It’s A Political Divide, Not A Class Conflict

You’ve got to give Republicans credit–they’ve been really good at framing disputes among the various Democratic Party factions in ways that are most likely to create negative stereotypes appealing to independent voters.

The term “identity politics,” for example, is a not-very-veiled negative reference to activists emphasizing the interests/concerns of their (usually marginalized) groups–African-Americans, women, LGBTQ folks.

Working class activists are frequently accused of waging “class warfare.”

For some reason, Evangelicals aren’t pursuing “identity politics,” and crony capitalists aren’t waging class warfare; they are usually referred to more politely–if at all– as “interest groups.” But I digress.

In a recent column for the New York Times, Michelle Goldberg pointed out that the multiple columns arguing that lockdowns pit an affluent professional class that can mostly work from home against a working class that must risk its health in order to put food on the table are badly mischaracterizing the situation.

Writing in The Post, Fareed Zakaria tried to make sense of the partisan split over coronavirus restrictions, describing a “class divide” with pro-lockdown experts on one side and those who work with their hands on the other. On Fox News, Steve Hilton decried a “37 percent work from home elite” punishing “real people” trying to earn a living. In a column titled “Scenes From the Class Struggle in Lockdown,” The Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan wrote: “Here’s a generalization based on a lifetime of experience and observation. The working-class people who are pushing back have had harder lives than those now determining their fate.”

The data says this is horse manure.

One recent survey found that, overall, 74 percent of Americans agreed  that the “U.S. should keep trying to slow the spread of the coronavirus, even if that means keeping many businesses closed.” Among respondents who’d been laid off or furloughed, 79% agreed.

Other research has determined that economic status isn’t what drives American disagreement over Coronavirus policies. It is “identity politics,” true, but the identity involved is  political.

Donald Trump and his allies have polarized the response to the coronavirus, turning defiance of public health directives into a mark of right-wing identity. Because a significant chunk of Trump’s base is made up of whites without a college degree, there are naturally many such people among the lockdown protesters.

 As Goldberg notes, what seems like attractive “liberation” to many comfortable people chafing at confinement is experienced as compulsion by those returning to riskier jobs. In a number of states, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that re-opening (usually in defiance of advice from public health officials) is prompted by the governor’s desire to avoid emptying out the state’s unemployment reserves.  (If an employer reopens but a worker doesn’t feel safe returning and quits, the employee can no longer collect unemployment benefits).

Goldberg argues that it is actually the financial elites that are eager for everyone else to resume powering the economy.

“‘People Will Die. People Do Die.’ Wall Street Has Had Enough of the Lockdown,” was the headline on a recent Vanity Fair article. It cited a banker calling for “broad legal indemnification for employers against claims related to the virus” so that employees can’t sue if their workplace exposes them to illness. Here we see the real coronavirus class divide.

Bolstering Goldberg’s version of reality are reports that the presumably “working class” protestors clamoring (often with guns and Confederate flags) for an end to the lockdowns are actually far-right operatives, many not even from the states in which they are protesting, and that nearly half of the twitter accounts urging reopening are bots.

We still have “identity poliitics.” But in the age of Trump, our identities have become almost entirely political.


  1. Prof K Says:
    ….the presumably “working class” protestors clamoring (often with guns and Confederate flags) for an end to the lockdowns are actually far-right operatives, many not even from the states in which they are protesting, and that nearly half of the twitter accounts urging reopening are bots.

    Well — I did Not see that on the local or national news. Or in the USA Today or Star
    Thank You

  2. Hello Sheila,

    I know you are not shocked by this, LOL!

    The politicians, especially on the right but not always, have realized the gullibility of a certain block of aggrieved citizenry, (so-called blue-collar minimally educated white males) and that if they play towards their aggrieved mentality, play to their fears, they will walk through fire for them! Which seems a little hypocritical by the aggrieved group. Because they are always whining about being led by the nose, and their independence Trumps (pun intended) everyone and everything else, even if it is all a delusional illusion!

    This thread correlates very well to yesterday, these aggrieved ones, would be those who would be working for the Massa, running plantation affairs, keeping slaves in line, possibly negotiating prices for crops, all the while being paid meager wages and even worse living conditions. But their loyalty was something astonishing to behold, and many of them died during the Civil War because of that unfettered loyalty to their Agrarian Masters.

