Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Formerly Silent Majority

Throughout my adult life, I have been baffled by people who have supported candidates and political platforms that were contrary to their own self-interests. Why would small business owners and blue collar workers support GOP candidates that facilitate anti-union efforts, corporate raids, unfair corporate advantage, and the exporting of American jobs? Why would people in economically- challenged rural areas support candidates that favor agribusiness over small farmers; and seek to ban abortion when the cost of raising a single child is astronomical and can be devastating to the life of a single woman? And these same candidates seek to squash all government aid designed to assist in the raising of an economically-challenged child.

Reflecting on my own childhood, I began to get some understanding. I was part of a large middle class family. My father was the breadwinner and my mother managed the home. We were not ultra wealthy but we were very comfortable in everyway. Education and travel were taken for granted as long as one maintained a healthy work ethic. All our neighbors, and all my friends, had remarkably similar circumstances. I attended a public middle school and public high school in the late 60's and early 70's. It seems very peculiar now, but there were no African-American students and you could count the number of students of Hispanic decent on one hand, shocking in retrospect, for a public school in Los Angeles.

Fifty years later the dynamics of my neighborhood and my school, over time, have changed broadly. I believe this may not have been the fact for many communities in Red states. And because of this some Americans have not adapted either psychologically or economically to the changing realities. And the change is not fake news, but real. And this change is disconcerting, even frightening for those Americans.

We have had a black president. The LGBT community, something that was never discussed when I was a boy, is achieving recognition and rights. Foreign competition and technology have evaporated well-paying American jobs. Women play a prominent role in the workforce. The wealth gap between the rich and poor is increasing faster than the polar ice caps are melting. And the American middle class is becoming an endangered specie.

America became great with the rise of a middleclass, beginning with the Industrial Revolution typified by Henry Ford and innovation of interchangeable parts, and solidified by the post World War II boom when America provided for the world. And with globalization and the decline of the middleclass, America is waning.

I didn't vote for Trump. In fact I haven't voted for a GOP candidate since Lowell Wicker ran for governor in Connecticut in 1990. But I can see why many people did. GOP candidates tend to be loud and brazen and angry. They symbolize masculinity and a return to the "better" past. They appeal to the machinist who has lost his job and cannot provide for his family and the small farmer who has just faced foreclosure. They appeal to the veteran in Thurmond, WV whose kids can't find a job. And they appeal to all the Archie Bunker types who feel emasculated by the election of a gay city councilman.

The GOP has become the party of depraved, indifferent, conmen and criminals. The greatest trick Trump ever pulled, along with the rest of the Republicans, is convincing the formerly silent majority that he would do something for them.