Michael Lind: ‘Only Institution Where Republicans Have Any Power Left in Society Is Elective Government’
Conservatives must not shun the last institution — elective government — within which they have some power, said Michael Lind, author of The New Class War: Saving Democracy from the Managerial Elite and professor of practice at the University of Texas in Austin.
Left-wing and partisan Democrat dominance of academia, news media, and the corporate elite have made elected office the last remnant of conservative and Republican power, Lind determined on Thursday’s edition of SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Tonight with host Rebecca Mansour and special guest host John Hayward.
The Republican Party is undergoing a “big crisis of rethinking” as a result of its loss of power across arenas of power and influence, said Lind.
“Basically, the Republicans have lost the intellectual class [and] the academics,” said Lind. “They’re overwhelmingly Democratic. Journalists [and] media [are] overwhelmingly Democratic. Increasingly, the corporate elite — which used to be kind of country club Republican — the newer generation, they’re Democrats.”
Lind added, “So basically the only institution where Republicans have any power left in society is elective government.”
Lind warned Republicans against simplistic sloganeering regarding hostility towards government.
Lind remarked, “If you have a party that has this 1980s message when the Republican Party was the country club party, saying, ‘Oh, government’s bad. The market’s good.’ Well, that aligned its interests with the Republican Party when most corporate executives were Republicans, but they’re going to be Democrats in the future, right?”
“Why would you destroy the only institution that your constituents have any say in of all national institutions, which is the government, where conservatives and Republicans and populists can still elect people?” asked Lind. “They’re not going to get anybody on the board of a tech company. They’re not going to have any say in university governance. The only thing they can do is send some people to Congress or maybe the White House.”
Lind continued, “And then when you send them there, is your conservative ideology going to tell them they can’t do anything?”
Declining economic and social circumstances for the working class in the modern era relative to the 1950s and 1960s should compel conservatives to reconsider certain public policies, Lind said.
“Conservatives, as they become more of a blue-collar working-class party, they’re going to have to get over their hatred of the New Deal,” Lind stated, “because the Roosevelt Democrats were mostly socially conservative, but they used government policies to artificially create this post-war [middle class]. What we call the ‘middle class’ is actually a post-war prosperous working class.”
30-year fixed Federal Housing administration loans helped create a post-war middle class, Lind said.
“Only rich people could afford buying houses before the New Deal,” Lind stated. “Everybody else rented. That was a deliberate policy to create a home-owning, property-owning mass middle class in the suburbs. The family wage didn’t just come out of the market. It was the result of unions and the government forcing employers — particularly the big industrial employers — to pay a usually a male worker enough to support himself, a wife, and two or three kids.”
Lind continued, “Two people working can only afford half of what one person could afford in the 1950s and the 1960s, but it’s a very sensitive issue because it gets into the question of sex roles and gender roles and the division of labor in the family, and it’s always been very divisive because if both parents work, who is going to raise the kids?”
Depressed wages brought on by mass immigration has contributed to the establishment of servant class for the elite, Lind assessed.
Lind remarked, “Who are the low-wage workers going to be, and implicitly, the answer is, ‘It’s going to be low-wage immigrants, often poorly paid immigrant women.’ In other words, servants. Upper-class aristocratic and bourgeois families always had the nanny and the au pair and Mary Poppins raising their children, and this neoliberal vision is, ‘Well, everyone will have a Mary Poppins.’ So here’s the basic economic problem with that: if you pay Mary Poppins — who’s raising your family’s kids — enough that she’s middle class, that’s just exorbitantly expensive.”
Lind went on, “The only way that system works is it Mary Poppins is paid poverty wages. And whether the government pays them or nonprofits pay them or the family pays Mary Poppins directly, she can’t make that much money if the system is going to work right.”
“From World War II to all the way up until late 20th century, the working-class [and] middle-class people would not get direct wage subsidies or welfare of any kind from the government,” Lind explained. “The necessities were affordable and [with] a decent living family wage, you didn’t need government help.”
Lind noted that politicians have redefined prosperity since the post-WWII years to include government subsidies for individuals, including tax credits.
“So what have you got?” asked Lind, “Well, you’ve got financial subsistence. You’ve got financial sustainability, but you don’t have financial independence, right? You’re dependent on the government. … You don’t have that independence that comes from basically having a paycheck and then that buys most of your necessities.”
Lind reflected on Henry Ford’s 1914 decision to double workers’ wages to five dollars per day at the Ford Motor Company in Detroit, MI.
“Classically, the definition of Fordism was, the worker can afford to own and purchase that which he makes — it can be a car, it can be a radio, whatever,” noted Lind. “In the 1950s, American automobile workers … could afford through installment payments to buy the cars that rolled off their assembly lines.”
Lind added, “The Chinese workers in manufacturing mills, they cannot afford the products they’re making for the most part. It’s a post-Fordist system.”
“You can’t have a middle class without that kind of Fordism in an industrial economy,” warned Lind, “and you’re also moving into a service economy, so again the question is — getting back to child care — my question always, when I was a kid watching Gone with the Wind, was, ‘Who takes care of Mammy’s kids?’”
Many contemporary service sector jobs are “outsourced domestic chores,” Lind assessed, listing “restaurants, cooking, and food delivery.”
Today’s service sector workers often cannot afford the very services they provide as Ford’s automobile manufacturing employees could in the early 20th century, Lind said.
Lind proposed, “The question you have to ask yourself is, ‘Okay, if we have a middle-class society, can the carry-out delivery person make enough money to afford carry-out? Can the maid make enough money to have her own maid or his own maid?’ Well, clearly the answer is, ‘No.’”
Maids were a rarity in Lind’s family’s neighborhood of the 1960s and 1970s, he recalled, contrasting his younger years with today’s ubiquity of maids and other home workers.
“Thanks largely to mass immigration and low wages combined — and desperation by a lot of other people in the neighborhood where I grew up — there are teams of gardeners and people have maids and nannies and they have cooks and all this,” Lind said.
Lind added, “It’s like the Old South. So we’re reverting back to kind of an aristocratic society where there is an elite and then most of the jobs are actually directly or indirectly being servants to the people with the money.”
Broadening Republican appeal to the working class requires calibration of public policy to help the working class, Lind advised.
“I’m asked for advice by conservatives and Democrats and Republicans and liberals and others over the years and my basic response is, ‘Be on your own side,’” Lind remarked. “Basically everything in politics involves [government]. There’s going to be a government policy, right?”
Lind continued, “There’s going to be some kind of child care policy. There’s going to be some kind of, you know, wage policy. The question is, ‘Who benefits and who is hurt by it?’ And you let the battle begin, and if you represent the working class, you want a family policy and a wage policy that is good for the working class.”
Lind concluded, “If you represent working-class voters, you’re going to support different policies than if you represent their corporate boards in the C Suite.”
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