Monday, August 25, 2008


The Middle Class; Comfortable but Striving (conservatives)…or, Spoiled, Arrogant, and Selfish (leftists)

The polarity of right and left political views (in the traditional spectrum scheme) can be seen in some ways as having evolved (or devolved) into a battle in values between two poles within the same class, the middle class -- upper and lower.

The lower ends of the middle class are genuinely bourgeois by most definitions. They have a satisfactory abode – but would like a nicer one. They have satisfactory transport but would like something better. They indulge themselves in hobbies and leisure pursuits but would certainly like to see them enhanced or embellished. They are materialistic and capitalist in sentiment (whether some of them realize it or not). Their life is good but they strive -- or at least wish -- for more and better.

The upper ends of the middle class have typically attained a nice dwelling, pristine transportation, refined leisure, and playful indulgences. They have far passed the realm of mere comfortable subsistence. For many of them “something more” moves into the world of ideals or some other compensation for a self-perceived loss of meaning. So it is that so many professionals; particularly lawyers, journalists, intellectuals, and entertainment personalities shrug off their own good fortune as something un-fulfilling and un-needed (though they’d be hard-pressed to actually relinquish their circumstance).

The lower middle-class in a successful free society has attained considerable power over their own lives and destiny as well as historically unheard of comforts. The upper middle class has reached the pinnacle of this achievement and is often left seeking power over others either directly or through their affiliation with a state enhancing political class. To this end they hope to fulfill their existential cravings. Of course, there are people in the lower middle class on the left, and upper middle class on the right. However, I think it can generally be said that those who have achieved the power over their own lives and leisure excess of the upper middle class begin to look toward other to extend their mastery in life.

The right and left can throw insults from a perceived allegiance to the values of “rich” or “poor” but their real battle in values is with others among their not so distant brethren; within the middle-class as a whole.

Today’s Democrat / Republican divide is example to the unfolding polarity of values between two styles of middle class existence.

Where many lower-middle class Americans had long been a sort of base to the Democrat party and many upper-middle class Americans supported the “pro-business” Republican party, this alignment has been almost entirely reversed in the last few decades.

The lower middle class today may not be specifically pro-business but they don’t share the Democratic Party’s evolving socialist perspective and bitter resentment of capitalist enterprise. The lower middle class today has very little in common with the professional / college “educated” elites that live well yet despise the system that has made it so. It is this clique' of elites that now dominate Democrat party politics. To be a moveon. Democrat today virtually guarantees that one does not drive a second-hand car.

For the Republican Party, a transformation of values has occurred as well. There is still a clearly pro-business perspective within the Republican Party. There is also a (much-exaggerated) presence of fringe evangelicals but most Republicans could be best defined as people who merely seek to restrain the cultural, political, and economic momentum toward the left that has been fostered by Democrats and their support system in pop culture. The new “South Park Republican” is more libertarian in its values and expresses a view of American political life that is much more in line with the values of “simple people” (the lower middle class) than the intellectual elites that now dominate the Democrat party.

Names like Noam Chomsky are well known in Democrat “progressive” circles but one would be hard-pressed to find an average lower middle class person who ever heard of the guy ('not really missing anything there).

It may be idealistic of me to think so, but the lower-middle class has a sort of “yeoman farmer” quality to it that I find appealing – they are Post-modern Jeffersonians. Raising a family and enjoying life by seeking to improve one’s status is not a flaw. Decency is a real attribute and I think it is to be found in greater numbers among the “simple folk.” By the same token, pampered spoiled brats who seek to vent their personal loss of meaning by imposing the values of statist socialism appear to me to be running a decency deficit. Simply saying one is “for the underdog” is meaningless when one is the overdog and merely wants a punitive government to attack people richer than ones’ self.

The standard rallying cries between “the rich” and “the poor” are of little value in discerning the real drivers of values and policy in America today. The front lines are occupied not by extremes of wealth difference but by the mere step between lower and upper with in a society that is basically middle class.

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