2021-10-13: Working class ethos

Policy Tensor (@policytensor): This goes to the heart of the paradox discovered by @thomasfrank_ in What's the matter with Kansas? 1/

Why Working-Class Parents Don’t Buy What D.C. Is Selling https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/14/opinion/child-tax-credit-biden.html?smid=tw-share

«Progressive agendas tend to reflect the cares of college-educated, dual-career couples in big cities. (The Biden administration’s proposed American Families Plan, for example, polls much stronger among highly educated voters than those without a college degree.)» 2/

So, Why is the working-class opposed to the generous welfare state desired by professional-class progressives?

The shared diagnosis of professional class Dems and under-informed political scientists is that the working-class is racist, and the GOP has leveraged that … 3/

… racism and bigotry to hoodwink working class voters into voting against a generous welfare state — against their own interests.

This diagnostic mistake is responsible for the partisan impasse, for the inability of progressives to make inroads into the working class. 4/

This diagnosis is mistaken largely because it is based on the myth of working class racism. See my (1) https://policytensor.com/2020/03/12/notes-on-the-myth-of-working-class-racism-1/; (2) https://policytensor.com/2020/03/13/notes-on-the-myth-of-working-class-racism-2/ 5/

So, why does the working class not support a more generous welfare state?

First, note that the working class is not the underclass. In fact, it does boundary work against the underclass — 'hard-living' whites and racialized minorities alike. (That lower arrow is the key.) 6/ https://twitter.com/policytensor/status/1448197739397910530/photo/1

The moral boundary work is structured by a working-class 'script of the self' that puts self-discipline at the heart of class ideology. @mlamont6's work on this is absolutely crucial to the puzzle. See her https://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674009929 7/

Here's the idea in a nutshell:

«Why am I a good person? Because I get up in the morning and work hard all day at a shitty job in order to put food on the table for my family without complaining. … » 8/

« … You, coastal elites, want to give handouts to the lazy, to those who are immoral — they don't want to do the hard work. They just want to live off people like me.»

No amount of scolding from professional-class fortifications is going to overturn this ideology. 9/

No carefully designed messaging is going to convince working-class people to abandon the ideology of self-discipline. The professional class is pushing against a wall. No progress has been made on this since @thomasfrank_ articulated the problem.

So, what's the alternative? 10/

The alternative, as always with a true blockage, is to evade battle, to avoid direct confrontation and get what needs to be done without making a song and dance about it. More importantly, policy and messaging should distinguish between the working-class and the underclass.… 11/

More generally, elites need to abandon their class blinders, abandon the myth of working class racism, before getting a real shot at solving the problem of elite-mass relations. Getting the diagnosis right is key — ya can't fix a bike unless ya know what is wrong with it. 12/12

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