    There masters/employers were not kindly individuals towards those meager workers, and in many cases, weren’t treated much better than the slaves that they oversaw. But, they could identify by the color of their skin! And that’s all that mattered!?!? It surely was. Many of those plantations had their own churches on the property, of course, the slaves had their own religious practices which was a combination of native religions and Protestantism. And, of course the White Churches made sure that White Superiority was taught and that Black Folks were cursed by God!

    It’s much easier to control the stupid ones if you can ignite a fanatical passion for whatever belief can control their actions. So this is nothing new, this is been going on since was mentioned yesterday, American Manifest Destiny, American Romanticism, and American Exceptionalism, these all were used to control, by giving a sense of superiority, sense of ruling, even if it was an actual oblivious example, it was one that they did grasp at the time, and, they still grasp to this day.

    I’ve run across some of the aggrieved, as I mentioned to you the other day Sheila, the big Planned Parenthood protest here, one which I filmed and one which I got into discussions with those aggrieved individuals who claimed they were doing the Lord’s work. Let’s just suffice it to say, it was astonishing! Astonishing in that, their rights to protest were more important than the rights of people going into use the facilities provided by Planned Parenthood. That their desire to promote their First Amendment Exercise rights. All the while demonizing ” Freedom of the Press ” which is in the same amendment! Or, the rights of those who they are protesting against!

    The crash that is coming, it’s going to be awe-inspiring! Because all of these things combined together, including the crony capitalism and the control by the capitalists over the lending institutions, is going to make any other time in history seem like the “Good Old Days!” Because in those good old days, life was disposable, life was not precious, every war that was ever fought, had some sort of religious connotation to it. Because of some man-made ideal or border, lines drawn in the sand so to speak, Catholics slaughtering Catholics, Protestants slaughtering Protestants, Muslims Slaughtering Muslims, Hindus slaughtering Hindus, even Buddhists slaughtered Buddhists! Can you see the hypocrisy? It runs deep, it’s part of mankind’s genetic code, that is a very hard thing to change!

  3. The Republicans are the smartest marketers I know. There is a new ad for 45 touting “his” relief bill and giving him credit for all of the things Dems demanded in the bill. Of course they don’t mention the billions in relief for big business, nor the billions for real estate developers. Obviously they also leave out the fact that 45 fired the IG who was supposed to oversee the give away to the billionaires.

  4. its obvious here in NoDak that the virus is somehere elses problems. im working in the const field., and no employer here seem to give a shi, about my temp,or someone who just came back to work after being sick with? testing here, no concern,just more flack from the trumpers..this is a blood red state, and the igornace,head in the sand approach rules..class? here your judged by the company you keep. making a comment against any faux news spin, gets ya put in a corner, class warfare, NoDak one here in conversation ever accuses the rich of anything, its the fox news spin to blaming some system they come up with to cover the real reason why we dont have a living wage or affrordable/medicare. here they all blame taxes on everything, and yet, demand that farm welfare,over people marginalized by the real system. no one here in conversation in NoDak recognizes that the profit takers on wall street,run the game, and the republicans ( and schumers bunch) are paid whores for the propaganda artists,who have next to distroy our once great democracy. we have massive corruption in the trump admin,the failure to recognize it,by those who,demand they,have free whatevers,whenever..blaintant as it is. the right wing marvels of propaganda,have become the super heros of the ignorant.. and joe goebbels is laughing his dead, dried up ass off…

  5. One cannot deny the cruelty of the class conflict. On one side we have folks working from home (many already doing so part of the time) able to pay someone to take care of the kids and getting full pay and benefits.

    On the other….

    While it is not white v/s brown, we know how this splits….

  6. Can it be class warfare and political weaponry?

    Our press is stuck between a rock and a hard place right now as billionaires have seen their profits increase by hundreds of billion dollars. Meanwhile, 25-30% of the U.S. workforce is unemployed.

    How can we reconcile these two inconceivable notions?

    One only has to look at the stock market where Powell has offered the Fed to buy up corporate debt at a future date, meaning that large corporations have an incentive to borrow even more money from banks at low rates knowing the Fed will buy the debt.

