November 4, 2020. I am writing this blog at 5:30 AM in my residence just outside of Philadelphia, PA (in Montgomery County). At this point, Biden has 238 possible electoral votes to Trump's 213. This may change. Perhaps it would be better if I just shut down and went back to bed. But I voted for Biden and can't stop thinking that two important presumptions among the Biden campaign managers (and possibly Biden himself) have undercut the candidate's appeal to many of the people I lived among in Philadelphia for the first 35 years of my life. (Those people, I suspect, have given strong support to Trump.)
I was born in Bridesburg, a section of Philadelphia NOT usually thought of as Middle Class. People moved elsewhere when they started making money (unless their ethnic ties were strong). My father's best civilian job, all his life, was as a machinist working for Westinghouse corporation. By "Middle Class," had he even thought about the words, he would likely have understood to be those people who were scratching out a livihg in our neighborhood as small store owners, or "professionals" like doctors or clerics, local politicians or teachers.
My dad was a union member, a WWII veteran, and a member of our active, local Democratic Party. We were not "Middle Class." His union was involved in occasional strikes against Westinghouse. (Yet, I, going through public schools for 11 years, never even heard the words, "union" or "strike," mentioned by any of my teachers, who were all considered to be "middle class".)
I thought Vice-President Biden's focus on "Rebuilding the Middle Class" would be seen by many as unduly narrow. A common charactistic of many of the "working class" people (of whom I was seen to be one, even with a college degree and working as a teacher) was an antagonistic -- yet, in those days, always polite -- attitude towards middle class people, who were believed to do less work and still make more money, because they had "connections." (People in Bridesburg who we believed to have "connections" were either occasionally middle-class, lucky by marriage, or mobsters.)
America was not built by the "middle-class" alone. Few immigrants arrive, even today, as "middle-class." No coal-miner, nor shoe-maker, nor street-sweeper, nor short-order-cook was, nor even today is, considered middle-class. Benefits promised to "rebuilding the middle-class" are likely seen by many working-class people, job-holders, church-goers, and as civic-minded as leftover energy permits, as benefits not likely designated for them. Advice: broaden the category! Don't talk about class. Talk about function, e.g. "essential workers" or "economic supporters" or "social contributors."
The second concern is easy(!) enough to address. Even now I encounter floods of the same old lies about Joe Biden on the same TV channels like clockwork. Repeated claims by Republicans that have been refuted as false by recognizable authorities should be nonetheless repeatedly challenged. One refutation is not enough. We "middle class" people, often highly educated, not infrequently fall into the comfortable presumption that saying something once, or a very few times -- even if sporadically -- is enough. It isn't! I have taught in all levels of education. Intelligently timed repetition is essential. Otherwise the many distractions of life erase the message.
I felt some urgency to blog about this now while it is still likely that Biden will win. I hope he does. But winning presents a danger that sifting the ashes of failure might be more likely to avoid. People who win are more tempted to hubris. What would be overlooked in a Biden win might be the reasons an expected tidal wave success became an actual tight race.
For some other related thoughts see Bullshit: Common Currency in Public Discussion?.
Also see Living in a Cloud of Buzzwords? Two possible remedies.
Cordially, -- EGR