What Is Blue Collar?


Though I am pretty obnoxiously Liberal, I often check in on “The Rush Limbaugh Show,” which I’ve listened to since I was a teenager.  Call me crazy, but I’ve always believed that you can’t denounce something unless or until you know what it is.  It bothered me from day one that this argument of “I don’t want to hear it” had been used against my hero, Malcolm X, in the beginning, and so I never wanted to be one of those people.  So every now and then, I listen.

For the past several weeks, Rush Limbaugh has been supporting Donald Trump because of the way Trump’s broken the establishment narrative – by the media, by the pundits, by the Democratic and Republican parties – and remained the leading Presidential candidate.  No matter how crude and idiotic Trump seems to get, he won’t go away, and looks very much like he’s going to win the White House.   Rush loves it.  He’s been waiting for this a long time, and according to Rush, so has everybody else.  Rush’s belief is that Donald Trump has revealed that being a Conservative doesn’t primarily, or even necessarily mean believing in the principles of limited government, low taxes, and religion as the solution to societal woes rather than tax-funded social programs.  Conservatism just means opposing Liberalism, or “tyrants,” as he sees them, of any kind, the way he perceives America’s “founding fathers” opposed the British government.  It’s a stance that’s made him very wealthy, because it speaks directly to the psyche of angry, blue collar white males.

The funny thing is, so does Bernie Sanders.

There was a guest on NPR affiliate KCRW’s “Press Play” who wrote an article about his day going first to a Trump, and then to a Bernie Sanders rally in one day.  He observed that although Trump was the ultimate capitalist success story, and Sanders demonized capitalism itself, the audience essentially had the same mentality: both wanted a candidate who could not be “bought,” were angry, and very “Blue collar.”

What I’ve come to realize is that what’s going on in America is deeper than Liberal v. Conservative, as most things this expansive tend to be.  I thinks that the great innovation that made America America was Henry Ford’s invention of the assembly line, not primarily because it made cars into a major consumer product, but because it modernized the tradition of taking labor that the typical uneducated worker could do, making it accessible to everybody.  Just as in the olden days, when mass farming would require hundreds of workers doing field word by hand, the modern American economy upgraded that concept and applied it to the creation of artificial goods that could be sold, and required hundreds of little jobs that those blue collar workers could occupy, doing a small task that added up to a greater whole.  This made it possible for blue collar workers to find meaningful employment easily, supporting themselves and their families.

The thing is, these kinds of jobs eroded over time.  First we went away from the agricultural-based economy.  Then machines started doing the work of people.  Then outside competitors in less-developed economies started doing this kind of work, and more cheaply, as a strong dollar went further in a foreign market.  Bit by bit, it has gotten to the point where really, the only jobs available for the uneducated are office work or sales / service jobs, and even those have a preference for the educated.  As a result, these blue collar workers have been displaced, but not having the educational development to understand this, they’re just mad about it, and politicians are telling them it’s “the other guy’s fault,” to their own aggrandizement.  Because as I see it, at the end of the day, the old economy ain’t coming back – who the blue collar choose to elect as President isn’t going to change that.

So where does that leave us?

I have no idea.  I just don’t believe we can solve it by getting angry.  I feel like we as a society have to make a conscious choice to either create an artificial fix (like welfare) to take care of all of these disenfranchised people, and make sure we train young people to the new and current economy going forward.  Or we can just let them cycle out and have scores upon scores of poor and unemployed people who are attacking one another for whatever pieces of the pie are left.  Since those of us at the bottom have almost no control over this process, the situation really does look pretty bleak to me.  I personally have tons of education, and am still barely employed.  I am not good at the options available to me, so all I can do is pass the time and hope I fall into one of those more advanced careers.  It hasn’t happened in four years now, though.  And again, I have no idea what happens next, either.

All I can do is hope I don’t die or get killed by some angry blue collar worker before I get there.




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