As we wrote yesterday in our post titled “Labor Day memories...”, an estimated 15 million Americans are out of work with another almost 9 million listed as part-time by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. [Here] Most of those in our labor force who are listed as part-time would like to work full-time but were cut back by their employers or could not find full-time employment. Even our government refers to those workers as “involuntary part-time workers.” Untold other workers have simply given up and stopped looking.
What a shocking situation! Why aren’t those workers and their families and friends out in the streets beating pots and pans and yelling? (Why aren’t we?) Instead, the discontented are drawn to the corporate-financed, conservative Tea Party Movement which backs tax cuts to the rich and refers to unemployment insurance as government coddling of the lazy.
Why are so many “Joe the Plumbers” supporting the very people who got us into this economic mess? Why are so many turning to the conservative Tea Party Movement and not to the Democratic Party to right the inequities and problems in our economy? Is it simply that blue collar workers do not identify themselves as blue collar and struggle to identify themselves as “Middle Class?”
Salon’s editor-in-chief Joan Walsh has a fascinating take on the subject in a piece she posted on Monday titled “When blue-collar pride became identity politics.” Its subtitle, “Remembering how the white working class got left out of the New Left, and why we’re paying for it today,” is the intriguing synopsis of her article. Her piece also includes a conversation with author Jefferson Cowie whose book “Stayin‘ Alive: the 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class” is a detailed account of how, in the 70s, the new Progressive Movement’s ideals were not embraced by the older, established union movement.
Both Walsh and Cowie argue that the schism was quite apparent at the 1972 Democratic Convention when the AFL-CIO turned away from the newly defined, mostly young, Progressives who were anti-war, pro-gay, pro-civil rights, and pro-feminist. On the other hand, the union leadership was primarily white, militantly straight, male, pro-Vietnam war, and certainly anti-hippie. Walsh quotes what George Meany said of the N.Y. delegation to that convention. “They've got six open fags and only three AFL-CIO representatives!"
Nixon and his Republican strategists were smart enough to encourage and then capture for their Republican Party those blue collar, white males who were drifting away from the Democratic Party after the ’72 Convention. That plan, combined with what has been called Nixon’s Southern Strategy-the wooing of Southern Democratic whites who were unhappy with their Party’s support of Civil Rights-completed a political stratagem that gave the Republican Party a solid Republican/Conservative majority through the ’80’s and into the early ’90’s, until they hit Bill Clinton’s silver tongue and economic recession.
And now, for those of you who have been paying attention, the Republicans are in the midst of stealing and wooing more folks away from the Democratic Party, viz. women. When Hillary proved to be a great success and put so many cracks in glass ceilings that even the most misogynist males had to pay attention, John McCain chose Sarah Palin to be his running mate. He obviously hoped to pick up some mutinous Hillary supporters, but the Republicans gained something else. Although McCain’s Presidential bid was not a success, his ambitious running mate gained national attention and an enormous conservative female following, drawing some women away from the Democratic Party and into the arms of the welcoming Republican Party.
Remember: By the 2008 election over half of the members of Democratic Party were women. However, today the Sarah Palin phenomenon and the increasing political success of many Republican women across the country means that women are being lured away from the Democratic Party. Strong pro-choice woman will probably not hear Sarah’s siren call, but at the same time, those same women remember how women’s abortion rights were chipped away by Obama and some Congressional Blue Dog Democrats in the new health care bill. Their enthusiasm and money will be missed in this upcoming mid-term election. [Here]
And there, dear friends, is where we sit today.