Thursday, February 24, 2005

Class or Kulturkampf?

The Moose dreamed he saw Joe Hill last night and he told him that the cultural war trumps the class war any day of the week.

Yesterday, the always thought-provoking Harold Meyerson had an interesting piece on the defection of the white working class from the Democratic Party. Meyerson laments that the party is losing the allegiances of white working stiffs even on economic issues. While he refers to the social issues in passing, he seems to be saying that if the donkey was a more robust advocate for proletarian power, he would be more successful with this group of voters.

Meyerson writes,

"Democrats win when they deliver prosperity and security for working Americans, and in today's capitalism, those have become increasingly unattainable goals. Which is why, as they only now gear up their think tanks, Democrats need to promote alternatives to the kind of shareholder-driven capitalism into which our system has descended, to the detriment of millions of underpaid, insecure workers. They need to side with Main Street over Wall Street. Like the conservatives 40 years ago, the Democrats need to offend their own elites to build an America that reflects their best values, and in which working people can and do count on them for support"

Actually, the social libertarian values of Burlington, Vermont are closer to Wall Street than Main Street. The problem for the Democrats is more with their cultural elites than their economic ones. The Moose will gladly sign on to an anti-elitist crusade because he has never shied away from offending elites - whether they be economic or social. Take back the Democratic Party!

But here's some straight talk - Democrats have only won (Carter and Clinton) when they have reassured the working class that they aren't social elitists who are soft on national security and values. The genesis of the defection of the white working class can be traced to the period that was symbolized by 1968 Democratic Convention when upper middle class counterculutral elitist protesters attacked the party of LBJ and Humphrey.

Michael Moore is nothing but a modern cinematographer version of Abbie Hoffman without the wit or charm. At least, back then, the Democratic establishment did not offend working class sensibilities by applauding the antics of the anti-U.S. Yippies.

The Moveon types and Deaniacs bear a striking resemblance to the highly educated, socially liberal, anti-war New Politics activists who helped precipitate the defection of white workers from the party. In another historical antecedent, George McGovern led an insurgency on behalf of the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party."

Just imagine what they could have accomplished if the McGovernites had enjoyed DSL high-speed internet access! Moreover, the current White House Deputy Chief of Staff traces his political lineage directly to the old Nixon gang which ruthlessly exploited the Democratic cultural divide back then.

Some things never change.

Back in 1970, with an uncanny prescience, Scammon and Wattenberg, in the Moose's political bible The Real Majority, diagnosed the Democratic challenge over the next thirty years and more,

"It is the judgment of the authors that the manner in which the Democratic party handles the Social Issue will largely determine how potent a political force the party will be in America in the years to come."

Democrats can oppose free trade, support single payer health care and endorse the living wage and the proletariat will not flock to their banner if they are perceived to be wimpy on national security and traditional values. And if one visits a Walmart or a Target - which are not exactly the stores of choice for the plutocracy - there are plenty of cheap goods on the shelves that are the products of free trade. Sorry, but "Workers of the world unite - you have nothing to lose but your chainstores" is not an attractive slogan for this battle.

If the proletariat is going to listen to the donkey's economic message, they have to be assured that the Dems do not denigrate their values. The Democrats working class problem is primarily not one of class, but of culture.

And that's what Joe Hill told the Moose last night.
-- Posted at 8:39 AM | Link to this post | Email this post