Thursday, May 12, 2005
On this day:

How Condescending Can You Get?

James Taranto of Opinion Journal responds to Timothy Noah who writes this article in Slate: Conservatism As Pathology--Are Bush supporters literally insane? Taranto writes:
The other day, Slate's Timothy Noah pondered the question of why "working class" voters don't favor the Democrats. Noah opens with a quote from Thomas Frank's 2004 book, "What's the Matter With Kansas?," then comments (emphasis his):
The working class's refusal to synchronize its politics with its economic interests is one of the enduring puzzles of the present age. Between 1989 and 1997, middle-income families (defined in this instance as the middle 20 percent) saw their share of the nation's wealth fall from 4.8 percent to 4.4 percent. Yet Al Gore lost the white working class by a margin of 17 percentage points, and John Kerry lost it by a margin of 23 percentage points. As the GOP drifts further to the right, and becomes more starkly the party of the wealthy, it is gaining support among the working class. I have never seen a wholly satisfactory explanation for this trend, which now spans two generations. It's the decline of unions, says Thomas Frank. It's values, says Tom Edsall. It's testosterone, says Arlie Russell Hochschild. Each of these explanations seems plausible up to a point, but even when taken together, their magnitude doesn't seem big enough. Republicans, of course, will argue that it's simply the working man's understanding that the GOP has the better argument, i.e., that the best way to help the working class is to shower the rich with tax breaks. But the Bush administration has been showering the rich with tax breaks for more than four years, and the working class has nothing to show for it. Let's consider another possibility, then: The working class, or at least a large segment of same, suffers from a psychological disorder.
Taranto responds:
How come it never occurs to liberals or Democrats that the very terms in which they phrase the question are part of their problem? These, after all, are people who are obsessed with politically correct terminology, from "African-American" to "fetus." Yet somehow it never dawns on them that "working class" is an insult. Think about it: Would you call a janitor, a secretary or a carpenter "working class" to his face? The term connotes putting someone in his place: Your lot in life is to work. Thinking is for the higher classes. The questions the Democrats ask about the "working class" reflect precisely this contempt: What's the matter with these people? Why don't they understand that we know what's good for them? Why do they worry about silly things like abortion and homosexuality? If they must believe in all that religious mumbo-jumbo, can't they keep it to themselves? Every time the Democrats lose an election, they make a big show of asking questions like these. Then, the next time they lose an election, they once again wonder why the "working class" has forsaken them. Maybe it's as simple as: because they were listening.