June 08, 2012
Watch the Dems Sell Out Public Unions

Ian Welsh gets it right:

Ordinary people hate other ordinary people who are doing better than them. The politics of envy isnt about the rich, whom ordinary people almost never see, but about their neighbours. And Americans want a mean economy, one where everyone has to suffer like they do. As long as the union movement is about a few people keeping higher wages, it will continue to fail. A union movement which is centered around public service unions cannot stand.
I think this is the real story of the Wisconsin elections. Corporate money was a factor, no doubt, as was conservative propaganda, but all the money and spin in the world won’t help you win if most people just flat out don’t agree with you. The fact is, demagogic appeals to people’s fear and envy almost always trump good will and common sense. Nowhere is this more true than in America, where the only thing we love more than money is kicking someone in the guts when they’re down.

But, say lefties like Michael Moore, poll after poll shows that Americans usually come down on the progressive side of the issues. Well, maybe, but election after election keeps putting reactionary Republicans and conservative Democrats back in office. Why is that?

I don’t care what any poll says. This country is firmly, staunchly, stupidly center-right. It doesn’t matter if a poll says most Americans favor single-payer health care, because those same people will turn right around and vote for some right-wing demagogue who cries that it’s “socialism!” Most Americans would benefit from bigger stimulus spending, extended unemployment benefits, and a strong labor movement, but all of that’s irrelevant. Rational considerations like that get thrown out the window as soon as a politician or a talk show host tells people that the dirty fuckin’ Mexicans are stealing their jobs, or that lazy government workers are prospering on their dime, or that class warfare against multimillionaires in the form of the capital gains tax is wrecking our economy.

If Americans are so damn progressive, why do we live in the least progressive nation of all the advanced industrial democracies? Why does public policy always, always, drift in favor of the rich and powerful? The divide and conquer tactics employed by the likes of Scott Walker succeed because so many American fundamentally agree with them. When they’re told about wicked teacher’s unions, they remember the high school civics teacher who always gave them detention and think, “Yeah, fuck teachers!” When they hear about public service workers getting higher pensions than themselves, they remember some petty government department that levied a fine on them for some minor infraction, and they think, “Yeah, fuck government workers!”

As for the Mexicans, they haven’t got a chance in this environment. Anti-Mexican bigotry is de rigueur among the white working class. It is openly and proudly expressed. It’s just taken for granted that Mexicans, who may work as dishwashers and sleep six to a room, somehow constitute a privileged aristocracy that the government mysteriously favors over good hard working white Americans when dispensing all the benefits. This view as common as the day is long, and it’s impossible to dislodge it from a brain where it’s taken root. I’ve given up trying. I’ve been inches away from fist fights over this issue. The fact is, they want to blame Mexicans for their problems for one simple reason: they want to blame Mexicans for their problems. Period. Keep your logic to yourself.

Appealing to the the lowest common denominator works because the lowest common denominator is our most potent driving force. We are the lowest common denominator. We are overlapping, interwoven bundles of lowest common denominators that, working together in perfect synergy, has produced a nation whose most salient traits are militarism, economic inequality, and authoritarian police agencies. There’s a deeply ingrained core of hysterical, money-grubbing, self-defeating stupidity that makes up a large part of our national character. It goes all the way back to pre-colonial times. It’s just who we are. Read Richard Hofstadter, or even de Tocqueville, where the theme also pops up.

(A side note: while of us liberals and progressives are wringing our hands in despair, Id bet money that the big strategic brains in the Democratic party are betting that going against public employee unions is smart politics. I heard this being ever so gently mentioned on some of the talk shows after the election results came in. Rather than standing up for organized labor on principle, they’re going to kneecap it for short term political gain. Public employees unions are going to be the next bargaining chip, the next sacrificial lamb, in some Obamian grand bargain with the far right. Watch the Democrats sell them out. You just watch them do it.)


Posted by OHollern at June 08, 2012 09:37 AM
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Re: hating and blaming Mexicans. There is an immigration meme from the seventies that has pretty much disappeared from common usage as far as I can tell, but I'm reminded of it constantly in the current environment. It may be peculiar to Iowa; I don't know. After Vietnam, our then governor, Robert Ray, actually made an effort to settle refuge "boat people" from SE Asia in the state. He was a pretty decent guy despite being a Republican; it may not have been as big a deal as we thought it was, but proportionally to our population, quite a few came here.

Anyway, a lot of working-class whites just RAGED against this. And one of the things you heard was, "they get a free Cadillac from the federal government!" You just could not penetrate this absurdity. I didn't come close to having fist fights, but I probably could have if I had tried harder to dissuade them. Nowadays it would probably be a Lexus or something.

So, I hardly hear it anymore but I'll say something about it to my partner occasionally as an inside joke. I always thought that Refugee Cadillac would be a great name for a SE-Asian-American punk band.

Posted by: Tim on June 8, 2012 11:49 AM

Unlike what they claim, it's a race to the bottom. The children learn that in school too.

Posted by: Cool Hand on June 8, 2012 7:30 PM

Not a Lexus, Tim, it's still a Cadillac, but a Cadillac Escalade.

Posted by: Ohollern on June 8, 2012 8:03 PM

The cavernous left void in the backwater behind the never ending triangulation of this neo-liberal party to the right is all of our fault. Vote Green or Socialist and make a stand that can be counted.

Posted by: lless on June 8, 2012 8:36 PM

Public unions have to go.

Posted by: DPirate on June 8, 2012 10:57 PM

Zionists have to go. Yesterday....

Posted by: stevieb on June 9, 2012 12:23 PM

Trolls have to go.

Posted by: Ohollern on June 9, 2012 12:46 PM

Y'know, I came to a similar conclusion just before the election. As noted political philosopher Melvin Kaminsky pointed out, "It's good to be the king." In fact, it's so good that everybody knows just how good it is, just as surely as everybody knows they cannot be the king.

But they can sort of get a taste of what being a king is like by kicking peasants. It's easy. Anybody can find a peasant to kick. Peasants are all over the place. Kick away. It's good to be king-ish...

"We'll put a boot in your ass - it's the American way!" I always found that sentiment incredibly offensive. But I no longer find it inaccurate. It's who we are as a people now. We should engrave it on our money.

Posted by: Kurt Weldon on June 10, 2012 1:56 PM

No I don't want to watch it! It's bad enough the Plutocracy always wins it doesn't mean I have to know about it!

Posted by: Grung_e_Gene on June 10, 2012 8:25 PM

R.D. Laing developed three rules by which he believed a pathological family - or culture - (one suffering from abuse, alcoholism, etc.) can keep its pathology hidden from even its own family members. Adherence to these three rules allows perpetrators, victims, and observers to maintain the fantasy that they are all one big, happy family.

The rules are:

Rule A: Don't talk about the problems and abject conditions.

Rule A1: Rule A does not exist.

Rule A2: Do not discuss the existence or nonexistence of Rules A, A1, and/or A2.

Posted by: H. on June 10, 2012 10:40 PM
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