Posted by Lexington Green on September 15th, 2010 (All posts by Lexington Green)
This is an addendum to Shannon’s post.
It occurs to me that the whole Obama phenomenon and the vitriolic attack on Gov. Palin are two sides of the same status anxiety.
Globalization, as it got started, hammered wages in the USA in manufacturing, by exposure to low wage competitors in China and in Mexico, as well as moving the Mexican workforce here. This made white collar workers relatively more wealthy, it gave them domestic servants, it held down inflation so their wages stayed steady while new and better products were coming online, and it did not initially subject them to competition, and they did not initially face job insecurity anything like what blue collar workers faced. As a result they were able to engage in all kinds of luxury purchasing and status posturing. Stylish domestic decor, a refined taste in imported wine, and other SWPL, for example, were noted and status ranking assigned with exquisite care. David Brooks is very good on this status signalling, in his book Bobos in Paradise. This was all flattering to white collar workers, many of whom had non-quantitative degrees, especially law degrees. They had money in their pockets and they had nice stuff in their homes, and foreign-born domestic help. Life looked pretty good. Looking down on the majority of their fellow citizens was a big part of their identity. But then, all of a sudden, they began to feel the winds of change blowing, too. Their jobs became insecure, or disappeared. They began to see that their university educations did not mean a one way ticket to affluence. This terrifying prospect has opened up and getting worse at the same time that blue collar America has had a chance to adjust, and may even be better positioned to handle the ongoing globalization, and other technological changes that are coming along at an accelerating rate.
Obama promised these very worried people a lifeboat of government protection for their government jobs or jobs that rely on government regulation and government support.
This process of ransacking the country to keep up this group’s income and self-image was clothed in a vague utopian golden cloud, which affirmed their self-image.
Mr. Obama confirms and flatters this large segment of America in its self-evaluation of its own worth and importance.
Greed is a powerful force, but pride is even stronger. Obama tapped into both.
Add this group, highly mobilized, to a much larger group who were sick of Mr. Bush and the Republicans and were willing to give the keys to the other side for a while, and you get the winning Obama coalition of 2008. This larger group was willing to shrug off the more silly aspects of Obama cult behavior, and listened to the centrist noises he occasionally made en route to the White House.
Gov. Palin is a living, breathing repudiation of everything Obama’s core supporters believes in and want the future to be. She is a vision of the future that is a nightmare for these people. If someone like her can rise to power and importance and influence, someone has absolutely none of the credentials they worship, none of the tastes they cultivate, none of the supposed sophistication and irony they prize, none of the political correctness they dare not transgress, no fear of social ostracism for not being what they are and aspire to be. If she is where the country is going, then everything they have spent their lives doing and built their lives around is shown up to be the bad, losing bet that it so obviously was.
A hurricane of hatred was the only possible response.
So far the hurricane has bashed away unremittingly, yet the horrible specter of Gov. Palin has only grown bigger and stronger and more influential.