Alfred P. Doblin is the Editorial Editor of the Record of Bergen and the surrounding counties. His writing is strong, with few of the over-the-top emotions that are often on display over at the Star-Ledger. He appears to try for balance, for persuasion instead of name-calling.
But we fear he is trapped, as so many others are trapped, in a perception that is based more on geography and on class than on ideology or party identity.
In his recent column -- "GOP at the crossroads" -- Mr. Doblin falls back on the tired values of an old religion. Using terms like "mainstream right... extreme right... hard-line conservatives... social issues," we feel that he misses the lessons of the 2016 presidential election.
And who are the people Mr. Doblin turns to in his column to illuminate his argument? All members of the ruling class: former Governor Christie Whitman, global lobbyist Mike DuHaime, and Senator Kevin O'Toole Esq.
From them we get the same, tired prescriptions we get after every presidential election -- win or lose: “(Republicans) can no longer be defined both statewide and nationally as the older white man’s party and expect to succeed (even though they just did)... (Republicans) have to do a lot more to attract females, to attract African-Americans, Asians, Hispanics. We have to be far more diverse than we have in the past.”
The perspective of these people is one of class. They are far, far more richer and more prosperous than the average American or the average Republican. When they speak of diversity it is the false diversity of gender, color, ethnicity, or sexual identity. What is studiously ignored is class.
In his book, White-Collar Government: The Hidden Role of Class in Economic Policy Making, Duke University's Nick Carnes points out that while upwards of 65 percent of citizens are "working class" and 54 percent are employed in a blue-collar occupation, just 2 percent of the members of Congress and 3 percent of state legislators held blue-collar jobs at the time of their election. How about some diversity?
Donald Trump's campaign saw through the false political divide of Democrat and Republican to the vast economic and social divide that is the truer measure of America today. Authors as diverse as George Packer of the New Yorker (The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America) to Charles Murray (Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010) to Chris Hedges (Days of Destruction Days of Revolt) to David Brooks (BoBos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There) have written about this, with Brooks actually employing Donald Trump as an example of what the "new upper class" finds unfashionable. In a prescient piece of writing, Ralph Nader gave an outline of what was coming when his book (Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State) was released in the summer of 2014.
On election night, MSNBC's Chris Matthews came closest to the mark, with this surprising exchange:
Of course, the ruling class will try to fit what happened back into the perception that they are most comfortable with -- and so we get the familiar postscripts about "old white men" and "diversity" of the surface variety. It is an exercise in virtue signaling, whereby one member of the ruling class assures his "goodness" to another.
White collar America spends its time concerned about issues like the availability of condoms to Ivy Leaguers. Such concerns are the marks of privilege. Blue collar America, working class America, worries about foreclosure, about housing, about having a job, about getting out of debt, about having enough to give their children the life that they've enjoyed. With the greatest respect to Christie Whitman and Mike DuHaime and Kevin O'Toole, they don't have those problems. So relieved of such pressing concerns, they can float above the mass and think sweet thoughts, reaffirming their "goodness" to one another.
The lack of shared experience places much of our ruling class, and those who aspire to it, into a kind of "bubble" -- secure and apart from the mass. Senator O'Toole's statement to Editor Doblin that what he regretted most was not voting for same-sex marriage is a symptom of that "bubble." The Senator is a wise and judicious man and surely, if he thought about it a bit, he would have said that his greatest regret was not being able to cut property taxes down to a sane level. For it is property taxes, a major driver of foreclosure and of homelessness, that is the greatest concern to the greatest many.
The idea that some Americans exist in "bubble" communities that vastly outstrip neighboring zip codes in status, wealth, cultural influence, and corporate/political power is not new. Although now it seems to be going mainstream, filtering into "pop" culture. Consider this recent skit from Saturday Night Live:
Wealthy professionals, like Al Doblin, should be aware of their class bias. As a journalist, great care should be taken to seek out and include the opinions of genuine members of the working class for balance -- and not just members of the ruling class who happen to be labeled "diverse" for whatever reason