Thursday, May 26

‘Pro-worker’ Republicans are toads of the status quo disguised as populists | Bhaskar sunkara

JD Vance, author of the best-selling memoirs of 2016 Hillbilly Elegy, he wants to be a senator. Fresh off a trip to visit Donald Trump in Mar-a-Lago and enlisted the support of tech billionaire Peter Thiel. Thiel has contributed $ 10 million to a new Pac – Protect Ohio Values ​​- created to support a possible bid from Vance for the Senate seat of retired Republican Rob Portman next November.

As elite donations roll in, Vance is toying his right-wing populist credentials on the Republican base, praising Tucker Carlson. What “The only powerful figure who consistently challenges elite dogma” and complains about corporations that have opposed state voter suppression efforts. But Vance has a secret that he doesn’t want voters to know: in form and substance, he’s a 1990s Clintonite.

Behind the mantra of “opportunity, responsibility and community” and through institutions like the Democratic Leadership Council, Bill Clinton rejected liberal orthodoxy within his party. When he ran for president in 1992, at the same time he called to end “wellness as we know it” and described her difficult upbringing in the small rural town of Hope, Arkansas. He admonished “dead parents“And he reminded people that” governments don’t raise children; parents do, ”while lamenting that battles for social justice were being lost at home. In other words, he ate it and ate it too, appealing to popular disgust over inequality, while supporting the economic policies that fueled that inequality, and blaming America’s problems on “welfare traps” and corporate greed. in equal measure.

Clinton and the Clintonists, the so-called New Democrats, rejected both Reaganism and the liberalism of the welfare state. They offered balanced budget populism, hoping that free trade and deregulation would boost growth and stimulate job creation. But unlike Reagan, Clinton raised taxes on the rich and increased the earned income credit as a moderate redistributive measure. Like clinton Put it on: “The trickle-down economy has certainly failed.” However, instead of restoring government programs, he said the government was “on the way” and had to be radically streamlined. Those within the Clinton administration who hoped to invest in public infrastructure and expand social goods, such as Labor Secretary Robert Reich, were ignored. The president told voters that he could feel their painbut in practice, I preferred the market (and people’s bootstraps) to provide relief.

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Today, some of those seeking a new third way between a Democratic party moving to the left and traditional corporate conservatism have found a home in the post-Trump Republican Party. Hillbilly Elegy It effectively took the rhetoric of the Reagan and Clinton era about the culture of poverty and applied it more generally, not just to black Americans, but to poor whites as well. In the book, Vance describes how his grandparents escaped Appalachian poverty by moving to Middletown, Ohio, during the postwar boom. They and others found good manufacturing jobs and embraced a spirit of hard work and community. But by the time Vance was present, the jobs were gone, poverty was mounting, and drug abuse was rampant.

In “a town where 30% of young people work less than 20 hours a week,” Vance complained, he could not find “a single person aware of his own laziness.” Yet instead of seeing Middletown’s unrest rooted primarily in economic collapse and the failures of free-market policies, Vance he reflected about a Scottish-Irish American culture “that increasingly encourages rather than counteracts social decay.”

“We passed our way to the poorhouse,” Vance wrote. “We buy giant televisions and iPads.”

Hillbilly Elegy caused quite a stir when it was published in 2016, in part because it simultaneously appealed to liberals eager to “understand” Trump voters and anti-Trump Republicans who wanted to blame Trumpism for what they perceived as poor whites. like sheep and with little education. At a time when conservative commentators like the National Reviews Kevin Williamson were claiming that white workers were not “victims of outside forces” but had failed themselves through welfare dependency, drug and alcohol addiction, and family lawlessness, the New York Times wrote. praising Hillbilly Elegy’s similar narrative is “a message of tough love and personal responsibility.”

Bill Clinton did it; Why did not you do it? JD Vance did it; Why did not you do it?

Today, Vance seems to establish himself as the Ohio version of Josh Hawley, the Missouri senator who proclaims himself a champion of the American worker. But Vance’s evolution after 2016 from poor white media-chosen performer and Trump critic (while getting rich as a tech venture capitalist) for the populist Hawley wing of the Republican Party he didn’t need a policy change. Sure, you have to tweet more about Dr. Seuss now, but Vance’s new model, Hawley, only has one 5% rating of the AFL-CIO, the largest labor organization in the country.

When it comes to rhetoric, the new generation of conservative populists – Carlson, Hawley, Vance – love saber rattling against “cosmopolitan elites.” When it comes to real politics, they have no interest in challenging corporate power and few plans to invest in working-class communities. Take Vance’s recent opposition to universal child care, which he call “A massive subsidy to the lifestyle preferences of the rich.”

Vance’s alternative idea to help American parents, who are often faced with an overwhelming Catch-22-style choice between quitting their full-time jobs or paying astronomical amounts of money on childcare? In lieu of an expanded social wage through a government program, Vance praises a plan, proposed by Hawley, to provide a tax credit to married parents with children under the age of 13. It’s not exactly New Deal-style transformative reform to help struggling Americans; if anything, it’s the kind of lukewarm and bizarre program the new Democrats might have dreamed of 30 years ago.

Let us remember the words of then candidate Bill Clinton, who in 1992 longed for “an America in which the doors of the universities are reopened to the sons and daughters of stenographers and steel workers. We will say: everyone can borrow money to go to college. But you must do your part. You must return it. “

Like the Clintonites, Republicans like Hawley and Vance are trying to find a way to balance the appeals for the working class, popular with voters, with the enduring fact that their party is largely donor-funded. rich and powerful business interests. His solution is to offer Americans rhetoric about elites and the importance of hard work, but not to disempower those elites or, say, enact employment programs.

Decades passed, but millions of voters came to view the new Democrats as frauds. The same, I hope, will happen with the new Republicans.

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