Conservatives generally regard class as an unacceptable topic when the subject is economics—trade, deregulation, shifting the tax burden, expressing worshipful awe for the microchip, etc. But define politics as culture, and class instantly becomes for them the very blood and bone of public discourse. Indeed, from George Wallace to George W. Bush, a class-based backlash against the perceived arrogance of liberalism has been one of their most powerful weapons. Workerist in its rhetoric but royalist in its economic effects, this backlash is in no way embarrassed by its contradictions. It understands itself as an uprising of the little people even when its leaders, in control of all three branches of government, cut taxes on stock dividends and turn the screws on the bankrupt. It mobilizes angry voters by the millions, despite the patent unwinnability of many of its crusades. And from the busing riots of the Seventies to the culture wars of our own time, the backlash has been ignored, downplayed, or misunderstood by liberals.
I wish to insist on the importance of the point made in the last sentence of the Thomas Frank quote: that progressives have “ignored, downplayed, or misunderstood” the significance of the “culture wars.”
We tend to have a sunny and optimistic view of human nature. We simply cannot fathom that so many of our fellow citizens have taken leave of their senses to support a politician so impaired that he gives a bad name to bigotry itself.
I don’t know how it is where you are, but here at Happy Acres my sense is that the Republicans who were embarrassed by Trump last year are still embarrassed, deep down. But they have been listening to Faux News day and night for the last year. And they are surly.
I’m all in favor of trying to get culture warriors to listen to reason and vote their pocketbooks. Doug Jones is giving it the old college try over in the Yellowhammer State.
But they are not going to listen to reason.
We will just have to outvote them. Or wait for the inevitable national tragedy that a deranged president will bring about—which might cause a portion of his supporters to rethink their views.