The Enduring Cognitive Dissonance of the American Left
How Democrats use of the term ‘middle class’ to win elections while categorizing people in terms that negate the very idea of a middle class.
I’m sorry to report that I’ve been felled by a nasty malady (of the non-COVID variety). I didn’t want to bail on today’s newsletter, but I also don’t feel well enough to churn out something that would be worth your valuable time. So instead I’m publishing an excerpt from my underrated second book, The Tyranny of Cliches. While it came out a few years ago, much of it is relevant today, including my chapter on the middle class and the cognitive dissonance of the American left. This is a trimmed down version. I hope to be recovered enough for the Friday G-File. If I’m not, I’ve got bigger problems.
So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew,
The African and Native American, the Sioux,
The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek,
The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh,
The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher.
—Maya Angelou, “On the Pulse of Morning”
What do all of these folks say? I’m not too sure. But you can figure that out for yourself if you want to by reading Maya Angelou’s “Inaugural Poem,” delivered at Bill Clinton’s swearing-in as the 42nd president of the United States. This passage serves as a less than ideal example of the left’s obsession with identity politics—the idea that we are all locked into our status as gay, straight, black, white, etc. But there are three reasons why I’ve chosen it. First, it’s notable that at the inauguration of a president of the United States, the poem listed just about every flavor of humanity ever captured in a Benetton ad, but never once mentioned Americans. Second, it highlights the intense cognitive dissonance of the American lleft.
And third: It rhymes, which is nice.
Let’s circle back to number two. Bill Clinton won the Oval Office in large part because he refused to fall into the same trap as so many Democrats before him. Namely, the Democratic Party had become (and largely remains) the tail on the dog of special interests, particularly labor unions, racial grievance peddlers, feminists, limousine liberals, and the rest of the usual suspects. He cast himself as a different kind of Democrat, who wanted to “end welfare as we know it” and offer a “hand up not a hand out.” He attacked the brilliantly self-parodying rapper Sister Souljah, distanced himself from Jesse Jackson Jr., and, most importantly, talked relentlessly about the “middle class.”