Shutdown: Who Is the Voice of the People?

One of the conceits of our liberal and lefty friends is that they are the Voice of the People, the voice of the marginalized who, but for the political activism of the left, would never be heard.

This conceit was probably closest to the truth when Educated Youth began advocating for the working class in the 19th century. In any industrial city, the workers, I imagine, far outnumbered the middle class until at least the middle of the 20th century. What the workers wanted, was… Yes, what exactly did they want? Free education for their children, certainly; the right to organize labor unions. Wage and hour laws, for sure. But I don’t think the workers were clamoring for cradle-to-grave social insurance. That was the idea of Educated Youth, implemented first by the reactionary Bismarck in Germany to steal a march on the Social Democrats.

What about the Civil Rights era? Here, all of a sudden, the Voice of the People was muted, and the whole affair was cast in moral terms. That’s because the southern Negroes were a minority; if it was just a matter of The People, we would never have had a Civil Rights Act, because The People at the time were white working-class and lower middle-class GIs from World War II, children of immigrants. By the way, we still have the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931 on the books. The idea there was to discriminate against blacks from the South competing for construction jobs in the northern cities.

Because the moral case for civil rights worked so well in the Sixties, our liberal and lefty friends have revised and extended it to cover all manner of political issues. That is why we live today in such a tangle of identity politics and moral witch-hunts. With every new issue that our liberal and lefty friends advocate they are trying to combine the Voice of the People notion with the blacks-and-civil-rights morality play that worked so well in the 1960s.

You may have noticed that our liberal and lefty friends keep getting blindsided by The People. They got blindsided in the 1970s by Richard Nixon and the “silent majority.” They got blindsided in the 1990s when the voters gave the Congress to the Republicans in 1994, courtesy of HillaryCare. They got blindsided by the Tea Party of 2009-10 that revolted against ObamaCare and Obama’s “fundamental transformation.” They got blindsided by the “deplorables” of 2016.

Golly, do you think there is a pattern here?

I reckon the pattern is that the ruling class doesn’t listen to the Voice of the People, but in the end The People won’t take No for an answer.

Let’s look at a few issues in which the ruling class is determined to not to listen to the Voice of the People: Immigration. The People are obviously against it, especially illegal immigration, because immigrants compete for their jobs. But our ruling class and the activist community have spent the last half century trying to shut The People up. Another issue is health care. When you want to help the poor with a big new government program, wrote Irving Kristol many moons ago, you have to deal in the middle class, as in Social Security, Medicare, free education. But when the middle class already has health insurance, even though it grumbles about it all the time, then the middle class is not going to take kindly to HillaryCare, ObamaCare, or Bernie-AOC’s Medicare for All. A third issue is the environment. I suspect that if you asked the Democrat-voting Latinos of California whether they were in favor of sky-high housing prices to protect the environment, and sky-high energy prices to transition from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy, they would vote in favor of wall-to-wall housing and rock-bottom energy prices. But nobody ever asked them, The People.

Nobody asked the gilets jaunes, the yellow vests of France, or the Brexiteers of Britain, or the deplorables of the United States what they thought either.

Photo credit: Thomas Bresson

Perhaps we can get to a better politics by listening to Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) talking about the voters:

“...They want a job, everybody does. They want their kids to get a good education. And they want to live in a safe community,” he said. “And so what I did was I showed up, and I showed up and I talked to everybody.”

He’s been listening, you might say, to the Voice of the People.

On the question of the shutdown and The Wall we may observe that President Trump is arguing for the right for The People “to live in a safe community.” Our Democratic friends seem to be arguing from the “immorality” of denying anyone the right to come to the United States.

I wonder which argument will decide the present government shutdown?

Christopher Chantrill @chrischantrill runs the go-to site on US government finances, usgovernmentspending.com. Also get his American Manifesto and his Road to the Middle Class.

One of the conceits of our liberal and lefty friends is that they are the Voice of the People, the voice of the marginalized who, but for the political activism of the left, would never be heard.

This conceit was probably closest to the truth when Educated Youth began advocating for the working class in the 19th century. In any industrial city, the workers, I imagine, far outnumbered the middle class until at least the middle of the 20th century. What the workers wanted, was… Yes, what exactly did they want? Free education for their children, certainly; the right to organize labor unions. Wage and hour laws, for sure. But I don’t think the workers were clamoring for cradle-to-grave social insurance. That was the idea of Educated Youth, implemented first by the reactionary Bismarck in Germany to steal a march on the Social Democrats.

What about the Civil Rights era? Here, all of a sudden, the Voice of the People was muted, and the whole affair was cast in moral terms. That’s because the southern Negroes were a minority; if it was just a matter of The People, we would never have had a Civil Rights Act, because The People at the time were white working-class and lower middle-class GIs from World War II, children of immigrants. By the way, we still have the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931 on the books. The idea there was to discriminate against blacks from the South competing for construction jobs in the northern cities.

Because the moral case for civil rights worked so well in the Sixties, our liberal and lefty friends have revised and extended it to cover all manner of political issues. That is why we live today in such a tangle of identity politics and moral witch-hunts. With every new issue that our liberal and lefty friends advocate they are trying to combine the Voice of the People notion with the blacks-and-civil-rights morality play that worked so well in the 1960s.

You may have noticed that our liberal and lefty friends keep getting blindsided by The People. They got blindsided in the 1970s by Richard Nixon and the “silent majority.” They got blindsided in the 1990s when the voters gave the Congress to the Republicans in 1994, courtesy of HillaryCare. They got blindsided by the Tea Party of 2009-10 that revolted against ObamaCare and Obama’s “fundamental transformation.” They got blindsided by the “deplorables” of 2016.

Golly, do you think there is a pattern here?

I reckon the pattern is that the ruling class doesn’t listen to the Voice of the People, but in the end The People won’t take No for an answer.

Let’s look at a few issues in which the ruling class is determined to not to listen to the Voice of the People: Immigration. The People are obviously against it, especially illegal immigration, because immigrants compete for their jobs. But our ruling class and the activist community have spent the last half century trying to shut The People up. Another issue is health care. When you want to help the poor with a big new government program, wrote Irving Kristol many moons ago, you have to deal in the middle class, as in Social Security, Medicare, free education. But when the middle class already has health insurance, even though it grumbles about it all the time, then the middle class is not going to take kindly to HillaryCare, ObamaCare, or Bernie-AOC’s Medicare for All. A third issue is the environment. I suspect that if you asked the Democrat-voting Latinos of California whether they were in favor of sky-high housing prices to protect the environment, and sky-high energy prices to transition from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy, they would vote in favor of wall-to-wall housing and rock-bottom energy prices. But nobody ever asked them, The People.

Nobody asked the gilets jaunes, the yellow vests of France, or the Brexiteers of Britain, or the deplorables of the United States what they thought either.

Photo credit: Thomas Bresson

Perhaps we can get to a better politics by listening to Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) talking about the voters:

“...They want a job, everybody does. They want their kids to get a good education. And they want to live in a safe community,” he said. “And so what I did was I showed up, and I showed up and I talked to everybody.”

He’s been listening, you might say, to the Voice of the People.

On the question of the shutdown and The Wall we may observe that President Trump is arguing for the right for The People “to live in a safe community.” Our Democratic friends seem to be arguing from the “immorality” of denying anyone the right to come to the United States.

I wonder which argument will decide the present government shutdown?

Christopher Chantrill @chrischantrill runs the go-to site on US government finances, usgovernmentspending.com. Also get his American Manifesto and his Road to the Middle Class.