The excerpt below is from a 2004 election postmortem article by Argiris Malapanis in The Militant: "Middle class contempt for workers fuels liberal panic over election results."
.... Working people are deeply fearful of what the future has in store for them, and rightly so. They know they are working longer and harder and earning less than they did 10 years ago. The problem is that they have never lived through the kind of depression conditions that are developing in the world. Most think they'll be better off managing their own savings than trusting the government to give them a pension some time in the future. And on the second part of that they are correct.
Failure of liberalism
Failure of liberalism
This reaction has a lot to do with the failure of liberalism, which uses demagogy to convince working people they are better off with the Democratic Party.
The majority of working people know what happened during the eight years of the Clinton administration. Health care grew more expensive. The number of people without any medical coverage was 40 million by the end of Clinton's second term, 2 million more than when he took office. And that happened during the longest post-World War II upturn of the business cycle. Even though the number of the uninsured increased to 45 million and medical costs continued to rise under Bush's watch, Kerry's promises to improve health care by pointing to the Clinton legacy rang hollow.
Above all, it was Clinton's Democratic administration that took the first real step toward gutting the social wage, something that even Ronald Reagan wouldn't touch in the 1980s: it carried out Clinton's campaign promise to "end welfare as we know it."
Leading the bipartisan assault against half a century of social gains by working people, in 1996 Clinton signed the "welfare reform" bill adopted by Congress. The legislation eliminated federally guaranteed Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and cut off food stamps and Medicaid to many working people. In doing so, Clinton opened the battle by the ruling class to take back concessions codified in the Social Security Act, which was pushed through Congress in 1935 under the pressure of rising labor struggles.
AFDC meant that aid would be given as a right to families with dependent children, that is, to families without parents who were breadwinners. Organizations of widows of miners who had died on the job because of lack of safety resulting from the bosses' profit drive were among those who demanded it. AFDC also came to cover the families of soldiers who went to war and were killed or came back maimed and unable to work.
Working people won the concessions included in the Social Security Act—which encompassed guaranteed pension, disability, and unemployment benefit floors, as well as AFDC—through hard-fought battles in the 1930s. In the wake of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, these gains were consolidated and extended with the addition of Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, and cost-of-living protections. Workers fought for such minimal lifetime security to keep their class from being torn apart by the ravages of capitalism. The working class struggled to entrench these measures as universal social rights, with automatic funding not reviewed in annual budgets, and without any degrading "means testing." Far from being the "dole," these entitlements represent a small part of the social wealth that workers and farmers produce through their labor. These benefits are a social wage that, together with the hourly wages paid directly by employers, make up the basic living standards of working people. Very broad sections of the middle classes depend on them as well.
The late senator Patrick Moynihan, a Democrat who voted against the 1996 bill, warned of its consequences at the time of its passage. The law was "the first step in dismantling the social contract that has been in place in the United States since at least the 1930s," Moynihan said. "Do not doubt that Social Security itself, which is to say insured retired benefits, will be next."
This step by the Clinton administration undermined working-class solidarity by reinforcing the dog-eat-dog reality of capitalism and the notion that those without may be taken care of by charity.
Republicans now play on this record of liberalism. Bush is poised to build on the Clinton legacy by pushing for "reform" of Social Security pensions....
Resentment for ‘cognitive elite’
The liberal panic over the outcome of November 2 also showed the utter contempt for the working class by middle-class liberals.
An article in the November 4 New York Times was one of many shedding light on the attitudes of many liberals toward the results of the election. It was titled, “Blue City (Disconsolate, Even) Bewildered by a Red America.” The headline was referring to the colors used to designate areas where the Democrats won (blue), and those where the Republicans prevailed (red). The reporter interviewed New Yorkers he ran into at Manhattan’s Lincoln Center, mostly professionals or business people.
“I am saddened by what I feel is the obtuseness and shortsightedness of a good part of the country—the heartland,” Zito Joseph, a 63-year-old retired psychiatrist, told the Times. “This kind of redneck shoot-from-the-hip mentality and a very concrete interpretation of religion is prevalent in Bush country.”
His fellow dog walker Roberta Kimmel Cohn chimed in that New Yorkers were not as fooled by Bush’s statements as other Americans might be. “New Yorkers are savvy,” she said. “We have street smarts. Whereas people in the Midwest are more influenced by what their friends say.”
“Do you know how I described New York to my European friends?” Beverly Camhe, a film producer, told the Times. “New York is an island off the coast of Europe.”
On the other side of the Atlantic, liberals and social democrats had similar reactions, showing a hardening of bourgeois anti-Americanism after the U.S. elections. The British tabloid Daily Mirror, for example, ran a photo of Bush on the entire front page of its November 4 issue with the headline, “How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?”
“Ignorance and bloodlust have a long tradition in the United States, especially in the red states,” said novelist Jane Smiley, in a post-election essay. “The history of the last four years shows that red state types…prefer to be ignorant…. They are virtually unteachable.”
The middle-class left had a similar stance. “Bush won the election by triumphing in areas in the South where racism, political reaction and the legacy of slavery are the strongest,” said an article in the November 11 issue of Workers World, the weekly newspaper of the Workers World Party. This is a Stalinist group that ran its own feeble presidential campaign, gaining ballot status for its candidates in three states (Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington State). Bush “won the states in the Southwest and Great Plains area dominated by mine owners, millionaire land owners, agribusiness, cattle barons and oil monopolies,” the article said. “But in the large and middle-sized cities…in the Northeast, Midwest, and West Coast—Bush’s reactionary agenda was rejected across the board.”
Most professionals, Hollywood entertainers and producers, newspaper columnists, novelists and other writers, television newscasters, and university professors in the United States today are liberals. These are among the social layers that Kerry appealed to. They include former radicals who three or four decades ago were Maoists, or belonged to the Weather Underground or other groups on the “left.” Many of these people today live in apartment buildings or housing complexes with security guards. As capitalism’s economic crisis marches on, they become more fearful of losing their privileges and their contempt for workers increases. This “Bell Curve” bias of aging radicals and middle-class liberals is resented more and more by working people.
The Bell Curve is a book by Charles Murray and Richard Hernstein that was released in 1994. Its publication caused a scandal in the bourgeoisie. The reason for the scandal? In the debate around the book, both supporters and critics, liberals and conservatives alike, were forced to acknowledge that capitalist society necessitates maintaining a class hierarchy—which is a product of social relations, not a biological fact—that permanently denies equality to the majority of human beings, those who work for living.
The book’s purpose was to provide a rationalization for better-off layers of professionals and the middle class—those the authors call “the cognitive elite”—as to why they deserve to be richer and more comfortable than the great majority of humanity; it’s because they are supposedly smarter. It was aimed at middle-class liberals, in particular. “Quit denying it!” was the message of the authors. “You deserve to be better off. It’s necessary, especially in this computerized and hi-tech world we’re living in.”
The book was also a warning sign that even if layers of workers would be taken in by such ideological rationalizations for a while, deepening social polarization and impoverishment was leading to inevitable class battles. Ultimately The Bell Curve sounded the trumpet of these coming class confrontations, of a future civil war. It was written to give courage to those who are determined to defend their better living standards against those who produce all the wealth, along with nature—the toiling masses of humanity.
It is these attitudes of the “cognitive elite” that a majority of working people resent. Most workers do get the signals right. They know what’s being said when Kerry implies he is smarter than Bush....