A Succinct Explanation of the GOP’s Struggle

Ace of Spades argues that it boils down to a conflict between the “Working Class,” and the “Comfortable Class.” Go read the whole thing, and then come back. I’ll wait. Keep in mind this is a thought experiment, and that sometimes it helps to make sweeping generalizations when engaged in thought experiments, but I think he’s spot on with his analysis within the context he’s chosen.

I am probably not that unusual, in that I was raised by people who would classify in Ace’s characterization as “Working Class.” My father worked a professional job, but he was never really comfortable in that environment. Today he’ll often say he wishes he had become a plumber. His father was a wood pattern maker for Atlantic Petroleum. My mother, like both my grandmothers, had only a high school education, and were stay-at-home moms. My maternal Grandfather was a machinist for Boeing. My aunts and uncles are steamfitters, nurses, technicians, all the way to the “Comfortable Class” of corporate executives. But one generation prior to my parents’, we were all people who punched time cards for a living, and some in my family still do.

The idea that I’d work in anything other than a professional field was not even a thought growing up. I went into engineering, which is admittedly the kind of a professional field that’s acceptable to working class people. If I had studied, say, Medieval English Poetry, or even Music (which I briefly flirted with), the people who I was raised around would probably have mocked the idea, and wondered why I was wasting all that money.

I have moved into the lower ranks of the Comfortable Class, and share a lot of the Comfortable Class’s values. What I don’t share, and what Ace is correct in observing, is the dripping condescension many in the Comfortable Class have for the Working Class. How could I? They are much of my family, and the people I grew up with.

It was “White Working Class” people I spent a lot of time around during summer jobs I held down while of high school age. Ace is absolutely correct about the pathologies of this demographic. Racism and xenophobia are a characteristic of some, and there’s no use in denying that truth. One of my part-time jobs in high school, I worked in a union shop which contracted with the Teamsters. Most workers were drivers. I was not a driver, and was therefore a non-union worker.  The shop did not have any black drivers. By that I don’t mean they failed to meet their diversity quotient, or other such PC babble: I mean they engaged in very real and blatant racial discrimination. Applications by black drivers went into the trash. That was around 1990 or so, so I hope attitudes in working class environments have become more enlightened, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they haven’t. This experience with very real racism, and the union’s practice of defending deadbeats, is a big reason I’m not fond of unions today.

You can see why some people, once they make it into the Comfortable Class, don’t really want anything to do with the “White Working Class.” But of course, it’s not universally true that everyone in that class is a crude, loudmouth, racist xenophobe. It’s not even a majority. Certainly a minority of people I was exposed to growing up, and not my own family.

But that’s not to let the Comfortable Class off the hook. I agree completely with Ace’s understanding of their pathologies: the dripping condescension and the readiness to make common cause with the left to screw people who work for a living if it benefits their desire for power and status over those they view as beneath them.

The primary struggle within the GOP today is whether or not to expand their base by trying to appeal to blacks and hispanics (the establishment’s plan), or to forget all that and double down on the white vote (the Ann Coulter plan). I don’t believe Coulter’s plan is smart or desirable, but I lack faith in the establishment’s ability to successfully implement their plan. If I were a GOP strategist I would bet my future on this:

  • Stop making strife within the party. I agree with Ace that this bickering between the coalition partners isn’t accomplishing anything. The Establishment should never have made war on the Tea Party; they should have engaged them. Yes, the Tea Party has its share of kooks and losers, but that wasn’t universally true. Find the people you an work with and develop them. That didn’t happen. Instead, the establishment immediately identified the movement as a threat to its power and tried to destroy it. This was a huge mistake.
  • Concentrating solely on the white vote is a losing proposition long term. That’s demographic reality. I also believe voting and aligning our politics along racial lines is toxic, and very bad for the country. Rick Perry seems to get this.
  • Learn as much as you can about middle class blacks and middle class hispanics, which will grow in ranks as the economy gets back on track. Targeting this demographic is no real short term advantage, but you have to start learning how to speak to them, and learn potential wedge issues you can use. Democrats are masters of identifying and exploiting wedge issues within and between demographics, and Republicans are horrible at this. New entrants into the Middle Class are people who are on their way to the Comfortable Class, and you can either let the left own them, or try understand their values, their anxieties, and more importantly their fault lines. Learn how to cater to some of their concerns without abandoning your values. You won’t reach all of them, but you don’t have to. Get some of them and let upward mobility take care of the rest. Police abuses and over criminalization are areas where I think the GOP can start to build bridges.
  • The term “States Rights” needs to be banished from the Republican vocabulary. Republicans need to be crystal clear that their understanding of federalism includes strong and aggressive protections for the civil rights of all Americans at the federal level. Play up the party’s history of supporting this. There are still plenty of people alive today who remember living under Jim Crow, and when they hear turning more authority over to the states, you create anxiety in a lot of black voters. The GOP does not need to give up on federalism, but Republicans need to be better on civil rights than Democrats, and I think now they can be if they just make a little effort.
  • Understand a universal value: once people get into the middle class, and I don’t care what color or creed you are, once you arrive there you have something to lose, and you are going to be less likely to support redistributionist schemes because you will be the one paying for them. People vote their pocketbooks first. The rhetoric needs to be how GOP policies support upward mobility. The GOP needs to understand that for many blacks, government jobs are a ticket to the middle class. That doesn’t mean they need to become the Big Government Lite, but it’s something to watch in rhetoric. Once people move up and out of the middle class, they’ll start feeling rich guilt, and will have enough money to buy the left’s indulgences.
  • Immigration is a sticky issue, but it will have to be confronted. The amnesty well has been poisoned by the establishment. The key thing to remember here is Working Class Whites have to compete with immigrants for jobs, and that’s what breeds resentment and xenophobia. But Working Class Blacks also have to compete with immigrants for jobs, and this is a potential wedge issue. I think everyone is worried about how these new immigrant groups are going to vote, and what the impact of their vote is going to have on the future of America. This is probably the biggest issue that stands to tear the GOP apart.

