consultants are sandburs

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Jeff Johnson gets caught doing what too many get away with daily.

You run, you say you support policy that benefits the middle class. It is a cliche of Politics 101.

And of course the term "middle class" is an empty glass, needing to be filled.

There are those who must labor to live and keep a family intact, whether with or without government assistance at some point in their lives. There are those who can live by the income their capital earns.

That makes two classes - mandatory laborers, and the wealthy. So what's "middle" when there really are only two classes and one is made up of the 5% who own it all and annually haul in it all.

"Middle" in such a scenario are those who during a working life can manage to save sufficient sums to hope to be able to retire and not depend upon social security income in old age. You get it, but it is not the crucial link between survival and disintegration of life and comfort.

That is less a matter of income level at any point in time, than in habit and fortune over time.

So the Johnson "no clue" response is not as devastating as it might appear; EXCEPT for the politician will to always say "middle class" to mean us - you and me - cut better in society than "the lower class." If only two classes, and you are not in the upper 5%, Joe, you are in the lower class and "middle class" is largely a fiction that makes political decision making harder for voters than if honesty were more frequently used.

What Johnson did was to break ranks with the politician class, almost admitting "the middle class" is an election time fictional usage for the more fortunate of the laboring class, by his "no idea" remark.

Note how it is a politician, Brodkorb, who is most distressed in appearances, by Johnson's debate comment. The shibolith of "middle class" getting overdue consideration is not a bad thing.

Links: Brodkorb, here and here. The DFL's offensive negative soundbite ad/video on the Johnson commentary is online, here. A simple google, Jeff Johnson "no clue" will get hits.

Brodkorb wrapped up one commentary,

The millionaire incumbent, who Johnson and his campaign staff have labeled as “unaware” and “incompetent”, correctly answered the question about the middle class in Minnesota. In his answer to one question, the 67-year-old governor, who graduated from Yale, showed he was better able to understand the middle class, than his 47-year-old challenger, who lives in a middle-class house in the suburbs.

Even if Johnson was not able to offer statistics (which he should have been able to do) about the middle class, he should have offered himself as an example of the middle class and explained why the Ivy League-educated, millionaire incumbent standing next him couldn’t possibly relate to the middle class. But he didn’t and Dayton showed why Johnson’s “unaware” and “incompetent” questions are aimed at the wrong candidate.

Republicans should focus on the middle class beyond just the next 16 days, but they need to look for someone other than Johnson to be their messenger, as he removed himself today as a credible spokesman.

So while avoiding like a third rail, any concrete characterization of "the middle class" Brodkorb's homilies about "lives in a middle class home in the suburbs," define him better than they define Johnson. In a less of a dirge of a post, Brodkorb quote a Johnson campaign flak:

In a statement from the campaign, Johnson’s communications director Jeff Bakken said:

“Mark Dayton was born into wealth and has lived most of his life off a South Dakota trust fund. Jeff Johnson was born and raised in Detroit Lakes, his dad delivered bread to supermarkets for a living, and Jeff has earned every dollar he’s made.

If Mark Dayton and his attack machine want to get into a debate with Jeff Johnson over who better understands the middle class, bring it on.”

There is in there the tacit admission of the fictional nature of "middle class" rhetoric, daily labor as a survival necessity vs capacity to live off earning of capital being the distinction line between the laboring class and the privileged wealthy being the two things that matter being clear in the statement, etc.

Perhaps "middle class" is such a political cliche because it is used to mean poor folk who are not so demoralized by the way the deck is stacked against laborers, that they nonetheless vote while getting little to nothing back from the politics of lobbyist servicing at the expense of everybody else. Since they vote, it is de rigueur to pander to them for their vote when an election is near, and to screw them the remainder of the time and Brodkorb's hollowest but most telling sentence in it all, hence, is:

Republicans should focus on the middle class beyond just the next 16 days, but they need to look for someone other than Johnson to be their messenger, as he removed himself today as a credible spokesman.

The world of cliche thought underlying that single sentence paragraph is staggering.

And Republicans are simply worse at pandering around within the "middle class" lie set than the Democrats; who at least tell you, for instance, they will tax the rich. At least they give you that chance at a hope, while the Republicans pull tax the rich off the table as wholly Verboten. The Democrats in Minnesota last session gave a token tax goose to the rich; with the Republicans having given you Reagan tax cuts for the wealthy followed by Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, and the non-wealthy somehow can still be conned from time to time into voting for such rascals. As if they were the lesser rascals.

Any reader offering a definition of "middle class" in the context of "lower" and "upper" classes is welcome to include it in a comment. I doubt any reader can, or will, cogently define "middle class" but if we are to dump a big load on Jeff Johnson; have we a sensible definition to offer in doing so?

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