Among these “theories” are conjectures about voting patterns of the majority of so-called whites, whom they often refer to in writing as blue-collar or poor whites, but whom they view with disdain as “white trash.”
But the “white America” the pundits write about doesn’t exist. And they prefer not to see the reality of an America that is increasingly class divided.
In the mind of self-styled progressive liberals, heavily represented by bourgeois-minded meritocrats and professionals, workers who are Caucasian are essentially ignorant, reactionary, and becoming increasingly racist as a natural response to the effects of the economic crisis on their lives. According to this view, these workers can be expected to vote Republican in general, and all the more so in the recent election in order to vote out a Black candidate. This is why a layer of Democratic Party liberals write off any effort to win the so-called white vote and instead focus on the so-called Latino and Black vote, along with those of “smart people” like themselves.
This sentiment was partially captured by Obama himself in 2008 when he spoke about workers in small towns in Ohio and Pennsylvania: “It’s not surprising then that they get bitter, and they cling to guns or religion, or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment.”
Another notion that flows from this outlook is the idea that growth of reactionary views among working people in the U.S. are part of a similar trend around the world.
A good example of this is an article by New York Times guest columnist Thomas Edsall, who interviewed Ruy Teixeira, a senior fellow at the American Center for American Progress and adviser to the Obama campaign.
Edsall writes: “In the United States, Teixeira noted, ‘The Republican Party has become the party of the white working class,’ while in Europe many working-class voters who had been the core of Social Democratic parties have moved over to far right parties.”
Conservative pundits hold a similar version of the same class prejudices about workers who are Caucasian as liberals do, but instead of lamenting about it, many wish it were more true.
Attitudes in the working class are not something that can be directly gleaned from election results or any other method by those who live in a world entirely outside of the working class. Workers’ views only find distorted reflection in the bourgeois electoral arena, where, in the absence of sustained class-struggle battles from which workers gain self-confidence and a sense of political independence, most today look for a “lesser evil” to vote for.
One thing the election results do not support is the view that there is a rising tide of racism among workers today. There are plenty of reasons why one would not vote Barack Obama, from his open disdain for working people to concerns about growing government interference in people’s lives.
The most striking thing about the election is that—after four years of the most profound economic crisis in living memory—the lesser evil for most workers, including a substantial section of those who are Caucasian, was not the challenger but the incumbent. And an incumbent who has not even talked about a real jobs program much less shown an inclination to enact one.
But many saw Romney as more out of touch with the crushing effects of the capitalist crisis. Many assumed a second Obama presidency might at least be more open to providing government relief from the crisis.
The exit polls reflect some of these sentiments. While 51 percent of voters said that government was too intrusive in their lives, 55 percent said the U.S. economic system favors the wealthy. And the majority thought that Romney’s policies would favor the rich.
“Romney did terribly among the white working class” in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, complained Steven Sailer, a conservative with openly racist views, on VDARE.com Nov. 7.
And some 9 million workers who are Caucasian were among the millions of working people who didn’t bother to vote for either of the bosses’ parties.
This doesn’t mean Romney didn’t win votes from lots of working people who are Caucasian, particularly in more rural areas and parts of the South. He did, especially from those fed up with the accumulated economic blows suffered over Obama’s first four years. But there is no reason to assume that a growing—as opposed to shrinking—minority did so for racist reasons. There is no rise in KKK violence or other evidence to support such a contention.
And workers on the job know that coworkers who voted for Obama or Romney are equally likely to jump into discussion about how to meet the bosses’ attacks and fight together, regardless of racial, religious or other differences.
Profound social changes resulting from the massive proletarian Black rights battle of the 1950s and ’60s that smashed Jim Crow segregation have wrought irreversible changes in the working class that have opened the door to greater unity in action. And today working people in general are feeling the effects of the crisis and increasingly look to advance their class interests above all.
This is true within the Black nationality, where conditions of life for workers—both absolute and relative to others sections of the working class—are getting worse under the impact of the economic crisis. And the crisis is reinforcing forms of national oppression endemic to social relations under capitalism. At the same time, class divisions among African-Americans are widening.
The fight against racist discrimination and to overcome national divisions remains one of the biggest tasks ahead in forging a working-class vanguard in the U.S. But, contrary to the hopes of conservative pundits and the accepted wisdom of liberals, racist bigotry against African-Americans and other forms of prejudice are not on the rise among working people who are Caucasian or of other backgrounds.
This conclusion is consistent with the personal experience of many working people today on and off the job. This is one of the strengths of our class, the only truly progressive class, in the U.S.
Votes on ballot measuresAnother more recent shift in attitudes among working people in favor of equal rights and against bigotry was registered in votes on a number of ballot referenda. In Maryland, Maine, Washington and Minnesota, millions of workers voted to push back state laws that discriminate, based on prejudice, against equal rights in marriage based on gender and sexual orientation.
In Florida, a measure to strengthen discriminatory restrictions against young women’s ability to get an abortion was rejected. The vote also upheld legal protection for the right to privacy.
Some measures put on the ballot by labor unions did not fare so well. But here it would be wrong to think the vote is a reflection of those who are for and against organized labor. Rather the referenda highlight the failing strategy of the top labor officialdom.
Among the ballot measures, in Michigan leaders of the Service Employees International Union and others organized an effort to write into the state constitution the right of public sector unions to bargain collectively and a prohibition against the legislature enacting “right to work” laws.
The measure, Proposition 2, failed by 58 to 42 percent.
The Socialist Workers Party called for a yes vote. “Not because restrictive laws are the reason our unions are getting weaker, a rationalization often heard from union officials,” James Harris, SWP presidential candidate said, but as part of “laying the groundwork to transform our unions into effective working-class combat organizations against the bosses’ deepening attacks.”
At the same time, such substitutes for organizing unions or bringing union power to bear are not something workers will or can rally around. The ballot measure is put forward by the same labor officials who, contrary to leading battles against efforts by politicians and employers to slash our rights or wages, have worked overtime to avoid and limit such fights while supporting some of the same capitalist politicians leading the assault.
Regardless of which “lesser evil” they pulled the lever for, or if they stayed home, or how they voted on any referenda, workers by the millions are feeling the squeeze from the propertied rulers’ attacks and are looking to discuss where they come from and a way to fight back.
Through these discussions and coming battles, workers will gain experience and self-confidence, and will begin to transform themselves by the millions into actors on the stage of history. And along the way, they will stop looking for lesser evils and start looking for a way to replace the rule of the propertied class with a government of workers and farmers.
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