Again, I’m speaking here in terms of strategy, not what my personal policy preferences are. My personal policy preferences are far more libertarian than what would win elections. But the key is getting things moving in the right direction. If there we are to win, there must be peace between our peoples. If we are to have peace, all parts of the coalition need to be compromise.

28 Responses to “A Succinct Explanation of the GOP’s Struggle”

  1. Tam says:

    By that I don’t mean they failed to meet their diversity quotient, or other such PC babble: I mean they engaged in very real and blatant racial discrimination. Applications by black drivers went into the trash. That was around 1990 or so, so I hope attitudes in working class environments have become more enlightened, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they haven’t.

    Convenience store I worked at, about the same time, the manager’s predecessor had been instructed to color in the “o” in “Application” of non-crackers before faxing the apps to the central office of the small chain. (A dozen or so stores in the metro ATL area.) My manager boosted a mess of the applications, and gave them, with an explanation, to the NAACP. I left shortly thereafter and don’t know what became of it, but ISTR there was a lawsuit. Good. Couldn’t happen to a more deserving sack of bastards.

    • Sebastian says:

      Not turning them in is a regret of mine as I’ve gotten older, but to a 16 year old nerdy kid, taking on a bunch of Teamsters didn’t seem like a healthy thing to do.

  2. Aces (Not "Ace of Spades") says:

    I read the referenced article several times. It is hard to relate to the simplistic two classes of Republicans. I feel I don’t belong to either camp. I’m an Engineer at a small machine shop. I interact with the Union Shop guys/gals all the time. And although my job is mostly about design and drawings, I still do my own oil changes, and do tons of home projects. I’m “Comfortable”, only because I’m frugal. And I deeply respect anyone that works with there hands. The best way to define me as a class of people is that I make my own luck. And I realize that I need to do more than I’m going to ever get back. This translates to such things as accepting that my employer underpays me because he can (not much competition for what I do in this part of the US, and I’m not willing to move to an area where there are more of my type of jobs). And my reaction is to adopt a lifestyle that is frugal enough that I can live within that reality, yet still enjoy my life.

    • Tam says:

      The referenced article, which you read several times, explicitly stated: “I am most certainly not talking “just about money.”

    • Sebastian says:

      Yeah, it’s not money. There are plenty of rich people out there who still are part of the working class. I do OK, but I’m not rich. I need a new car and taking on a car payment is going to be a bit painful. But I also would say I don’t fit in either camp neatly, but I’m probably more in the Comfortable Class, but not so far in that I have an attitude about it.

  3. Sebastian says:

    That doesn’t mean they need to become the Big Government Lite

    Re-reading that sentence, I probably should have said “remain the party of Big Government Lite” There is no becoming. That’s what today’s GOP already is.

    • Drifter says:

      They seem to have ditched the “lite” moniker, based on the actions and inactions of the current Congress.

  4. FiftycalTX says:

    You forget to mention the millions and millions of low level sociocrats, educrats and bureaucrats that perform NO FUNCTION other than fill-in-the-blank of MANDATED government BS. None of which does anything but fill the warehouses seen in “raiders of the lost ark”. They can replace the ILLEGAL aliens digging ditches. I’m sure that will be a shock to someone from Brown that got a “degree” in “women’s studies”.

  5. borekfk says:

    “The term “States Rights” needs to be banished from the Republican vocabulary.”

