Thursday, July 19, 2007

Disposable Class Awareness

The Beltway press is the most incredibly petty group of individuals to ever walk the Earth. In a post by Marc Ambinder at the Atlantic, he mentions why John Edwards getting a $400 haircut should have rightly been a story, while Mitt Romney spending $300 on make-up should not be a story.

There is just so much crap here it is hard to get through without putting your head into a microwave oven. So much so, that this will be two posts. The first major problem with Ambinder is the ridiculous assertion that the hair cut matters because Edwards is essentially being a hypocrite over his stance on poverty:

Why doesn't John Edwards's hair equal Mitt Romney's face paint?

The primary difference is definitional: The centerpiece of Edwards's campaign is his anti-poverty efforts; he presents himself as a dedicated messenger for the cause, and he likes expensive haircuts, bought a gimungous house, etc. etc. His credibility as a messenger comes into question when he spends money ostentatiously. (The haircut was inadvertently billed to the campaign, a spokesman later said).

First, Edwards is running for the highest office in the land and if it looked like a drunk monkey cut his hair he would be ridiculed. Second, why should someone apologize for doing well for themselves? Edwards came from working class roots but then worked hard and enjoyed enormous success. Good for him. Why is it that his spending is considered crass, but if you come from money it is okay and you can still say you understand regular folks? As Glenn Greenwald says:
Beyond that, every politician claims to understand and be devoted to the plight of the "working family." Mitt Romney and George Bush, born to great wealth, certainly make those claims, even though they haven't been anywhere near "working families" since the day they were born. Ronald Reagan was endlessly held up as the fighter for "working families" despite his personal wealth. If Edwards' wealth makes him so suspect when he claims to be devoted to the poor, why doesn't the in-born, unearned wealth of Bush and Romney -- and every other non-poor politician -- make them equally suspect as advocates for "America's working families"?

Yet, the largest problem here, is that those who represent the elite, like Ambinder, have no idea what class means in America- while Edwards has lived it. Like your racial background or your religious background, if you are coming from the working class it is not something that just magically disappears if you attain a certain status. However, for those who grow up comfortably, social class isn't something that matters. For them, it can be switched off.

This is why those that manage the public discourse can't believe that Edwards can be both wealthy and focused on class issues. Once he attained that certain financial status, he surrendered any authority on what it means to be poor in this country. But, those of us who grew up as working class know better than this. It may be harder to recognize someone who grew up needing food stamps to get by, but that doesn't mean a certain awareness about life's difficulties doesn't follow you for the rest of your days.

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