The co-optation of discourses related to oppressions by the rich has proven to be a salient tool in dismantling poor or working-class solidarity.
The endorsements of Michael Bloomberg, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, and Andrew Yang for presidential candidate Joe Biden is an act of class solidarity.
However, when Elizabeth Warren ended her presidential campaign, her supporters faced a dilemma well documented on social media and across outlet after outlet: Biden or Bernie Sanders?
The unity pledge to preserve progressive politics and to maintain a consolidated left collapsed. Some ex-Warren supporters rationalized Biden as the safe choice, though his policies starkly differ from Warren’s. His list of potential appointments for various cabinet positions includes executives from Bank of America to JP Morgan Chase.
Working-class solidarity is fractured by a fictitious American Dream, as well as the weaponization by the rich of discourses tied to racism and sexism.
The Democratic Party, like the Republican Party, is a political party of the rich, for the rich. The rich are revered in their successful attainment of the American Dream, which is posited as an accessible endpoint for the rich and poor alike.
This uninterrogated reverence of the rich coupled with “the myth of a classless society”—both cemented by the narrative of the American Dream—work to uphold capitalism. In Where We Stand: Class Matters, bell hooks explains the consequence of this twofold phenomena: “As individuals without class privilege come to believe that they can assume an equal standing with those who are rich and powerful by consuming the same objects, they ally themselves with the class interests of the rich and collude in their own exploitation.”
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From the working-class to the middle class, the goal — which manifests itself as within reach — is to be rich, or at the very least, to be like the rich.
The propensity for redistributive politics is shaped by an individual’s “prospects for social mobility (upward or downward) relative to the rest of society,” so that “individuals with incomes below average may not support high rates of redistribution if they expect to be richer in the future.”
The false American Dream creates an equally false sense of social mobility, which has shown to “negatively affect the individual support for redistributive politics” (like that of Sanders’) in the United States.
However, the expectation of future riches has proven to be less and less viable: since 1989, the bottom 50% witnessed “essentially zero net gains in wealth” while the quadrupled total net worth of American households “accrued more to the top of the distribution than the bottom.”
From the 1980s onward, the rise of neoliberalism supported first by Reagan and then by Clinton, disassembled the welfare state and deregulated financial markets. This effectively displaced middle-class members to “the bottom deciles of [wealth] distribution with resulting disorientation and resentment — particularly among the whites. The resentment, which made itself evident in the 2016 election, is laced by racism, sexism, and more.
The co-optation of discourses related to racism, sexism, and other -isms to -phobias by the rich has proven to be a salient tool in dismantling poor or working-class solidarity.
The white poor treat BIPOC as the enemy. In “The Myth is the White Working Class Prevents Class Solidarity,” Carson Morgan writes that the white poor view “their economic position [as] the result of someone of another race blocking them from taking their ‘rightful place’ in the ruling class.” The Black and brown working class, demonized for their race, are pitted against the white working class as well as one another. This conflict reiterates itself in the gender binary of men versus women, as well as in the contexts of citizen versus migrant workers to LGBTQ+ workers.
In any scenario, the rich leave unscathed.
The establishment, Democratic or Republican, are not invested in the liberation of the working class of any form; they care about a consistent accumulation of capital. Thus, it is important to remember that racism, sexism, and heteronormativity are inextricably tied to the capitalism that sustains the Democratic and Republican parties.
Theories of “the inferiority of non-white people” were developed and justified to sustain capitalism by way of colonialism and slavery. The nuclear family, which certain white women have come to base their feminist politic in opposition to, formed to preserve private property. The same family, rooted in a “monogamous, reproductive-oriented marriage,” cemented heteronormativity.
The establishment has demonstrated its class solidarity. From Cory Booker and Kamala Harris to Pete Buttigieg, they are connected by a class interest that is bound to be protected by Biden.
Liberation can never arrive with capitalism because it adapts its oppression to fit the present sociopolitical landscape. Concessions are proffered to “a layer of the oppressed, while maintaining the overall structures of oppression.”