For a country traditionally priding itself on hard work it never ceases to amaze me that the modern incarnation hates the workforce so much.
As the United States moved from its colonial agrarian & trade economy into becoming an industrialized nation it faced down some cold, hard truths about how it was built and continuing to mature. In a very over-simplified view the first incarnation was decreased use of the indentured servitude system. Next a major reckoning came with the Civil War and the outlawing of outright slavery. After, the industrial sector faced the sometimes violent organization of its workforce into unions fighting for better wages, reasonable hours and safer working conditions. Eventually, Government codified some of these demands into the foundation of what would become labor law, which was also influenced in part by the Women’s Liberation Movement and the Black Equal Rights movement that followed.
And then the post-Goldwater era of the Republican Party happened. I’m never sure if it’s really Pro-Business as they like to call it or simply Anti-Labor.
The Russian Revolution of 1917 was built upon a general disenfranchisement with Tsarist Russia’s famine and economic collapse during the first World War. The resulting provisional governments of Soviet Russia aspired to the utopian ideals of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in the hopes of creating a “workers paradise” where every person would flourish. The anti-monarchist and leftist pro-labor movement was not isolated to Russia. Several of its neighboring regions, including Ukraine (consolidating the Tzarist Russian Providence and the abdicated region of Poland after the Russian-Polish War), Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia (which formed initially into TSFSR), and the Slavic region known as Belarus (consolidating the Tzarist Russian Providence and old the Lithuanian Kingdom) aligned themselves similarly. In 1922 the regionally formally aligned itself into what became the early USSR under Vladimir Lenin’s rule. As a political theorist, Lenin adapted the Marxist ideas into his own ideology seeking to create a temporary dictatorship of the proletariat as political prelude to the establishment of socialism and the complete “freedom of the worker.”
The idealist theory went awry when the dictatorship aspect of the so-called transition to socialism was put into the hands of the tyrannical Joseph Stalin. His vision of social, political and economic reform was less about the proletariat, despite is rhetoric, and more about the consolidation of his own power which was made increasingly possible through his victories in WWII on the Eastern Front. Post-war, Stalin refused to conceded the occupied land on the Eastern Front, annexing several countries while establishing puppet regimes in others. The US was still engaged with Japan in the Pacific Theatre and the rest of the European allies were unable militarily to respond to Stalin’s threats and essentially ceded the Eastern Bloc setting the foundation for the Cold War.
The propaganda machine engaged during WWII to manipulate American public opinion remained intact, and thus shifted it’s ire from the now defeated Nazi Germany to the Red Threat of Russia. A common tool used was to broadly disparage socialism and communism as theories as being fundamentally incomparable with the American interpretation of democracy and capitalism. The reality was that what Stalin instilled in the USSR was a military dictatorship that hardly resembled Lennin’s vision, forget about the underlying concepts of Marx and others, where the fundamental idea of dictatorship of the proletariat is to create a state in which the proletariat, or the working class, has control of political power.
Most Westerners had no idea that Stalinism and socialism were not synonymous. Nor did they care. They just knew that our enemy was the USSR and anything our enemy embraced socially, economically or politically must be bad. Every aspect of the differences between the USSR and the USA had to be exploited in order battle the Red Threat. As the arms race aspect of the Cold War escalated so did the absolutes of the propaganda resulting in the weaponization of fear, more commonly referred to as the Red Scare.
Thus, among other aspects of the Soviet Union to be propagandized the idea of brining equality to the proletariat was politically twisted into a bastardization of the Robbin Hood idea where the righteous rich were being robbed by the lazy poor in an unfair redistribution of wealth.
By as early as mid-century the portrait of the American worker was suburban middle class. Having benefited from the influence of Unions and a booming post-War economy driven by a lack of worldwide competition the average American not only didn’t think they could relate to the concept of the proletariat but had convinced themselves they were mearly in transition to being part of the righteous rich.
The combination of not perceiving being oppressed and the propaganda against all things Socialist eroded the idea of worker’s rights that were foundational to the American transition into the world power it had become. What remained was a populous loathesome of certain ideas because they could be even remotely construe as communist or socialist or Russian that they would actively hurt themselves in the process.
And, that’s exactly what happened.
In parallel, the Republican Party was in transition during this time. Formerly a progressive party several factors began moving it rightward to becoming conservative including the GOP embracing the Second Red Scare and Joseph McCarthy’s antics within the House Un-American Activities Committee, the welcoming of the Dixicrat movement as former Southern Democrats abandoned their party as it moved more liberal, the backing of Robert A. Taft’s incarnation of the Conservative Coalition against the New Deal coalition, and empowering of Barry Goldwater’s approach to conservatism (often called “extremist” at the time) over New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller’s more moderate vision of party traditionalism.
That last point is vital because although Goldwater would go on to lose the 1964 Presidential campaign many of his foundational strategies were employed successfully later by Nixon and Reagan as the core of the party moved increasingly right during a time when the American Psyche was fragile. Shaken from the effects of the Viet Nam War, the increasing economic struggles precipitated by international competition, and the effects of the Civil Rights Act, the Gun Control Act, Roe V. Wade, etc. swaths of voters that were already feeling disenfranchised by what they perceived the United States as becoming were able to be manipulated by Republican message stoking those fears and anxieties.
The tactic of focusing on singular issues for voters allowed the Republicans to target messages heavily weighted in “us” versus “them” depicting the opposing view as “UnAmerican” in the same way that post-War propaganda generally approached attacking the USSR as the anthesis of American values. The “them” in these new propaganda campaigns though wasn’t always explicitly Democrats as a political party. Rather, it was a more tacit caricature of who non-conservative people were perceived to be. These fictional narriatives played into both the insecurities and biases of certain segments of voters at the time.
For example Republicans didn’t like the societal safety net programs that were designed to help the working poor. They attacked them as being vestiges of socialism where your hard earned money was subsidizing people who didn’t deserve it. It was no coincidence that the so-called welfare queen imagery conjured up was that of urban blacks on a permanent vacation. It didn’t matter that the programs were heavily used by rural whites or that the majority of documented abuses were from suburban white enclaves because the problems with these programs actually lie with someone else. Thus, all of a sudden programs that were fundamental to supporting the plight of working class, such as Medicade, unemployment, public housing, etc. were now demonized by some of the very workers they were meant to help. Of course, it didn’t hurt that these were progressive programs that the modern Democratic Party supported so undermining these programs undermined the public perception of the party and its voters.
Same could be said for Unions. They were attacked as precursors to socialism where hard workers were forced to give up their individual accomplishment in order to subsidize their lazy coworkers. It was no coincidence that the so-called lazy coworker was depicted as an urban black always out on lunch break. It didn’t matter that blacks were hardly ever union represented in the workforce or that much of the abuse of union powers, such as embezzlement of funds, taking bribes, etc. was perpetuated by suburban whites because the problem with unions was framed as being someone else. Thus, all of a sudden labor unions that were once the bastion of representing the working classes needs ere now demonized by some of the very workers they were meant to help. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Unions aligned, in part, to Democratic Party so undermining what they represented undermined the public perception of the party and its voters.
The same could be said for Labor Laws. Where once minimum wage, safety regulations, hour
By the time Gingrich-led Republicans overtook congress in the 1990s the damage was already done. The Koch-led Americans For Prosperity crafted the Tea-Party movement simply capitalized on decades of built up hatrd based on racism, sexism