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Understanding the Democratic Party's class act

Because of a pandemic, the rich are getting richer.

The first round of COVID-19 relief provided funds for medical supplies, treatments and vaccines. The second round made available free testing, paid leave, food aid and unemployment insurance. The third round, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) provided $1,200 checks for those making under $99,000. It gave much bigger indirect tax and stock-related benefits to the upper classes (the Joint Commission on Taxation reveals that the CARES Act provided 82 percent of benefits to 43,000 taxpayers who earn more than $1 million annually; the average windfall: $1.6 million.) It also subsidized write-offs for corporations like Boeing — socialism for corporations. This explains why the stock market has been doing well for the 84% of stockholders who make more than $100,000 a year.

The finger-pointing by “our” government on the stalled fourth relief package, the Heroes Act, is anything but heroic. Congress intended it to save the Post Office and assist other “front-line” workers, extending emergency (including rural) rental assistance and extending a national, uniform moratorium on evictions while providing emergency housing vouchers. This time, however, it was the Democrats’ turn to reward their wealthy benefactors. (the Joint Commission on Taxation found that 99 percent of the Democrats’ proposed decrease in tax liability goes to taxpayers with annual incomes of $100,000 or more.) Over $40 billion, 50 percent of the benefit, would go to individuals making over $1 million a year; the average windfall, $67,000. Democrats and Republicans should feel outrage at the failure of their parties for their abandonment of those in need.

Kurt Andersen’s recent Atlantic article, “College-Educated Professionals are Capitalism’s Useful Idiots” traces the original split between the working class (that largely supported the Vietnam War) and college educated, anti-war, professional-track students (“hippies” turned “yuppies”). That split was because of a forgetting or a taking for granted of the progress and prosperity created by the New Deal along with Baby Boomer “self-actualization” that disfavored boring, blue-collar jobs. There was also a resentment of high-paying union jobs by the professional class who crossed picket lines rather than support fellow workers’ demands. The failure of the ’60s left to address class issues allowed the ’70s right to sell the seductive promise of laissez-faire capitalism and “shareholder value.”

As Andersen explains, the liberal concept of “creative destruction” was co-opted and embraced by the right and was (this is key) “accepted with a shrug by college-educated liberals whose livelihoods didn’t look likely to be creatively destroyed anytime soon by competition from computers or foreigners.” That self-conceit was entré for the Democratic Leadership Council, co-founded by Bill Clinton in 1985, to fully embrace market-based solutions to every problem under the sun. As Andersen says, the “raw deal replaced the New Deal.” Since then, knowingly or unknowingly, college-educated professionals in both political parties have stood in class solidarity. Class struggle is high, yet class consciousness is low.

It’s easy for us liberals to put down Trumpists in their war against our democratic republic; however, it’s harder for us to look in the mirror and acknowledge our complicity, our decades-long, incremental sleepwalk into the ever right-moving “center.”

Expect the Biden/Harris campaign to focus on identity politics and play a welcomed defense on Trump’s manufactured issue of “law and order,” as it will allow them to avoid the intersectionality of poverty or class with issues like health care and racial injustice, laid bare by the pandemic and BLM. Democratic Party leadership lives in a snow globe, insulated and tone-deaf, giving a cold shoulder to the cries of the destitute, who want only the dignity that comes from work and a living wage. These “leaders” cannot see that the aloof, technocratic “professionalism” they project is a turn-off to wage slaves and small business owners, the backbone of our economy.

The answer to our polarized governance is not elite Democrats’ “slow Joe” return to neoliberal “normalcy” any more than Trump’s authoritarianism (each catering to their preferred plutocracy). Holding my nose and voting for Biden and Harris, I will not expect these compromised, PAC-funded free-marketers to restore representation by the people, without continued pressure from the people. Our future as a democratic republic, if we can embrace some difficult truths, remember our common love of country, and understand the dynamic of betrayal and forgiveness, begins with the professional class making amends to the working class that they abandoned 40 years ago. Together, in the words of Shelly, “We can rise like lions after slumber.”

Andy Seles lives in Ashland.