Do Working Families Party?

Power Monsters Smash Nomad Land

“dirty work” by Leo Reynolds is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Dignity needs to be reconsidered “working people,” “real working class Americans.” These are the fifty or sixty percent of Americans without college degrees. Both political parties reach out and pander to them. Both need their votes to win a majority. If neglected, they would mob in one direction or the other, or against both. Yet the strategy Democrats choose is to see the ‘working class’ with a worldview of poverty, that it is intrinsic to who they are, a view that is hurting their own success while feeding the hatred of the other side.

I went from paper route, to lawn mowing, to burger flipping in high school when I turned sixteen in the 80’s (as a vegetarian too), to various restaurant jobs in college. I’ve never been afraid to work and believed in the ethos of it. But I see in work the “rolling stone gathers no moss philosophy” more than the “work gives dignity” one. Or as the German’s dignity sloganeering during the Great War, “Work Makes You Free” (Arbeit Macht Frei).

Now that I’ve obtained my college degrees, I work with my “mind”, that is, on a laptop and with a phone. Not “real work,” hard labor with my hands, though it pays a lot more. I still “admire” those who work doing what I did: cleaning floors, flipping burger in restaurants, stocking shelves in stores or in Amazon warehouses. Also, I’m aware that most of them are not teenagers as I survey them. Their journey is life long. Yet, if I have to be honest with you, is this work more “noble” and praiseworthy than that of a computer coder or writer or accountant?

The Democrats seem to think so. They seem to think that it should be a prominent goal of life, and not merely work someone does to pay bills. Accountants seem to have dignity, but working class must be given it. They seem to think that the work is aspirational and not conditional — that the conditions of life have forced these low paying jobs upon them.

The recent Mayoral candidate for NYC, Maya Wiley, brandishes the tagline, Working Families Party, to reflect her attitude of those she represents. Even though the t-shirt slogan sounds socialist. Though honestly, in the hearts of most working class parents, do they harbor secret dreams of sweeping floors or stocking shelves, or working in the factory (jobs that have been replaced by automation since the 1950’s)? Do they wish their children aspire to these back-breaking jobs of landscaping property and painting houses?

It’s not that I don’t support these workers; I was one of them. My family was on welfare in 1980 and got 5 pound blocks of surplus cheese from the back of a government truck. It’s that the Democratic Leaders’ view of them is wrong. It’s not just that their messaging is off, but that their fundamental treatment of them is that they are a permanent class, a working class. Whatever message comes out of their mouths of a good part of their party tends to be something about treating ‘them’ right. No wonder the Republicans call them Socialists. The ‘leftist’ Democrats act like they are.

The name sticks, too. The Republicans, despite their shift toward continual crisis management PR and Trumpian accusation messaging, do one thing right. (I mean in my opinion as someone who doesn’t like them.) They appeal to the working class that is aspirational. They have ‘won’ ownership of the American flag after Clinton and wave it with pride as though it doesn’t belong to the Democrats but to them, to their strength. They sing “proud to be an American” with gusto like it is their national anthem. They drive pickup trucks like it’s their national vehicle, almost everywhere in the South, in Texas, even if they are white collar or blue collar and don’t work a job involving construction.

In short they want to feel worthy, proud, and powerful. Internally, their symbolism of strength reflects the pride and worth — the power — that people want. I can do it. I can take action. I’m driving an action truck. And thus they despise the Socialist ‘Libs’, the down trodden, who can’t pick themselves up. They are not going to beg for food and welfare checks and government handouts. It is a message from GOP leaders that they believe they are powerful, possessing their own dignity, appealing to who they want to be — someone more powerful.

Their outer reality is clearly no different, of course. Blue collar Republicans work the same jobs, get on the same disability checks when injured, live in trailer parks, apartment blocks, drink cheap beer, watch baseball, working class traits the illegal (and legal) Latinos possess. Blue collar GOP men miss electric company payments, get behind on rent, and get daunting hospital bills from unforeseen injuries. But is that the life they want to have, who they want to be? No! That’s why the GOP messaging is effective, and was effective enough to give Trump a win in 2016, a message which the Democrats don’t recognize. Sure, it a power over others that Trump inspired — over different races, but over individual opponents like little Marc Rubio or Lying Ted or Sleepy Joe. But the key component of message is, Anyone can be powerful, you just have to feel it.