    How do we reconcile a free market where the Fed buys up corporate debt to clean up balance sheets of the largest companies in the world while telling workers to get their asses back to work and risk infection by a virus that may kill you or a loved one?

    How do politicians justify supporting these actions while they sent $1,200 to every adult worker, which barely covered a month’s expenses?

    When asked to pay off $1.2 trillion in student loans, the same politicians clamored that we couldn’t afford it. The POTUS said he would veto any such bill even though it would provide an incredible boost to the economy…more than paying off corporate debt.

    Class warfare is a given and has been for generations in our Oligarchy. Manipulating the classes by both political parties has been around for generations as well. The only difference is the Democratic Party used to be supportive of the working class, but they sold out completely during the Clinton years.

    And yes, the new Democratic Party is nothing but identity politics, but as the African Americans are learning, that doesn’t translate into policies that benefit them either. The political class only seem interested in identity politics during elections. 😉

  7. The Germans learned their lesson; Unfortunately, we will have to learn ours. It won’t take much longer from my perspective, and it will be a calamity again. No way around it.

    As Doris Lessing, the magnificent South African writer commented, as I remember best: “Humans have little or, maybe, no capacity to take pre-emptive action.”

  8. Donald J. Trump is after all one of the most incompetent managers of almost anything I have ever encountered in person or virtually. He’s protected from his incompetence by wealth he was given.

    HIs argument to the contrary as President was all name brand management as long as the country flew fine on autopilot until it didn’t and piloting was required. He messed up the Federal response to the pandemic from both perspectives of public health and economic devastation. Nobody should be the least bit surprised.

    Now he’s rolling out is only weapon, brag and blame. Everyone else screwed up despite his stellar efforts.

    The divide in the country is between those who believe what he says because they identify with his predicament, vs those who expect more from a President including the truth and nothing but.

    Those who are compelled to accept his incompetence remember a country which could do no wrong because white Christian heterosexual men were in charge of everyone else. Now look at the mess that liberals led us to. Everyone is different and disorganized and telling the overlords where to stick their authority.

    Yes in this world organization and leadership are required in communities, in government and in commerce but it has to be done in ways that work in these times not in the world that we left behind. There is no going back.

    Giving an essential position in the reality of today to someone who’s only qualifications were that he was a white, wealthy, heterosexual man who could pull off as well as most people do pretending to be Christian turned out to be a disaster which should surprise nobody.

  9. It is not either or Class Warfare or Identity Politics, it is both.

    The 1% are in near total control of the political system thanks to legalized bribery of campaign donations in their various forms, including Pac’s and SuperPacs. The McMega Media love it, the bottom lines are padded with profits the more political advertising is done.

    Identity Politics is the best way to keep the Proles divided. I will agree with what Todd said above: “The only difference is the Democratic Party used to be supportive of the working class, but they sold out completely during the Clinton years.”

  10. Todd,

    “The only difference is the Democratic Party used to be supportive of the working class, but they sold out completely during the Clinton years.”

    Clinton sold out before he ever started by going along with the TRIANGULATION STRATEGY proposed to him after meeting with Robert Strauss, the Republican appointee as our Ambassador to the Soviet Union.

    Do we have a better word than being “SCREWED.”

  11. I think we all like to simplify an extraordinarily complex world in order to make it brain sized. One way is to view issues as either/or which is rarely true or even useful.

    It’s not either corporations or workers. It’s and.

    It’s not global or national, but both.

    It’s not public health or the economy, both are essential.

    Is not black or white but gray.

    It not the present or future government, everything starts the the present government and ends with the future government.

    It’s not right or left it’s the center.

  12. Pete,

    “It’s not right or left it’s the center.”

    There’s no political center, other than can be found in someone’s intelligent mind.

  13. If there is no center, then there is no right or left since such positions must deviate from a fixed position either to their right or left. What is really intolerable today is the action of the Fed in promising to buy even junk bond corporate debt if deemed necessary to avert a depression. Result? Already overleveraged corporations controlled by Icahns and their ilk sell such Fed guaranteed paper (bonds) and use the money for buybacks, dividends, executive bonuses and salaries, and capital gains opportunities – and all guaranteed by us taxpayers via the Fed guarantee. Profits to corporate owners are based in part on risks taken, but with such guarantees by the Fed someone tell me wherein lies the risk(s). GRRRRR!

