I grew up in a working class family. It was clear then, and is clear now, that the Democratic party is the only party that cares about us. Let me explain why.
Dad worked as a yard worker, handyman, shipyard builder, as a clerk in a hardware store, and then 25 years as a machine operator. I remember fondly that he would bring home extra cookies for us, the oatmeal or chocolate chip flavored with additional hints of fiberglass and the occasional spiral of metal from his lathe. Even after retirement he continued yardwork for one family while picking up part-time janitorial work for the local school system. He was my grandmother’s go-to handyman, greeted at the door on our biweekly visits with a hug and a long list of chores.
My mother babysat as a teenager and worked in a hosiery factory until us kids were born, then took care of others’ children while we were growing up. She began cleaning houses for others once we were old enough to more or less fend for ourselves. She continued to clean houses – two clients a day for up to 4 hours each, five days a week – from when we were pre-teens until her final client passed away when Mom was 87 years old. She still bakes and makes jam for the extended family and friends.
Like my parents, I always worked hard, beginning when I was old enough to push a rotary lawnmower (i.e., rotating blades, no power other than you pushing it). I did yard work, cut cord wood, worked on a farm, worked in a factory making bug zappers, worked in a warehouse selling veterinary products, worked in a bathhouse, and did whatever else I could pick up in my small town. I managed to go to college by putting all my earnings into tuition and carrying work-study the entire time. Even after graduation I mucked out fish tanks the size of swimming pools, mucked in the mud to collect samples (flashbacks to my childhood in a steamer clam town), and worked long hours day and night alongside my lab colleagues.
I’ve worked my entire life, and while I did get education that allowed me to put away some savings, I never lost my blue collar work ethic or roots.
Which is why I’m so frustrated when I hear that working class white people like myself supported Trump in 2016. Why on earth would we think that a born-rich con man who has bankrupted six times would care about us?
The last four years have proven what we should have already known – he doesn’t. He never did. And nor does the Republican party.
When Republicans got control of both houses of Congress and the White House, what did they do? They gave a $1.5 Trillion dollar tax break to the richest handful of Americans. Did we see any of that? No, our costs actually went up because money was taken away from the services that we all use like roads. Did it create jobs? No, corporate CEOs killed more jobs and used the money to artificially inflate their stock prices, benefitting them but not us. In short, Republicans hurt the working class while shifting more of our hard-earned taxpayer money to the extremely rich and the wealthiest of corporations.
This has been the pattern for the Republican party since Ronald Reagan. Shift taxpayer money to the rich while getting rid of programs that help the working class compete to better our condition.
Republicans are against Unions because Unions protect workers; Republicans protect the owners. Democrats work to protect Unions, to protect workers.
In this time of COVID we’ve seen the same. The Democratic party passed a package that included regular checks for workers who lost their jobs. The Republican-controlled, Mitch McConnell-run Senate refused to consider it or present an alternative. Democrats passed a bill that would help workers get their jobs back, extend unemployment until jobs returned, and provide for health and child care to help workers get through this crisis. Mitch McConnell’s Republican Senate refused to vote on it. Even though Democrats passed bills and agreed to work with anything the Republicans came up with, Republicans never offered an alternative. And then Republicans dishonestly blamed lack of action on Democrats.
On top of this the Republican party has been trying to throw 30 million American workers off of the health insurance we are paying for, all to increase the profit of CEOs making $40 million annually to deny health care. Republicans lie when they say the Affordable Care Act (aka, “Obamacare”) is “socialism.” Republicans call everything that uses taxpayer money to benefit workers “socialism” (it isn’t) while having no problem giving taxpayer money to the rich who barely pay taxes (if they pay taxes at all). Meanwhile, the ACA has benefitted millions of working families. Republicans don’t like it because rich insurance companies might not make as much profit. Republicans lie when they say they have a better plan. They don’t, and they haven’t even bothered to propose one in the ten years since Obamacare (the ACA) was passed. It’s just another Republican lie.
Worse, Republicans have been trying to kill Social Security and Medicare, two programs that we’ve paid into all our lives, because they want to give them to corporations to make a profit. That profit comes from reducing benefits to you while increasing your costs. Again, Republicans lie.
Republicans say they care about the working class, but that’s proven a lie every single day. In every case in the last 40 years the Republican party has shown by their consistent actions that all they care about it increasing the wealth of billionaires and corporations. If they can take taxpayer money from workers and give it to the rich, they will do it. Proven. Documented. Every single time. If they can steal taxpayer money funding public education and give it to the rich to subsidize private schools while killing public schools, they will do it. And have. Even though the courts have found it illegal, the current administration keeps doing it because the Republican party refuses to act to stop it. In fact, Republicans encourage the destruction of education.
