Let me give some context to why I’m posting all of this.
I heard two different people talk about why some social liberals vote Republican. The stated reason of these people is that they aspire to climb the ladder of socio-economic success, and they think Republican policies will favor the middle class and the striving business entrepreneur. This, of course, isn’t based on the reality as the middle class has been shrinking and the government growing ever since Reagan’s administration. The tax cuts that Republican politicians preach about mostly only favor the rich. These middle class Republican voters may dream of becoming rich, but this American Dream of meritocracy is a fool’s dream.
I think this is similar to the reason why the poor white working class votes the way they do. They have more in common with poor minorities and immigrants, but they see these other poor people as their enemy. So, they vote for the Republican party with it’s policies that favor the rich. Democratic policies, on the other hand, tend to be more beneficial to the poor which is why the minorities and immigrants vote Democrat.
A difference with the poor white working class is that they’re not as poor as many minorities and immigrants. Looking down on the even poorer gives them a sense of superiority and this breeds a lot of racial hatred. It’s no accident that the conservative movement has promoted the superiority of “white culture” for decades and many conservatives still openly promote it without any sense of shame.
The middle class is shrinking even as more people are trying to identify themselves as middle class. The conservative movment has preyed upon the class wars and mixed it with the culture wars. This “middle class” perceives themselves as hard working real Americans. Conservative politicians and pundits tell this “middle class” that their meritocratic aspirations are threatened by the socialism of the liberal elites and the moral depravity of poor minorities. Meanwhile, the true wealthy elite (with it’s corporatism and military-industrial complex) increasingly takes over our country… wrapping itself in the American flag.
Though the national unemployment rate dipped slightly in January to 9.7 percent, a new study suggests that not only have low-income workers been the hardest hit by the jobs crisis — but, shockingly, there has been “no labor market recession for America’s affluent.”
The study from Andrew Sum, Ishwar Khatiwada and Sheila Palma at Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies suggests that the unemployment problem is largely a problem for low-wage workers (hat tip to the Curious Capitalist).
Our Polarized Society
With no middle ground, we are always on opposing sides.
By Ken Eisold, PhD
Here is where real, underlying social issues come into play, the second reason for our increasing polarization. The gap between the rich and the poor has been growing. This is reflected in one way by the growing disparity between workers salaries and the lavish compensation packages of top executives, but more generally in the increasing erosion and fragmentation of the middle class. As a result, two increasingly distinct and identifiable interest groups are emerging.
This is not simply the rich versus the poor, of course, those who have and those who don’t. If that were so, the rich would not stand much of chance. It is a matter of identification and aspiration, those who do not want their opportunities diluted by taxes to provide social safety nets for the poor, those who emphasize the importance of sacrifice and discipline in getting ahead, who are convinced they will succeed and are motivated by the achievements of others, the stories of hyper-successful geeks and those who have worked their way up the ranks.
On the other hand, there are those at the margins of our national prosperity who tend to be left out, those sinking in status, and those troubled by our unequal access to security and protection against suffering. Many also don’t like the picture that is emerging and want a more equal society, but they, too, increasingly have no choice but to side with the underdogs.
Lulled by the celebritariat
By Toby Young
Michael disapproved of meritocracy because he saw it as a way of legitimising inequality. After all, if everyone starts out on a level playing field, then the resulting allocation of rewards—however unequal—seems fair. Those at the very pinnacle of our society might not inherit their privileged position, as their forebears had done, but its pyramid-like shape would be preserved. Indeed, once this hierarchical structure became legitimised, as it would in a meritocratic society, it was likely that power and wealth would become concentrated in even fewer hands. […] Analysts of the broader sweep of social mobility are divided on how much it has slowed down (see David Goodhart’s previous article), but there is some consensus that there has been a falling off since the time my father wrote Meritocracy.
[…] Writing in the 1960s, the sociologist WG Runciman, author of Relative Deprivation and Social Justice, argued that ordinary people tolerate high levels of inequality because they don’t compare themselves with those at the top, but with people like themselves. By that measure, they are far better off than they were 50 years ago, even if their incomes have grown by a smaller percentage than the top earners.
However, this argument doesn’t seem plausible any longer. Mark Pearson, the head of the OECD’s social policy division, has identified something he calls the “Hello! magazine effect” whereby people now compare themselves with the most successful members of society, thereby increasing their insecurity and sense of deprivation. This appears to be tied up with the decline of deference. A person’s social background may still affect their life chances, but it no longer plays such an important role in determining their attitudes and aspirations, particularly towards those higher up—and lower down—the food chain
[…] As Ferdinand Mount notes in Mind the Gap: “The old class markers have become taboo… The manners of classlessness have become de rigueur.” To put it another way: a profound increase in economic inequality has been accompanied by a dramatic increase in social and cultural equality. We can see this most clearly in changing attitudes to popular culture. It is a cliché to point out that the distinction between high and low culture has all but disappeared in the past 25 years or so. In this free-for-all it is high culture that has been the loser, with most educated people under 45 embracing popular culture almost exclusively. […] The rich and the poor no longer live in two nations, at least not socially. Economic divisions may be more pronounced than ever, but we support the same football teams, watch the same television programmes, go to the same movies. Mass culture is for everyone, not just the masses.
[…] If this is the case, I believe it is largely due to the emergence of a new class that my father didn’t anticipate and which, for want of a better word, I shall call the “celebritariat.” […] the premier league footballers and their wives, pop stars, movie stars, soap stars and the like. […] If the celebritariat really does play a role in legitimising economic inequality, it is also because ordinary people imagine that they, too, could become members. A YouGov poll of nearly 800 16-19-year-olds conducted on behalf of the Learning and Skills Council in 2006 revealed that 11 per cent said they were “waiting to be discovered.”
Some commentators believe that the preponderance of reality shows and their casts of freaks and wannabes—the lumpen celebritariat—have devalued the whole notion of stardom. Yet the YouGov survey discovered that appearing on a reality television programme was a popular career option among teenagers, and another poll found 26 per cent of 16 to 19 year olds believe it is easy to secure a career in sports, entertainment or the media. If the existence of the celebrity class does play a role in securing people’s consent to our winner-takes-all society, then the fact that the entry requirements are so low helps this process along. If people believe there is a genuine chance they might be catapulted to the top, they’re more likely to endorse a system in which success is so highly rewarded. To paraphrase the advertising slogan for the National Lottery, it could be them. As with the lottery, people may know that the actual chances of winning are low but the selection mechanism itself is fair—a level playing field. After that, their “specialness” will take care of the rest.