Sunday, July 18, 2010

Democrats and the Working Class

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 It is profiling to be sure, but they are more likely to have acne scars, poor dental work, out of date hair styles (no mullets thank God) and to be overweight.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?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't believe people help their friends more than strangers all out of bias, the simple fact is, you know more about how to help someone and what their capabilities are if they continually ask for your help and promote themselves to you.

My main concern is that in a profession where unbiasedness and objectiveness should be valued, the law school system indirectly rewards bias through the subjectiveness of grading and the value of personal recommendations.

Have you ever found yourself falling into the trap of elevating someone you know over a wall-flower who might be about equally qualified? People tend to help their friends over strangers and that just proves that self-promotion/personal relationships tends are more important than true knowlege and ability because without adequate self-promotion, knowledge and skill do not always get to see the light of day. Remember, it's not what you know, it's who you know and the legal profession is sadly built around that premise.

Some of these wall-flowers may be intentionally seeking to avoid any instance of subjectiveness in order to maintain their unbiasness and minimize a professor or judge's ability to evaluate that wall-flower's ability on anything but objective measures. Sadly, the choice not to pay homage to people in superior positions tends to hurt the objective measures of those wall-flowers (not getting the helping hand from a professor leaves you with a slightly lower grade or doens't get you the externship that puts you in a position to put your skills to work).

A wall-flower's anti-social tendencies tend to deflate their objective measures of ability the same way an elitist's social tendencies tend to inflate objective measures of ability. The balancing act involves being able to be honest and open enough with your friends and yourself so that either one of you can choose a stranger over the friend because they are not as qualified as the stranger. Being open involves not playing up your strengths and not playing down your weakness. This goes against human nature because it hurts the ability of the individual and the group to survive; in an honest world, one might have to admit the truth that they are inferior and thus not fit to succeed to the level the desire. Based on what I see around me, this is not an honest world.