Karl Marx got a few things right — when history repeats itself again, it’s a farce. Our Guys are Thomas Frank now.
For the benefit of younger readers, Frank’s 2004 tome What’s the Matter with Kansas? was one of those Wild Kingdom-style political documentaries, in which the intrepid Liberal leaves his deep blue enclave and disappears into the Midwestern mists, bringing back strange tales of feral savages who drive pickups, shop at WalMart, and go to church on Sundays. You know, the kind of thing only a guy who looks like this could write:
It’s a master class in point-missing. Pay attention, this will be on the midterm:
Out here the gravity of discontent pulls in only one direction: to the right, to the right, further to the right. Strip today’s Kansans of their job security, and they head out to become registered Republicans. Push them off their land, and next thing you know they’re protesting in front of abortion clinics. Squander their life savings on manicures for the CEO, and there’s a good chance they’ll join the John Birch Society. But ask them about the remedies their ancestors proposed (unions, antitrust, public ownership), and you might as well be referring to the days when knighthood was in flower….
…The larger interests that the [Democratic Party] wants desperately to court are corporations, capable of generating campaign contributions far outweighing anything raised by organized labor. The way to collect the votes and — more important — the money of these coveted constituencies, “New Democrats” think, is to stand rock-solid on, say, the pro-choice position while making endless concessions on economic issues, on welfare, NAFTA, Social Security, labor law, privatization, deregulation and the rest of it.
Would those corporations that the Democrats are so desperate to court be the same corporations that stripped Kansans of their job security, blew their life savings on CEO manicures, etc.? The ones the Democrats are bending over and lubing up for, on every issue except abortion? Or are they different ones?
To me, this sounds like Kansans are just getting on the winning team under the terms of Frank’s own “logic.” I mean, ya know, if “corporations” are going to fuck you over no matter what party you vote for, shouldn’t we salt-of-the-earth types at least vote for the party that isn’t all-in on wholesale baby murder? But hey, that’s just me; I don’t get paid to write for Harper’s Magazine or get interviewed on NPR.
Whatever, point is, the folks in Our Thing now find ourselves in a very Thomas Frankish position vis a vis places like Kansas. Like all pantywaist ivory tower soybois who’ve never worked a day in their lives (BIRM at least 3x, I know), Frank assumes that economic issues should always trump cultural ones. That the eeeeeevil GOP he’s forever railing against also assumes this is so ironic my toes are starting to rust just typing this, but that’s where we are. The core problem Our Thing faces is: He’s right. Provided that the latest iCrap has a slightly wider screen, White folks will continue to enable their own extermination.
In fact, economics-over-culture is forcing us to make the same arguments loony Leftists made half a century ago. I love quoting Orwell on imperialism:
The alternative is to throw the Empire overboard and reduce England to a cold and unimportant little island where we should all have to work very hard and live mainly on herrings and potatoes. That is the very last thing that any left-winger wants. Yet the left-winger continues to feel that he has no moral responsibility for imperialism. He is perfectly ready to accept the products of Empire and to save his soul by sneering at the people who hold the Empire together.
It’s fun to sneer at people like Frank and Orwell — I plead guilty — but we’re on the flipside of the same coin. Orwell thought his fellow Englishmen would throw over the Empire and go back to shivering, potato-chomping irrelevance if only they knew how bad folks had it in Bangladesh. We “alt-right” (or whatever the hell we’re calling it this week) seem to think our fellow Americans will happily embrace a 1950s standard of living — in which a whole hell of a lot of homes didn’t even have air conditioning — because Doris Day just shut up and sang.
“No a/c” beats genocide, I’ll cheerfully admit, but what do you think will have to happen before people start thinking those are their choices… IF those are their choices at all?Loading Likes...