Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Obama and Romney's shared views on the lower class

As many people have pointed out, Romney’s comments [on the 47% of Americans who pay no income tax] are a right-wing echo to what was previously the most famous leak from a fundraising event: Barack Obama’s remarks in San Francisco in April 2008, when he characterized working class voters who were resistant to his charms as “bitter” people who “cling to guns or religion” and scapegoat immigrants because the economy has let them down.

In both cases, a presidential candidate was speaking about poorer people to a room full of rich people; in both cases, he was pandering to those rich people’s fearful stereotypes about a way of life that they don’t understand or share.

For rich Republicans, the stereotype is all about the money: They have it, other Americans don’t, and those resentful, entitled others might just have enough votes to wage class warfare and redistribute the donors’ hard-earned millions to the indolent and irresponsible.

For rich Democrats, the stereotype is all about the culture wars: They think they’ve built an enlightened society, liberated from archaic beliefs and antique hang-ups, and yet these Jesus freaks in flyover country are mobilizing to restore the patriarchy.

Both groups of donors seem to be haunted by dystopian scenarios in which the masses rise up and tear down everything the upper class has built. ...

What does it say that our politicians, in settings where they’re at least pretending to open up and reveal their true perspective, feel comfortable embracing the most self-serving elite stereotypes about ordinary citizens who vote for the other party?
--Ross Douthat, NYT, on shared condescension. HT: ACT and ML