Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Bain or McBane?

Here is my take on the Presidential election--I think the phenomenon of people not voting their class interests, talked about in detail in Thomas Frank's What's The Matter With Kansas (and then parodied by people who pointed out, correctly, that millionaires on the Upper West Side also did not vote their class interests, has faded. Among people I talk to in New York, people in some way among the cognoscenti or the intellectual class, there has been a huge shift to Romney. In other words, people who one suspected of talking a left-wing game because it was socially au fait in new York while living their life in a much more, as it were, right wing way are now being fairly open about realigning their actual lifestyles and express political principles. And I think that, on the other hand, the sort of working-class whites who were the core of Hillary's support in 2008 and were at the most only reluctantly persuaded to vote for Obama are now much more firmly and enthusiastically in the Obama camp. That so much of the working class is now Latino has accelerated this renewed bonding with the Democrats, but just as I have seen some upper-crust demi-leftists shift to Romney, so I have seen those who perceive themselves as working stiffs lean towards Obama.  Whatever else the President has or has not achieved, he has made the Democratic Party the party, once again, of those who it ostensibly stands for. Whether this will be politically beneficial to him, we will see (I suspect, and hope, it will) but it is a clear break from the paradigm of the past thirty-forty years.

I have just been teaching Charles Chesnutt's The Marrow of Tradition, where it is the old white of a fading patrician family. Mr. Delamere, who is the only Southern white to see the good points of an African American, whereas the worst offender in this regard is the non-elite Captain McBane. This was a common pattern--it was often the patrician whites who were the least racist, whereas the working-class whites, seeing people of color as potential rivals, were all the more fierce. I wonder if this historic pattern is changing, that the days of the benign if perhaps slightly hypocritical aristocratic white are over, and if in consequence there just might be genuine solidarity among the middle class,, and working class, of both races. If so it will take another fifty years to jell. But in this election Obama might well lose some of the votes from the better-off he won last time, and you perhaps are seeing that in the diminution of his lead in Connecticut as compared to last time, and so on.

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