Class Connections

Posted on October 1, 2010 by

Mainstream democrats don’t like the term “working class” because it leaves them vulnerable to the charge that they’re waging “class warfare.”

They’re more comfortable when they connect “class” to “middle.”

Conservative populists seem interested in reviving the term.  A tea party candidate with working class roots – republican senate hopeful Christine O’Donnell of Delaware, for example – gains instant status as an “anti-elitist” politician.

And here’s the best part:

They’re immune from the class warfare charge because presumably they have no interest in taking from the rich to give to the poor.

This isn’t the only clever use of language by republicans.  Sarah Palin recently described herself on her facebook page as a “former card-carrying IBEW sister.” 

She gave a shout out to “our Alaska union brothers and sisters [who] helped build our state” and bragged about signing a “project labor agreement” for the construction of the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline.

In the rest of the piece she went after AFL-CIO president Rich Trumka for remarks he made on a trip through her state, and then tagged him several times as a “union boss.”  Later she drew a distinction between herself – “just an ordinary, card-carrying union member” – and the “big shots, who ended up, unfortunately, giving unions a bad name.”

Though her attacks are not all that imaginative or original, they worry me.  Is this just the latest example of the politics of resentment which began with Nixon’s Silent Majority?  Or is this something new:  tea party radicals starting to pull off a language-based class “coup.”

Is the right on its way to owning “working-class consciousness?”

Here’s a thought:

What if organized labor’s money and ground  support for democrats blocks a republican takeover next month.  Would that persuade our political allies to  do something radical like fight for – and pass – labor law reform.

What a crazy idea.  Democrats finding a way to reconnect “class” to “working.” 

Comments (3)


  1. Salvador Sanchez says:

    I think it is common knowledge that Republicans are far better than the Dems in using language very effectively. e.g., No Child Left Behind, who would oppose such policy or the Patriot Act, if you dare to speak against it you will be labeled unAmerican. In addition, Democrats have been taking for granted working class families’ issues. The elite Democrats have taken hostage the Party’s agenda with cultural issues dealing such guns or abortion. There is a great book that came out a couple of years ago: “What wrong with Kansas” that highlighted these destructive factions within the democratic party. Good piece Lou.

  2. slobodan dimitrov says:

    They finally found a way to get into the labor movement, and on their own terms. Frankly, I think it makes for an interesting and charged dynamic.

  3. Shannon says:

    Why do we keep letting the right determine what words are bad, i.e. Liberal, Union & Class just to name a few. Also the term “Class warfare”. How did that become something bad when that is what exists, and always has???

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