Overlooked in the history of our country is the recurring contribution of our middle class citizens to saving the nation politically, militarily and economically. When the history of the Revolution is written all focus is on the well to do founding fathers; the leisurely, often aristocratic, intellectuals - surveyors, lawyers, plantation owners, retired tradesmen, who led the meetings and rallies and populated the state and national congresses. Yet it was the middle class, the subsistence farmers, the craftsmen and trades people and mechanics from the towns and cities, and the young men who were the year round patriots and the mainstay of the militias and the Continental Army. And when it came time to ratify the Constitution, while the leaders wrote the pamphlets, it was the middling classes who voted for the delegates to the eleven state conventions that first ratified the new constitution.
In every war this country has engaged in -- wars declared by the well off and supported by their spokes people -- it was the sons and now daughters of the middle and poor classes who fought the battles and did the dying. In the great Civil War the well off could hire substitutes for $300 to serve in their stead if they didn’t wish to fight. One of the few wars in which apparently everyone participated, except those with physical disabilities, was WWII. It may be that without Lincoln the union would not have been saved but it was the people who saved the union. And it was the people who 75 years later defeated Nazism.
Now America faces a great economic and a concomitant political crisis. Our economy has ground almost to a halt. We no longer manufacture many things and as a service economy we now find fewer citizens able to afford the services. Where are the rich and well off? They gamble on Wall Street and monitor the fortunes of their 401K’s. These so called job creators are hunkering down and worrying about themselves - if for $300 they could pay someone to stand in and take this hit for them I’m sure they’d love it. It is the middle class that is suffering most and is most anxious about the future. Millions are unemployed with little hope of re-employment. Many have just given up and are trying to survive until they can collect social security and get Medicare.
And, politically the country also stagnates. The country is experiencing the greatest degree of ideological polarization since the 1790's and the 1850's. The former led to a political revolution the latter to a bloody civil war. The middle class today is constantly told that to solve the economic crisis we need to cut back on the Pell grants their children need to go to college; reform or gut Medicare which they depend on the give them low cost health insurance when they reach 65; “fix” (a word that means abolish, emasculate or reform deepening upon who uses it) Social Security - the one program that the middle class always could count on when they retired because they paid into it and they didn’t have to worry about the “vagaries of the economic system” affecting it. If you are a middle class union member your right to collectively bargain is under attack in a number of states, even if you are a private sector employee. If you are a public sector employee (e.g. post office, school teacher) you peruse the news daily to see if your job is being cut.
It is clear that only the middle classes can save America today. Only the middle class can stand firm and demand that their elected officials represent them not the rich interests. Only the middle class can insist on the nation honoring its commitments made in law (social security, Medicare) to its seniors and its veterans. Only the middle class can restore this economy by consuming to the extent they can recognizing that only then can we restore America. The wealthy just won’t share the pain nor fairly contribute to the solutions. The poor don’t have the resources to do either. So middle class America which hasn’t failed in the past most now step up to the plate again.
The middle class must dismiss the false populism of the Tea Partiers and the attempt to use partisan political leaning and race to divide them. The middle class should not get caught up in the passions of those on the left who would spend their time bemoaning the failure of the wealthy to man up.
It’s not the right wing religious radicals who should take back the country. And it shouldn’t belong to the twenty-first century’s version of Robber Barons. The great American middle class should take back their country. They fought for it - they have bled for it - they built it. America doesn’t belong to its permanent political class or to its wealthy - America belongs to the People. America belongs to the ordinary people - the ones God loved which is why he made so many of them.
12 September 2011