    I cannot agree with you more. Every time something comes up you have people shouting about states rights and how they wish the Confederacy had won the war and they wish the South would seccede again. It’s divisive and they sound like liberals screaming about the children.

  6. Subotai Bahadur says:

    The route to a future was engaging minorities, if only for demographic and sociological reasons. But that did not mean to try to bribe them like the Left and to join in on the Left’s war on the White [and in my case, Chinese] Working Class. Which the Republican Party has done to the point where they are one putative election from joining the Whigs.

    I have been far more active in Republican politics than 99% of people. Before I left them in disgust on January 2, 2013; I have been a state convention delegate in all but 2 conventions since I could vote [I’m retired now]. I have been a national convention delegate. I have run a county level presidential campaign.

    What I am hearing from conservatives I know now is a realization that the Republicans are as much the enemy as the Democrats. That it is impossible to fight the Democrats without first defeating the Republicans who protect them. And that there is no way to vote our way out of this, because there is no one left to vote for. And that the only course left, if there is an election in 2016, is to take vengeance on the Republicans even if it means the Democrats win. Third [really Second] party voting or write ins seem to be the plan.

    If there is not an election in 2016, that has other implications.

    • Sebastian says:

      There will be an election in 2016. I would bet big money on it. This kind of shit is self-defeating. If your attitude keeps prevailing, this country will be the lefts to rule.

      • SDN says:

        Until they crash it. The thing you and Ace seem to forget is that the “White Working Class” is also perfectly comfortable with “Let It Burn” because we know that more of us will survive the fire than the Comfortable Class. At which point, we put the country back on track.

        • Sebastian says:

          I know, and it’s one area I think they are very shortsighted on. Imagine Greece, but with no Germany to come in to save us. No one will, because no one can, bail us out. The Comfortable Class will weather it just fine, because they have the resources to get their money out of the country before the shit really hits the fan, and they’ll see it coming before the working class folks do. Also, if you think the Comfortable Class clings to their prerogatives now, they will cling to them much harder during a collapse. We’ll be Greece, only a lot more chaotic, and with everyone armed. It will be a calamity.

          • SDN says:

            Which country will they send money to? China? Good luck with that.

            They’ll be too busy dealing with the Blue City hellholes full of welfare rats without those icky guns most of them consider Working Class hallmarks. Everyone will NOT be armed… and we’re better at being armed than 90% of the Comfortable Class.

          • The top of the CC will get out in time, but members who still have jobs to go will not. And will wonder what happened.

    • Completely agree about the Republicans now being as much the enemy as Democrats.

      We need a third party opposed to PC Big Government.

  7. mooooooo says:

    My experience with unions and blacks is entirely different from what you describe, and I’m about the same age as you.

    I was an electrician in the IBEW before moving on to other things. Starting pay at the beginning of an apprenticeship was around $10-11/hr, and you worked your way up to about $36/hr after five years. The laborers union paid about $25/hr, with no apprenticeship. You get in, and very quickly begin making top rate.

    The electrician’s union was mostly white, while the laborer’s union was mostly black.

    Before considering the differences in aptitude testing results and the like (bona fide job requirements for a very technical field, to be sure), I believe that most blacks simply opted for $25/hr right now instead of $36 five years into the future. On average, they don’t have as much financial support from family. And like everyone else they have kids to feed RIGHT NOW, not five years into the future.

    As for aptitude testing, a fact that can’t be denied is that black people have lower average scores. We can debate why this is until the end of time, but this underlying fact stubbornly persists. The only “solution” to this is to either lower standards across the board or to make exceptions based on race. One or the other, or some combination of both, is exactly what happens in the real world.

    And then you have the washouts: people who begin an apprenticeship but don’t finish for one reason or another. Some fail out. Some quit and go to college. Some get kicked out for fighting. You name it. Being a small portion of the apprenticeship class, and a large portion of washouts relative to their number, we wound up with very few black electricians at the end of the apprenticeship.

    It’s not like my local didn’t try. They had to make a special effort just to get the few black applicants for apprenticeship every year. That alone is reason enough for white resentment, as most will tell you that they had to seek out the opportunity for themselves. Granted, many won’t tell you that they had a friend of family member tell them about upcoming apprenticeship slots, but it’s not like every white apprentice has inside information like that.

    I certainly didn’t benefit from nepotism – I took initiative and walked right into the union hall on my own and asked to speak with the business agent about organizing the company I was working for at the time. And I worked very hard to make it happen.

    But anyway, these are my experiences with blue-collar “white privilege” and “disparate impact”, from my perspective on the ground. Believe what you want, but I don’t buy the dominant narrative.

