers of the new Deal era murals, but peasants with pitchforks and proto-Nazis.
Many mid-century liberal intellectuals blamed first McCarthyism and then the rise of the Goldwater-Reagan movement on a deranged white working class. They found confirmation for this theory not only in Hofstadter but also in “The Authoritarian Personality,” a 1950 collection of essays by sociologists led by Theodor W. Adorno, a refugee from Hitler who had been part of the “Frankfurt School” of Marxist sociology.
Lind points out that liberals who assume that white Republican voters are largely benighted working class rubes (“voting against their own interests”) are quite wrong about that.
While white voters of all age groups preferred Romney to Obama, the propensity of whites to vote for Republicans rises with income. According to the Public Religion Research Institute, “Among whites without a college degree, income has become a stronger predictor of the vote over time. But actually it’s those with less income, not more income, who are more likely to support Democratic presidential candidates. And again, there certainly no trend by which whites with below-average incomes and no college degree become more Republican.”
White working-class voters in households that make less than $30,000 per year were nearly evenly divided in their voting preferences (39% favored Obama, 42% favored Romney). However, a majority (51%) of white working-class voters with annual incomes of $30,000 or more a year supported Romney, while 35% preferred Obama.
Half (50%) of white working-class voters who have not reported using food stamps in the past two years supported Romney, while less than one-third (32%) supported Obama. By contrast, white working-class voters who reported receiving food stamps in the last two years preferred Obama to Romney by a significant margin (48% vs. 36%).
If some liberals in Arizona are in denial about who the Tea Party are, the centrist media establishment, AKA the Villagers, are pathetically delusional about them. The Villagers will still pine for Sensible Pragmatic Business LeadersTM to rescue the Arizona GOP and our state while continuing to ignore how many successful business people here are philosophically aligned with the Tea Party and are getting everything they want under the current radical Right regime.
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