Friday, September 05, 2008

Raging Rajas of Resentment

Op-Ed Columnist - The Resentment Strategy - Op-Ed - NYTimes.com

[T]he Republican Party, now more than ever, is firmly in the hands of the angry right, which has always been much bigger, much more influential and much angrier than its counterpart on the other side. What’s the source of all that anger? Some of it, of course, is driven by cultural and religious conflict: fundamentalist Christians are sincerely dismayed by Roe v. Wade and evolution in the curriculum. What struck me as I watched the convention speeches, however, is how much of the anger on the right is based not on the claim that Democrats have done bad things, but on the perception — generally based on no evidence whatsoever — that Democrats look down their noses at regular people...What the G.O.P. is selling, in other words, is the pure politics of resentment; you’re supposed to vote Republican to stick it to an elite that thinks it’s better than you.

Krugman is always right, and usually entirely right. Here he's dead on about the politics of resentment but has made one minor mistake: there is plenty of evidence that Democrats--not all or most, but a minority of visible Culture-Democrats--do look down their noses at regular people.

Last Sunday morning I picked up one of my kids from a friend's house in an expensive coastal suburb. It was 10 am and the cyclists were out in force on the coast highway, all dressed in spandex cycling gear with matching helmets, most middle-aged but well-preserved. My son remarked (alluding to Stuff White People Like http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/) "White People are healthy."

White People, that is Culture-Democrats since Obama and some other people of color qualify while most Caucasians don't, are very healthy and proud of it. They exercise, eat their veggies, and are serious about health, wellness and healing. And they have nothing but contempt the Great Unhealthy, who eat junk food, veg out in front of the TV and get fat. And the Great Unhealthy know it.

They don't resent Culture-Democrats for their intellectual pretensions: they value intelligence, education and expertise as much as anyone else. They resent Culture-Democrats valorization of tastes, habits and hobbies that have little or no intrinsic value--their food fetishes, fastidiousness and other preoccupations that are nothing more than class markers--and their moralistic, self-satisfied complacency. Here are people with the unshakable conviction that they are superior because they drink microbrews instead of Bud--or brew their own.

Until Democrats not only recognize the character of that resentment, as Krugman has, but realize that it is not baseless and address its source, they will not win the white working class.

6 comments:

Tor Hershman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tor Hershman said...

It's just another case of "No one cries 'STOP THIEF' louder than the Artful Dodger."

Stay on groovin' safari,
Tor

Scott said...

But, but, but -- you look down your nose at regular people!

Just the other day, you wrote:

> I don't interact with lower class people
> period. Ever. However deserving they
> are they bore me and make me uncomfortable.

You're just trying to confuse me, aren't you!

H. E. said...

I don't like them and won't deal with them but I'm upfront about it and don't moralize. The spandex-cycling arugula-chomping lot I'm talking about here are at once contemptuous, patronizing and moralistic.

I have a very simple program for the working class: obliterate it--through social mobility.

Anony Mouse said...

> they value intelligence, education and expertise as much as anyone else.


Empirically false. Their respect for quack medicine and faith in the AM talk radio axiom of ignoring 'experts' and trusting their own uninformed inexperienced opinions belies how little they value intelligence, education, and expertise.

H. E. said...

I don't think so, Mouse. Americans across the board are suspicious of expertise. If anything, it's upper middle class latte drinkers who are most likely to go for "alternative medicine" and the like. The compelling example is the anti-immunization movement. There has been a myth around for some time that some of the standard baby shots, I think MMR, cause autism. A significant number of parents believe this and refuse to have their kids immunized. And most those are upper middle class fruits and nuts types.