  8. Nate says:

    The basic outline here is that as people whose culture derives from a European Enlightenment tradition get wealthier and more comfortable, they feel more guilty, sensitive, and leftist. It’s just a fact. The hardest-core leftists I know are well and truly rich, and feel tremendous subconscious guilt for their extravagant lifestyles and low productivity. Deep down, they really do understand that their success has come at others’ expense, and that they in many cases produce very little value for society. They revel in their lack of practical skills at the same time that it makes them feel uncomfortable and inferior.

    The reason why this is currently politically problematic is because we still have poor liberals and rich conservatives. These people inherently feel ill at ease with many of the cultural and social positions of their parties but stay for a variety of economic and historical reasons (e.g. conservative support for lower taxes keeps some of the wealthy; liberal support for welfare keeps some of the poor; liberal support for civil rights keeps most blacks).

    I expect that over time, things will come to split more and more down cultural lines to the extent that liberalism will encompass the wealthy and comfortable who consider themselves socially enlightened and avoid learning practical skills like the plague, and conservatism will encompass the poor and middle classes who revel in their roughness and practicality.

  9. Roger Wilson says:

    It seems to me, this discussion misses another struggle that has been around since the beginning of this country, Rural Vs. Urban. It seems to me that in urban society the only people that they see with guns are police and criminals. Rural areas own more guns per capita. Mostly for hunting but also for self defense as the police are not readily available. Other emergency services the urban society enjoy are not readily available to those in rural areas. They must be of a more independent attitude to survive. They think of the government as more if a hindrance than a help.

  10. Whetherman says:

    Before throwing this in, allow me to stipulate that I know it is one of my hangups, but it is a hangup based on long experience.

    Not once in that article did I see reference made (except in the comments) to “religion,” “Christians,” and certainly not to “stealth.”

    I see a — if not the — problem in the Republican Party being the infiltration of both the party and its base issues by activist “stealth” Christians for probably the last 40 years. And the problem would not be their presence, per se, if they were open about their motivations. But a core part of “stealth” is to appeal to “front” issues to attract support to yourself, while not caring a whit about the front issue, beyond using it to attract the material and political support needed to advance your own power and the issues you really care about.

    If you want a case-in-point to ponder, look at the background and affiliations of everyone associated with GOA. For those who can be traced, check what other issues besides guns the people have actively worked with.

    What worries me more, is that NRA is starting to show signs of that kind of infiltration. I forget who said it recently — possibly it was someone here? — but someone has noted that the NRA National Convention is beginning to look more like CPAC than CPAC does — and we know where most CPAC participants are coming from.

    • Ian Argent says:

      That’s a good point. It’s a hard one for the NRA to defend against, because a lot of their membership is personally religious, so they aren’t going to notice some of the “problems.” The Annual Meeting I went to, the passive religiousity made me a little uncomfortable, and I’m a practicing Christian (though I don’t practice enough to get to Carnegie Hall). It wasn’t ever overt, and most of the speakers and the audience probably wasn’t even aware of it. But it’s real easy for the “stealth activists” to sneak their pet peeves in.

      Or, on a slightly different note, LaPierre’s rant about video games after Newtown – that got a “what were you thinking” from me, but I doubt he even thought it was controversial

  11. Old 1811 says:

    Another problem with the small-government types wooing the minority middle class is that the minority middle class has a different attitude toward government. The black and Hispanic middle classes are not entrepreneurial; they were created by government, when government jobs were finally opened to minorities. If you talk to a minority in the professions, whether he or she is an engineer or a surgeon, you’ll likely find that they had the opportunity to get an education because Dad was a cop and Mom was a teacher. (Or maybe Grandpa and Grandma.) The money and security provided by government jobs was the deciding factor in bettering their lives. They’re not about to, in their eyes, deny that opportunity to others in their community.

    • Bram says:

      I see plenty of new Latino run small businesses around me. Anecdotal evidence certainly, but some of them are giving it a go.

  12. Bram says:

    I have been in both classes. My problem with the National Republican Party isn’t their message. It’s that they are full of shit. I don’t believe anything they say.

    They constantly promise smaller less intrusive more responsible government, tax reform, spending cuts, deregulation, etc… Then completely fail to deliver.

    The Republicans don’t represent the working class or comfortable class. Most of them, and all the Democrats, represent the Government Class.

  13. Veritas says:

    Just because people belong to the middle class they do not share the same values. If we drop the concept of State’s reights we might as well become Democrats, because we then worship at the altar of the state.

    Sorry no sale. And if you think you can attract black voters I ghave some great swamp land in Mongolia you can have for a reasonable price buttercup.

    • Sebastian says:

      States don’t have rights. People have rights. States have powers, and those power have been justly limited by the 14th Amendment.


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