Politics is like Hollywood: a spectator event where you go to escape. Nomadland may have won the Oscar, but few — very few — working class people probably saw it, save educated ‘elites’ like myself. (Actually I didn’t see yet as it sounds depressing). I doubt the working class in either party had desire to see it or even were aware of it. Instead, they all went to the Avengers —at least when theaters were open pre-covid. The first big movie in the near post pandemic era was King Kong versus Godzilla, large powerful monsters smashing a city.

Power is something the GOP understands. They inherently see themselves as powerful and want to tap into the power center of their followers.

They effectively ‘unleash’ the inner giant through the same techniques of crowd anger that motivational speakers use when gathering crowds (though without the anger). True, a lot of it is macho white male power and racism tinges all their actions. Two items that are a fatal flaw for me, toxic for me, and that repeals many. It also attracts many. The GOP have made gains in black and latino men, around a ten point spread between women and men of the same race. The Democrats don’t want to account for that. Even the leaders of fringe groups like the Proud Boys were led by minorities and have minority members. They want power, too.

And really, who wants to be reminded every election cycle that they are powerless, downtrodden, in a permanent state of despair anyway?

The underlying Democratic message or worldview of its leaders seems to say: This is your life, accept it, and we will work to get better wages from your masters. The Robin-hood solution is to tax the rich and create daycare for the poor. It’s inherently embedded in their messaging for decades, at least since FDR. It is the benevolent rich white man of privilege, like FDR was, looking down on the masses deciding to help them. It’s actually a pretty bad message, one that makes me feel like my long ascent to upper middle class-hood should fill me with guilt at having succeeded to some degree.

This messaging continued through the previous two election cycles, but it deceptively was not the reason for their Democrats victories: the blue wave in 2018 midterms and the defeat of Trump in 2020. It was underlying anger at Trump himself that was the motivational fuel. Trump’s endless tweets of racism, misogyny, name calling and bullying, that was the fuel that drove them to the polls, not because Biden inspired anyone. Twice I voted against Trump, not for the Democratic insider white privileged candidates. Their victory over Trump may have felt like the messaging paid off to Democratic leaders, but without Trump to fan the flames, it may not work again.

Race, too, is viewed in the opposite way with Democrats as GOP. Biden took office and the administration right away wants to help people of color and women start small businesses —ones that typically stay small, like hair cutting, opening a taco stand. They want to raise wages and ‘give’ benefits to these classes.

All good things I’m for, but it’s their view of the system and their own people that’s problematic for me. The benevolent elite leaders want to bequest dignity to the people and take money from the capitalist overloads to spread as wage increases to the working woman, the family man. They make it feel somehow not like something the “working families” have completely earned.

Diversity means taking care of the huddled masses ‘they’ were given. ‘They’ meaning what the Republicans branded the latte-drinking, Volvo-driving elites that got Ivy League education. Like, for instance, Biden, Harris, and many cabinet members; Obama (Harvard top of class), Clinton (Rhodes Scholar, and Hillary as lawyer), Michelle Obama (corporate Harvard lawyer), Carter (trained in nuclear science). There always seems to be a looking down at, an empowering of people from those who made it to those who can’t. It’s not the internal recognition of each individual.

I agree with their current actions and proposed legislation the Democrats are fighting for in Congress, like the raising of minimum wage, expanding health care to all in some fashion, giving ‘free’ education to all pre-schoolers from one year old to kindergarten, etc. But, I think the Democratic leadership and elected officials need to change their worldview. Their messaging was not their main key to the last two cycles of electoral success.

They have to do more in appearing strong, but more so in recognizing the inner capitalist giant of their core voters, the people who are not huddled masses or sheeplike followers, but powerful, flag waving black American women! American Gay! American Latina Jew Strong! American Pakistani Muslim Proud! If they keep up their messaging of weakness and benevolence, the Monster Truck of the GOP Gun-toting Disaster Machine will crush them like a used 1989 Ford Taurus just sitting in an arena mud pit.



Engaged in new Ideas and old Inequalities, dismantling the system in systemic, born on the 50th Anniversary of Women's Lib Day, still seeking injustices.

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Bren Kelly

Engaged in new Ideas and old Inequalities, dismantling the system in systemic, born on the 50th Anniversary of Women's Lib Day, still seeking injustices.