  14. Montonous–“It is not either or Class Warfare or Identity Politics, it is both.” I agree with this statement. The American worker has been expendable and hearing how we need to ‘buck it up little buttercups’ and get back to work so that the stockholders and the 5% can continue to collect their $$ at our expense and potential death is just collateral damage.

    I have said it before and I have said it again–we are on the tipping point of a social civil war in this country if we have not already just put a toe over that line this week. US is in flames both actual and methaphorically and I am hoping the majority of take control and make the positive changes from the scabs that are necessarily being ripped off.

  15. Lindsay Graham recently lamented that people can make better money collecting unemployment than if they went back to work.
    What does that tell us?
    Perhaps if people made a decent wage in the first place they wouldn’t have to make that choice. Hard working people should be able to live comfortably and support their families without worrying whether they can put a roof over their heads or food on the table.
    Unemployment is a safety net. It shouldn’t be a way of life.
    Hourly workers are definitely getting the short end of the stick. If they don’t work they don’t get paid. Salaried workers, especially if they can work from home, still draw a salary.
    I’m reminded of Walmart’s plea several years ago asking employees to donate food and other items for their less fortunate fellow employees. Quite outrageous!!
    The stock market has been going up; large corporations are making enormous profits. Meanwhile the rest of country is getting poorer. That makes it quite clear that the stock market is NOT a measure of the economy — regular people “buying stuff” is.
    The stock market is made up of investors who are just passing money back and forth among themselves. It’s a virtual economy. It’s not real. It’s all in your head. Sooner or later the stock market will catch up (or fall behind) the real economy. When that happens, look out.

  16. I am asking my Facebook crowd to sign up for Sheila’s blog. All of her views are clear, succinct and honest.
    The only other resource I would encourage people to examine is called
    I would ask that you look it over and decide if it is for you and your energies. I live in CA and am going to work to support voting efforts in FL. I went to flight school there and my brother and family are there.
    Please look.
    Sorry Sheila for the promotional pitch.

  17. And yet the Republicans do cherish their ancillary identities . The fact that that own more and bigger guns, cherish their whiteness more, despise those who don’t worship their God, obey authority better than any sergeant major in the Marines, work assiduously to devalue education and science, consider themselves entirely self-made, can explain in detail why some people need killing, adore every form of capitalist exploitation, think war is the answer to most disputes, deride “shit hole” countries, will embrace a deadly disease if their mentally ill president signals them to, can surrender any value at any time their party advises them to, see snottiness as an important social skill, think that every aspect of socialism is an existential threat, treat women like second-class citizens, view going to a good school as an unpardonable form of elitism, agree with their president that the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat, hate taxes more than the rest of us – all of this, they feel, is what makes them such invaluable members of society. It is what justifies their seeing the world as it (they believe) should be.

    Perhaps each of these is a political consideration. But to a proper Republican, each represents a fundamental reason why they regard themselves as so unalterably superior to every Democrat and every non-white American. It explains why they are convinced their ignorance and hatred and bigotry are saving the world.

  18. I always love it when the right waxes eloquent in their concern for the workers. There are “makers” and there are “takers”. The titans of business and finance are the “makers”. The workers are just tools to be used and then thrown away. Need a stock boost? Fire some workers. Bad economic times, furlough workers, even middle management. Give yourself a bonus for that.

    Oh, your former workers are unemployed, well, then they really have always been “takers”.

    How do we divide the profits? Big chunks for the CEO and his buddies, medium commission for the sales force (selling is all that matters, not designing or building quality), some for the stockholders, and any crumbs left over may (or may not) “trickle down” to the workers for whom Fox News has found a sudden affection.

    Such utter balderdash from Fox — per usual.

  19. Len,

    “Such utter balderdash from Fox—per usual.”

    And the hard, hard, REAL TRUTH finally utterred by Professor Cornell West which is a long, long, way from a futile lecture on balderdash or nonsense. That’s for sure.

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