Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Elite Makes a Comeback with Obama

By Kelly Jean Cogswell

The Democratic Party is changing, and God knows it needed to, leaning more towards women, Latinos, and African Americans. But apparently the biggest up-and-coming constituency is that overlooked minority of young, well-educated white people that earn over a hundred grand a year and identify as liberal, so liberal they'll vote for the guy that campaigns with the same hateful antigay preachers that campaigned for Bush.

I'd been worried about them. Up until now they hadn't been represented at all, and I'd wept to see them reassuring themselves by shopping at Whole Foods and buying apartments on the Lower East Side in their search for the authentic, the nitty-gritty, the colorful mixing of races and classes that used to rub elbows there.

Poor misguided things stuffing their organic groceries in their gas-guzzling SUV's as long-time renters get priced out of the neighborhood and the place gets whiter and whiter, cheating them out of the local color they slapped down millions for. The only thing that remains are the rats swarming over the streets at night. If they ever get exterminated, you can bet real estate agents will lobby to have them reintroduced like bears in the Pyrenees.

Unsurprisingly, Paris is as full of New Democrats as the East Village. They had an after-voting party on Super Tuesday, and I planned to go because something like ninety nine point nine percent of them are voting for Obama and I wanted to take a gander. Except that when I googled the party's location it was in a nightclub where you had to dress to the nines or at least the eights, and I was too intimidated to go. What would I wear? Could I afford a drink? I suspected they'd sneer at me, one of the few upper lower class Americans in Paris, and a Clinton supporter to boot.

Instead of whining, I should hop on the Obama gravy train, go back and get a grad school degree -- first plucking out my three grey hairs and shoplifting better clothes. He's got all that money pouring in, all that snake oil pouring out. It's a new and promising industry. Maybe I can get a job on the assembly line slapping labels on the bottles. Maybe even work my way up to foreman. It's my last chance for a decent job.

Americans rarely manufacture anything anymore and the small farms like my mother grew up on have been dead and gone for decades except for the ones producing boutique vegetables I can't afford to eat. The un- or moderately educated, if they have jobs, work for WalMart or wipe your grandmother's butt in the nursing home. It's why unions and the working class are quickly disappearing from the Democratic landscape unless we're also categorized as evangelicals.

So why not go into snake oil? Why not follow a Martin Luther King that has never really been in the street, and a Kennedy that hasn't finished his one and only term in the Senate, a Mother Teresa that hasn't touched a single leper? Oh, why not in this brave new world in which men are the best feminists, and the affluent young are the newest treasured minority in the party that at least used to give some support to the poor.

Why not join up? I could get grants to start a new anti-poverty movement, follow the party line and just tell everyone to think good thoughts, and in the meantime watch their characters grow, because as we all know suffering builds character and you won't even have to take out a second mortgage to live in the resulting house.

That's hope. That's faith. Like how a vote for Obama absolves young white people of racism even more than having one black friend. Electing a black president means we can put the centuries of misery, guilt, and recrimination behind us without lifting a finger.

It's not an attitude I understand. More and more I feel like a Martian stuck between the Democratic rock and the Republican hard place. In both parties, it seems optimism is enough, especially if you have a trust fund. The party politics are different, sure, but lately they wear the same young white rich face, speaking generally, and I don't feel at home. Especially when they both open their arms to evangelicals.

I'm considering starting my own party, Atheists For Nothing. (I'm actually more on the agnostic side, but Agnostics Considering Something doesn't have the same ring.) We'll promise Nothing, and instead of burning books with pornographic passages like religious fundamentalists, we'll burn them all. Huck Finn and Lolita in a big bonfire with the Bible and the Koran. We will likewise toss in all the political pamphlets promising a quick end to the war, a boost to the economy, world peace, happiness, and tranquility. Ashes speak louder than words.

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