23 October 2008
Blaming the victims for the Republican Party's dominance
Have the Republicans managed to create a sort of altered reality, which they then sold to the voters as being the true reality? Thomas Frank over at the Wall Street Journal thinks that they have, and quotes from a Reagan strategy document from 1980 to bolster his case. This document argued: "People act on the basis of their perception of reality; there is, in fact, no political reality beyond what is perceived by the voters." As Frank then goes on to say, all this is great if "you're reaching out to workers while simultaneously cracking down on unions and scheming to privatize Social Security." So was it just "the perception of reality" that the GOP managed to tie itself into or were other factors at work?
However, as we have already pointed out on this blog, a very good case can be made for saying that the Democrats abandoned the American working class first, with their adoption of neo-liberal policies in the 1970s. They then added insult to injury by saying that they didn't even need working class votes to win elections with: all the party needed, ran the Emerging Democratic Majority argument was the votes of professionals, minorities and women. What the Democrats did was later copied by Nu-Labour in Britain, and with similar results. First you treat the working class like scum, then you blame them for abandoning a party that has already dumped them.
Secondly, and again as this blog has argued time and time again, when the two main parties - be they in Britain or the USA - are so close as to be touching on economic matters, then social issues become very important.
What Thomas Frank argued basically ignored all the changes that Democrat supported globalisation has brought in its wake and then blamed the victims for their failure to continue supporting the party that betrayed them. He also ignores the fact that many American working class people were making a quite rational choice when they started supporting the Republicans because at least the GOP agreed with their social agenda. By ignoring those two factors Thomas Frank is helping to create exactly the type of altered reality that his piece was obviously written to condemn. In this case the narrative involves stupid workers who could not tell under which party they were better off and fell for a line.
The point is that they didn't, did they?