A Modest Proposal For Republicans: Use The Word “Class”

Scott Alexander writes:

* Pivot from mindless populist rage to a thoughtful campaign to fight classism.

* Trump stood against the upper class. He might define them as: people who live in nice apartments in Manhattan or SF or DC and laugh under their breath if anybody comes from Akron or Tampa. Who eat Thai food and Ethiopian food and anything fusion, think they would gain 200 lbs if they ever stepped in a McDonalds, and won’t even speak the name Chick-Fil-A. Who usually go to Ivy League colleges, though Amherst or Berkeley is acceptable if absolutely necessary. Who conspicuously love Broadway (especially Hamilton), LGBT, education, “expertise”, mass transit, and foreign anything. They conspicuously hate NASCAR, wrestling, football, “fast food”, SUVs, FOX, guns, the South, evangelicals, and reality TV. Who would never get married before age 25 and have cutesy pins about how cats are better than children. Who get jobs in journalism, academia, government, consulting, or anything else with no time-card where you never have to use your hands. Who all have exactly the same political and aesthetic opinions on everything, and think the noblest and most important task imaginable is to gatekeep information in ways that force everyone else to share those opinions too.

* Say “Hey, we Republicans want to be the party of the working class. We are concerned about the rising power of the upper class, and we are dedicated to stamping out classism.”

* It’s the 21st century; having principles is out of style. Politics is motivated by tribal hatred. You tell your people that the other side hates them and wants to kill them; they need to fight back. The Democrats are great at this – cis white men hate you, they deny your right to exist, the cruelty is the point, resist or be destroyed. You Republicans have been caught flat-footed. You can’t openly defend cis white men; that would be transphobic racist sexist. And you can’t openly attack trans black women – that would be super transphobic racist sexist. Plus it wouldn’t work; there aren’t that many of them, and they’re not powerful enough to be scary.

Trump outmanuevered the Republican establishment by finding a front where he could go on the offensive. He de-emphasized the unfavorable terrain of race/sex/etc, and focused on class. He didn’t use the word “class”. But he captured the idea. He implicitly understood that there was some kind of difference between the average working-class voter and the sorts of people who set trends in the media, academia, government, et cetera. Whenever an upper-class institution tried to make him admit that they were the experts and he should bow to them, he spat in their faces instead. This was terrible; he spat in the faces of epidemiologists trying to tell him about an epidemic! But it sent his message loud and clear – just as South African populist Thabo Mbeki denied HIV/AIDS partly as a way of spitting in the face of the rich white countries who wanted him not to.

Consciously embracing the project of fighting classism would let future Republican politicians replicate Trump’s appeal without having to stoop to his tactics. It could tie together all the fractured constituencies of the Republican party.

It could appeal to the white working class. Everyone agreed these people were Trump’s base, but the media insisted on emphasizing the “white”, as in “WHITE!!! working class”. Your job is to get people thinking “white WORKING CLASS!!!” instead. You cannot ethically or pragmatically flatter these people’s identity as whites, but you can very easily flatter their identity as the working class.

It could appeal to blacks and Hispanics. They’re mostly working-class, so they hate the elites as much as anyone else.

* It could appeal to Republicans who are in it for the capitalism (including the rich donors). You would argue that capitalism is the system that lets people succeed regardless of class; even the most uncouth and uneducated person can strike it rich if they work hard and make good deals. The Democrats hate this; they prefer a system where powerful insiders get to play favorites, where success depends on who you know and not what you know, and where good jobs are locked behind gates of correct credentials from the right colleges.

* It could appeal to poor people who just want to get jobs. Point out how DC Democrats passed a law saying all child care workers must have college degrees, and how this is just a blatant attempt to take jobs away from working-class people in order to give them to upper-class people instead. Tell them that this is class warfare, that their side is losing, but that if you are in power they will win.

It could appeal to small-government libertarians. Argue that the Democrats and the government are a jobs program for the upper class.

* It could appeal to Asians, another up-for-grab minority demographic. Asians know they’ve done the hard work and gotten the test scores that ought to make them successful, but somehow success isn’t coming. We all know why this is – they’re being excluded by an academic establishment that believes “meritocracy” is a dirty word. Your job is to make the obvious point that Democrats have transformed college admissions from a search for talented students, into a scheme to perpetuate class advantage. If they wanted to accept talented students, they’d use some objective measure like test scores, and Asians would do great.

* So here’s my proposal for a Republican platform centered around fighting classism:

1. War On College: As it currently exists, college is a scheme for laundering and perpetuating class advantage. You need to make the case that bogus degree requirements (eg someone without a college degree can’t be a sales manager at X big company, but somebody with any degree, even Art History or Literature, can) are blatantly classist. Your stretch goal should be to ban discrimination based on college degree status.

* 2. War On Experts: Argue that you love and support legitimate experts, but that the Democrats have invented and propped up a fake concept of expertise as a way of making sure upper-class people who can game admissions to top colleges control the discourse.

* 3. War On The Upper-Class Media: This is your new term for “mainstream media”. Being against the “mainstream media” sounds kind of conspiratorial. Instead, you’re against the upper-class media, which gains its status by systematically excluding lower-class voices, and which exists mostly as a tool of the upper classes to mock and humiliate the lower class. You are not against journalism, you’re not against being well-informed, you’re against a system that exists to marginalize people like you. Tell the upper-class media that if they want your respect, they need to stop class discrimination.

67% of US families watch the Super Bowl – what percent of New York Times editors and reporters do? 20% of Americans go to religious services weekly – how many of those work for the New York Times? How come 96% of political donations from journalists go to Democrats? Your job is to take a page from the Democratic playbook and insist there is no reason any of this could be true except systemic classism, that any other explanation is offensive, and it’s the upper-class media’s moral duty to do something about this immediately. Until they do so you are absolutely justified in ignoring them and trusting less bigoted and exclusionary sources (I hear Substack is pretty good!)

Insist that working-class people have the right to communicate with each other without interference from upper-class gatekeepers. Make sure people know every single fact about @Jack and what a completely ridiculous person he is, and point out that somehow this is the guy who decides what you’re allowed to communicate with your Twitter friends. Every time tech companies censor social media, even if they’re censoring left-wing views, call their CEOs in for long and annoying Congressional hearings where you use the words “Silicon Valley elites” a lot.

* 4. War On Wokeness. But now it’s because wokeness is a made-up mystery religion that college-educated people invented so they could feel superior to you. Why are they so sure that “some of my best friends are black” doesn’t make you any less racist? Because the whole point is that the only way not to be racist is to master an inscrutable and constantly-changing collection of fashionable shibboleths and opinions which are secretly class norms. The whole point is to make sure the working-class white guy whose best friends are black and who marries a black woman and has beautiful black children feels immeasurably inferior to the college-educated white guy who knows that saying “colored people” is horrendously offensive but saying “people of color” is the only way to dismantle white supremacy. You should make it clear that this is total balderdash, you could not be less interested in it, and you will continue befriending colored people of color regardless.

If anybody asks you for your theory of racism, it should be that a lot of modern racism is a subform of classism, where people naturally assume minorities are lower class.

* You’re fighting wars on all these things anyway. But now you can fight them while using the word “class”. You can have a specific target in mind: eliminating “classism”. And since you know your enemy, you can have an actual plan for victory, instead of just shouting louder and louder about how angry you are.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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