It has always struck me that Fox News openly shows so much disdain for the people who are the backbone of their success. A few weeks ago they tried to shame actor Geoffrey Owens formerly of the Cosby show for working at a supermarket in what they considered as a menial job. The narrative they tried to spin was that here was an African American actor who had fallen from grace, perhaps had been profligate with his actor earnings, and was now forced to work in this unglamorous job. Then there were the slurs on Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez first for being more middle class than a Latina from the Bronx and now for being unable to afford an apartment in Washington D.C. until she starts to receive her Congressional salary. The criticism here is that she wore expensive clothes at a photo shoot so she supposedly spends too much on clothes instead of rent. She has answered this criticism by showing that they weren’t her clothes but supplied and reclaimed by the people doing the photo shoot. Her purpose in being honest about not being able to afford a D.C. apartment was to demonstrate that the governmental system is not designed for working class people. To be clear the criticism is that both Owens and Ocasio-Cortez are being improvident, that is wasteful, spendthrift, not planning for the future, or of being deceitful in Ocasio-Cortez’s case. However look at the evidence Fox News and right wingers have provided that this is the case. Owens works in a working class job, Ocasio-Cortez lived in a middle class suburb not the ghetto of the Bronx, and Ocasio-Cortez cannot afford to live in the District of Columbia. Instead of spinning this positively as Owens is willing to work hard to support his family or Ocasion-Cortez’s mother worked hard to get a better environment and school system for her daughter, Fox News and the right wing are arguing that they should be ashamed of these things. They argue that people who do them are shameful in Owens case and deceitful in Ocasio-Cortez’s. Her admission that she cannot afford an apartment in D.C. is just proof that she is not the right sort of person to be a Congressional representative.

What does this say about the working class and middle class people that support Trump? Owens and Ocasio-Cortez are being criticized for the very things that the Trump supporters do: work hard at working class jobs, strive to make a better life for their children, and being unable to afford rent that is out of control. It is no coincidence that both of these people are people of color. These criticisms are hidden behind the racism that is part and parcel of both the new Republican Party’s message and appeal. The disdain for the working class and even middle class is camouflaged behind the dog whistle racism of the right wing media. In this case the racial divides trump (pun intentional) the class antagonisms here. Most of the Trumpettes cannot see that Owens and Ocasio-Cortez are like them and in putting them down Fox News is showing what they really think of them.

This appeal to racism and the stirring up of the white supremacy that is part of the American stew reflects the failure of the political system, both Democrats and Republicans, to work in the actual interests of the working classes. It also points to a way out of the current mess in which we find ourselves. Many people have underestimated the racism that is part of America and most activists have gone to their graves awaiting white America’s repudiation of white supremacy. Instead of waiting for enough whites to find brotherhood and to realize the racism of the acts they consider non racial, we need to try a new tactic. If there is one thing that trumps even racism it is self-interest. Many of those who have turned to racism have done so as compensation for the lack of goodies in their own lives. Some of them are of course too far gone and will not respond to anything we say or do. There are some who will respond to politicians who listen to them and do things that actually improve their lives. Neither the current Democratic nor Republican parties do that. Progressives need to show that they are not out of touch dreamers or dilettantes by working with those people in those rural areas rather than bemoaning the electoral college and senate system which gives them power. There will be no change in the electoral college unless there is a change in who controls the levers of power. Voters will get behind people, progressive or otherwise, who work for their interests not the self-interests of the politicians. Ocasio-Cortez has demonstrated that massive grassroots campaigning is the way to bring down the entrenched, powerful and ultimately selfish politicians who are the real villains of the system.

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