The Democratic party has done the opposite. In the last 40 years, Democrats have always worked to improve the lives of working people. They’ve proposed programs to increase access to health care, jobs, education, retirement savings. They’ve worked to expand access to day care for children so that workers can go to jobs. Proven. Documented. If they haven’t got them all passed it’s because Mitch McConnell in the Republican-controlled Senate won’t even allow a vote. Nearly 500 Democratic House-passed bills benefiting Americans are waiting for a vote in the Senate. These bills will all help working class Americans. Mitch McConnell and the Republicans refuse to allow a vote on any of them.
The fact is that when working class people, along with the middle class and the poor, have income, one hundred percent of that income goes back into helping the local economy. The American dream is built on the spending of workers. The rich take much of their money out of the economy and hide it in tax-free shelters overseas rather than spend it here. Worker money pays for your food, housing, groceries, kids’ soccer camps and music lessons. But it does even more. The money we pay the local hardware store allows the hardware store to hire a local worker, who can then buy his daughter a bicycle, who can use it to get a paper route, and then uses that money to buy penny candy and help that store pay their bills. In contrast, money paid to the CEO of Home Depot allows him to give millions to Trump’s campaign so that Republicans will create yet another tax break for the CEO to send jobs overseas and not pay taxes.
The Republican party likes to distract workers by blaming African Americans, immigrants, Muslims, gays, and whatever “other” they can use to keep workers from realizing how Republicans are screwing us. Jobs aren’t being lost to any of these groups, they are being lost because Republicans keep making it profitable for corporations to send jobs overseas.
Consider this: Every one of the worst states in the country when it comes to jobs, education, economy, etc. are all “red” states, states that have been run by Republicans for decades. Why? Because Republicans love to shift taxpayer money to the very rich, then kill every opportunity that helps the masses in the state build a working economy. Republicans then lie about “blue” states. In fact, it is the “blue” states that pay excess into the federal budget, and that excess is sent to “red” states who take more money from the federal government than they put in.
Democrats have actually worked to keep jobs in the USA. Democrats have also worked to increase educational opportunities so workers can be trained to take on high-tech and renewable energy jobs, as well as to get the skills needed to succeed in trade jobs such as carpentry, electrical, and plumbing. Republicans have activity worked to kill these opportunities over and over again.
Workers don’t want a handout. They just want a fair chance at bettering their condition. To improve their lives through hard work with the knowledge that they are treated fairly.
All of us have the power to influence the direction of the country. The rich seem like they have more power because they have the money to influence, but the rest of us have the power because we represent 95% of America.
All we need to do is vote.
Forty percent of eligible voters did not vote in 2016. If we all vote we can make both parties listen to us.
Joe Biden grew up in working class Scranton, Pennsylvania. He’s never forgotten what it’s like to work for a living. Like my father and mother, my uncles and aunts, my extended family, and myself, he grew up with a strong work ethic and a belief that good things can come to those who are honest and hard-working. The Democratic party hasn’t lost touch with us. Republicans have proven they don’t care.
So I’m asking all of you who consider yourself working class to vote for the Democratic candidates in November. Vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for President/Vice President. Vote for the Democrat in your state-wide races like Governor and Senator. Vote for the Democrat in your local races, from Congressperson to state legislator to sheriff (and dog catcher, if that is still an elected position). Only by ridding the Republicans from office can we force them to care about us.
The Democrats aren’t perfect, but they clearly care about ALL Americans. Republicans have proven over and over again that they care only about the rich. Republicans don’t even care about the people in their own “red” states, as shown by how destitute most “red” states continue to be under Republican rule. Meanwhile, “blue” states are made up of both Democrats and Republicans, and their budgets show they care about ALL of them, not just the one. Proven daily.
I’m not a Democrat, nor am I a Republican. I’m just a guy who grew up with a blue collar work ethic and who struggled through jobs and getting an education my entire life. It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve been persistent, just like my Dad and Mom and everyone else in my family. My goal of this post is to reach out to the kind of people I grew up with and remain a part of, whether they are old friends or people I’ve never met.
Workers built this country. And we can make it work for us as well as it works for the rich by getting out to vote.
So vote. Get your family to vote. Find two working class friends who didn’t vote in 2016 and get them to vote for the Democratic party in 2020. Ask each of those two friends to find two friends of their own to vote for the Democratic party.
Voting has already started in many states, and if you can vote early, either in person or by mail, do it now. Here is some more information on how to make a plan to vote.
Together we can change the country. We can make it work for workers again. Do do so, we must all vote.
David J. Kent is a scientist, a traveler, and an Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores now. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.