Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Race & Politics - Part II

I write about how race has shaped politics a lot (read part I). Not because it's a sexy or controversial subject that will grab people's attention.

Quite the contrary, the subject of Race and Politics is often treated as a taboo - an uncomfortable subject to discuss in mixed company.

Outside the thinly veiled (or in many cases open) racism of hate radio and FOX, where the conversations are more inflammatory than reasonable, Americans avoid this topic like the plague. From time to time mainstream media will produce a documentary on the subject, but generally speaking Race and Politics receives scant attention.

So, why discuss it at all?

In absence of intelligent, thoughtful and constructive dialogue we have power hungry demagogues that divide working class people by stroking their racial fears and immigrant fears. The most damaging net result of this exploitative campaign is white working class people manipulated into empowering a party that is decimating the middle-class.

Joan Walsh writes in

Sadly, Brooks is right that the Republican Party has become the home of the white working class. I wrote weeks ago that it’s silly to keep talking about “Reagan Democrats,” because the demographic group that Richard Nixon began luring to the GOP, and whose allegiance Reagan cemented, simply aren’t Democrats anymore. Steadily since the 60s, white working class voters have shifted their political affiliation to the Republican Party, (although Obama, paradoxically, did better with them than John Kerry or Al Gore did). Brooks is also right when he admits “Republicans harvest their votes but have done a poor job responding to their needs.”

But whether they’re led by Santorum or Romney, Republicans are not going to suddenly start responding to the needs of the working class, white or otherwise. And certainly not working class families. A generation of sanctimonious GOP talk about “family” ignores the fact that progressive legislation helped create the family as we knew it from World War II through the ’70s (which is what GOP family values folks hark back to). Certainly it was progressive reformers who scratched and clawed to carve out what we now think of as “childhood,” once reserved for wealthy children, by passing child-labor and compulsory education laws (which Gingrich and the modern GOP, by the way, apparently question). With all due respect to Santorum’s late grandfather, unions protected by liberalized labor-organizing and worker safety laws made dangerous mine work safer and pushed many struggling working class families into the secure middle class.

It was the New Deal and post-war liberalism that created the conditions to allow at least a couple of generations of white working and middle class women to stay home with their children. And it was the erosion of that post-war wages and benefits social compact, probably more than feminism, that sent women surging into the workplace, whether or not they might have wanted to be home with their kids. Unfortunately, the white working class has ignored most of this, undermining its own well-being by embracing the anti-government politics of paranoia and racial division espoused by the modern GOP. read more

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