In 2012, Mitt Romney ran for president as an unabashed representative of the billionaire class. He said things like “Companies are people, my friends” with a smile that suggested he was mildly amused that anyone disagreed with that statement.
In recent years, the GOP has tried to get rid of this image. Donald Trump got the ball rolling with his first run in 2016 – when he kept talking about bad trade deals, “draining the swamp” of DC corruption and how he would bring the coal mines back to Appalachia and the factories back to Youngstown .
He was natural lying around most from Thisbut all of that rhetoric almost certainly played a part in getting him across the finish line in 2016 in the Rust Belt Swing States. Trump was defeated in 2020, but many other Republicans have grasped the idea of branding themselves “the party of the working class” as a winning strategy — even as it continues to support anti-union actions deregulation.
Take Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who delivered a fiery speech before the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) last year. “The Republican Party is not the country club party,” Cruz said in one total of this speech: “It is the party of hardworking workers.”
Anyone who is tempted to take this self-description seriously should take a look at the newly departed Platform 2022 the Texas GOP. The part that drew the most attention was her official endorsement of the right-wing conspiracy theory that Trump actually won the 2020 election. Others have noted the chilling extremism of the Social Policy Platform. For example, Current Affairs Editor Nathan J. Robinson told me that the platform “cracks down on gambling, ganja and gay marriage” and concludes “so much for freedom.”
What struck me most, however, was the dramatic contrast between the rhetoric of the “working class party” and the political substance of the platform. In Cruz’s speech at CPAC, he listed some of the groups he claimed the GOP represented. “[T]The Republican Party is the party of steel workers and construction workers and pipeline workers and cab drivers and cops and firefighters and waiters and waitresses.”
I give him “Cops”. And presumably “pipeline workers” will get jobs by approving pipeline projects over environmental objections – although I certainly wouldn’t expect the Texan GOP to side with pipeline workers who are striking over wages and working conditions.
“…the essence of the Kulturkampf is to polarize rather than unite the working class. Every position in the economic ladder is filled by people with both liberal and conservative cultural sensibilities.”
But what does Cruz’s state party intend to do for the rest of these groups?
The platform specifically calls for the repeal of both local and state minimum wage laws. It is calling for the repeal of municipal ordinances mandating “sick/family leave” for employers with municipal contracts. She opposes “card checking,” a process that would make it easier for all those construction workers, waitresses, taxi drivers, etc. to form unions by requiring a majority of workers in some factories to sign union cards — without which, it would suffice Need for a lengthy union organizing process. Oh, and it has this clear, unequivocal statement: “We support the privatization of the Social Security system.”
So if you’re a construction worker whose employer has a contract with the City of Austin, the Texas GOP doesn’t want you to have paid sick leave or family leave. If you’re a “cab driver” (now probably an Uber driver) trying to form a union so you and your fellow drivers can negotiate better wages and benefits, the party wants to make it difficult for you. If you fall into one of those categories and don’t have a nice, generous union pension and plan on relying on Social Security as you age…well, I’ll let the late George Carlin explain.
“Now,” Carlin explained in one foresighted moment of his 2005 standup special Life is worth losing, “You come for your Social Security money. They want your damn pension money. They want it back so they can give it to their crime buddies on Wall Street.”
Do not get me wrong. As I have argued with many others occasions, the pro-establishment centrists who run the Democratic Party are nothing special either. They certainly won’t do anything crazy like support Medicare for All (or even lift a finger to make card verification a reality).
But the notion that the Republicans are a “working-class party” is a bad joke. The state GOP of the largest red state in the union is demanding every possible anti-corporate and anti-worker measure, aside from reintroducing child labor in coal mines or the right of bosses to use child labor great nokta.
Some conservatives have argued that “cultural populism” can be a way to raise the “concerns of those cut off from elite power structures and institutions.” But the nature of the Kulturkampf is closed polarize, rather than uniting the working class. Every position in the economic ladder is filled by people with both liberal and conservative cultural sensibilities.
The Texas GOP is willing to inflict much very real suffering on gay and transgender people, pregnant women and other vulnerable groups to signal that they share the cultural sensibilities of their constituents.
If you’re a very conservative, working-class Texan, the spectacle of conservative cultural values being foisted on all these groups might make you stand up and cheer. But you should watch your wallet because Republicans want to lighten it.