Thursday, February 01, 2007

Chicken Fingers

I saw a bumper sticker yesterday that read:

“A working man who votes Republican is like a chicken who likes Colonel Sanders.”

I personally think this is true but, if you live in the South and many other places as well, you know it is not a slogan that most people pay attention to.

What makes working class people vote so often for politicians who promote the interests of their bosses? So-called liberals chalk it up to racism because this helps justify their lack of interest in class issues.

I think there is a different, more subtle, explanation. For whatever reason, the “face” of the Democratic Party is one of elitists. After all, Bill Clinton tried to appoint to his cabinet Zoe Baird, half of a $600,000 a year couple who were willing to pay only $24,000 to the caretaker of her only daughter. Rock stars, movie stars, glamorous authors tend to be Democrats and behave in a way working class people regard as immoral.

The Democratic image problem seems unfair because there must be as many elitists and rule-benders among Republicans. But Republicans are perceived to be less likely to use bad language, more likely to go to church, and to listen to country music, and more likely to fly an American flag with pride: cultural mores that working class people tend to share.

But the problem is not which party has more elitists. The actual problem is two-fold. First, Democrats have become progessively less interested in class in the last 50 years. Second, even if they claim to be advocates for the "working man," they are woefully ignorant of the what it means to be a working class person in America. A law professor would have no idea, for example, what it would be like to get up at 7:00 and return home at 6:00 after a day of physical work - no leisurely visits to the faculty lounge, no extended gossip sessions, no time to go to the dentist, etc. A law professor could not conceive of living on $15.00 an hour or his/her spouse bartending nights to make ends meet or worry about the price of ground beef or deciding to eat hot dogs once a week in order to make ends meet. They tend to shudder at things blue collar.

I watch this process play out at my job. I think I am pretty good at spotting the very few working class students who filter into even a state law school. It is profiling to be sure, but they are more likely to have acne scars, poor dental work, out of date hair styles (no mullets thank God) and to be overweight. When the first “dress up” occasion is held, the men and women are more likely to look like they read “court attire” to mean “Scarface attire.”

As these people move through law school, they get a belly-full of “liberal” indoctrination that is at best class-neutral and probably anti blue collar. When it comes to research assistant positions they are befuddled by why they were not chosen and Ms. Perfect Smile is. And when profs chum it up with students, you can bet it is not with the students who have even a smidgen of working classness about them. Perhaps this is understandable: people are more comfortable around those who are like them. So much for "embracing diversity."

Who would get your vote. Someone who does not care about you but is honest about it. Or someone who claims to care but actually finds you an inconvenient reminder of his own hypocrisy?

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