The Civil Rights Revolution was perverted into a racial preference revolution by white leaders in the public and private sectors to end disruptive black agitation by quickly appeasing and co-opting black leaders. One of the unintended side effects of this shift in civil rights strategy was to shatter the New Deal coalition that had supported progressive reform in the United States since the 1930s. Conservatives were quick to take advantage of this: remember how Richard Nixon and George Shultz pushed racial quotas in unions in order to stoke resentment on the part of white workers against black Americans and the Democratic party. As Nixon realized, the greatest beneficiary of the demise of transracial class politics has been the white overclass. Since the 1960s, the effect--and, in the minds of at least some cynical conservative politicians, the purpose--of racial preference and the multicultural ideology that justifies it has been to divert attention from the class divisions in American society and focus it on racial/cultural squabbles.
The divisions between white, black, and Hispanic wage earners, the natural constituents of a broad liberal coalition, have made it easier for members of the white overclass . . . to pursue their own narrow economic agenda at the expense of most other Americans. The disproportionate influence in government of the white overclass, provided by a near-monopoly on campaign finance and the staffing of elite offices in both national parties, helps explain why, since the sixties, the bipartisan political elite has made the American tax system more regressive, undermined the New Deal social market contract through free-market globalism and mass immigration, and promoted a new feudalism, through the privatization of formerly public amenities.
While colleges and congressional classes have been rearranged according to the logic of racial tokenism, the white overclass has steadily carried out its generation-long class war against wage-earning Americans of all races. As racially gerrymandered congressional districts proliferate union membership falls, the victim of a government-sanctioned onslaught against organized labor by corporate America. As the number of black and Hispanic heroes and heroines in school text books increases, the average wages of black and Hispanic workers, along with those of white workers, continue to stagnate or decline.
Meanwhile, behind the Potemkin-village facade of Multicultural America, . . .the American oligarchy is quietly cannibalizing the remnants of mid-century New Deal America to construct its own enclave society, and America-within-America, linked to the global economy and detached from the destiny of the American middle class. Members of the white overclass withdraw their children from the public schools, then finance and lead taxpayer revolts that cause local school systems to collapse in bankruptcy. . . Affluent suburbanites hire their own police forces--then agitate to cut back on the taxes that pay for the municipal police that protect the majority of their neighbors. When inadequate policing results in high crime rates, the politicians who serve the white overclass, as a rule, do not vote to pay for more police (that would cost their wealthy constituents money) but call for draconian punishments: more prisons, more executions, public floggings, three strikes and you're out. Finally, as part of an ominous trend, the wealthy residents of a growing number of overclass suburbs are trying to turn them into "gated communities," physically separated from the vulgar majority of their country men.
In any other democracy the majority would have coalesced by now in a populist rebellion. In Multicultural America, however, the majority is fragmented while the elite is unified. The bipartisan white overclass can pursue its goals with little opposition, as long as racial preference politics, the ideology of diversity, and culture-war politics encourage potential opponents to battle among themselves. The constitution of nineteenth-century Russia, it was said, was autocracy tempered by assassination. The constitution of the third American Republic is plutocracy tempered by tokenism.--Michael Lind, The Next American Nation, 1995
We don't like hearing the word overclass. It sounds so icky Marxist, but you have to have a name for this phenomenon. Nothing is going to happen until the problem is seen for what it is and named accurately, and 'overclass' is pretty accurate. Our political impotency is linked to our confused understanding about the reality that we are confronting. The culture wars are a huge red-herring that diverts our attention and energy from other matters that are proper to the political sphere. The political sphere is about rights and and about the distribution of power--it's not the place to discuss morality and cultural values.
This discussion distracts the people in the middle and the bottom from focusing on political issues that they should be more focused on in the political sphere, and as a result, they are getting jobbed by the economic elites at the top. In a healthy American as I envision it, the power should reside with an educated, self-reliant, well-informed middle. That's not our reality by a long shot. The American electorate has been so manipulated and coopted by overclass propaganda, it no longer knows what is in its best interests.
This is not about class war; it's about recognizing that the less we talk about class, the more the overclass likes it. It's about we people in the middle waking up to how we're being conned, and then getting legitimately organized to leverage our political institutions to find remedies that will return the commonweal to health.
The elite on the left are just as complicit as the elite on the right. Their obsession with abortion rights and multi-cultural identity politics plays right into the hands of the overclass. The Clintons, Bayhs, Kerrys, and Liebermans are all conscously or unconsciously dancing to the overclass tune. They have no clue about what the real interests of the majority of Americans are
As bad as the GOP is, and it is god-awful bad, at least it unambiguously represents the class interests of the overclass in a logical, predictable way. The Democrats are either egregiously disgusting or stupid for all the ways in which they have been coopted by overclass propaganda in pursuing their own political interests and careers and in having abandoned the real interests of their traditional constituencies in the middle and the bottom. But what's the matter with the rest of us that we have let them? It's getting to be time for the people in the middle to wake up, define a new agenda for the radical center, and to take back their country.
It might be relatively painless for you now, but if we let this trend continue, what kind of a country will your kids inherit? Is that a question worth asking?
Update: Be sure to check out article by Garret Keizer, "Right, Left, and Wrong" referenced by Forestwalker's comment to this post. It captures even more vividly what I was trying to get at with the Lind quote.