Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

A brief labor day reflection

My friend who is a carpenter told me yesterday that he had been deeply offended by Alberto Gonzales's resignation speech, and particularly that bon mot about how Gonzo's worst day as Attorney General was better than his father's best day as a construction worker. Every day as a lying, fascist war criminal (as Mark put it, a characterization which I condone) is better than any day of honest work. Mark and his wife have worked hard all their lives and managed to raise three daughters, but the former Attorney General has contempt for them, and for his own father, because they struggle to make ends meet and they don't have power or social status.

Gonzo is particularly artless as a public figure, to be sure, but for once he was honest. He's just telling the truth about the conservative movement and the Republican Party. They have contempt and disdain for working people. They despise the vast majority of people who vote for them, and they laugh at them behind closed doors. Yet somehow they have been able to label liberals and Democrats as "elites" who are out of touch with average Americans, and make it stick for a big segment of the electorate.

The 2004 Bush campaign effectively attacked John Kerry for being wealthy. Think about that. One of the most privileged human beings on the planet, a lazy mediocrity who was able to attend Andover, Yale and Harvard in spite of poor grades and irresponsible behavior, purely because of his patrician family; who went on to fail at everything he tried but was repeatedly bailed out and enriched for his failures by his daddy's rich friends, and who as a politician has been an absolutely consistent champion of the ultra-wealthy and an enemy of workers and middle class professionals, is a man of the people, apparently because he speaks with a phony bumpkin accent. I can assure you, he didn't learn to talk that way at Andover.

The blame for this, of course, falls on the corporate news media. They gives us a politics of theater, of invented narratives about individual politicians' character or cultural meaning, rather than a politics that is about public policy, which is supposed to be the point, after all. Will the upcoming election be fought out on the same ground of fictitious character studies? Stay tuned.

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