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Sarah Palin and Class Bias in the Media

Sarah Palin, the first candidate for national office with a journalism degree, continues to stoke the easily heated embers of resentment against the news media. In an interview on YouTube, she was asked to compare the way the news media covered her with the treatment Caroline Kennedy has gotten in her bid to enter the Senate [at about 6 minutes into the clip, below]. "As we watch that we will perhaps be able to prove that there was a class issue that was a factor in scrutiny of my candidacy," she said.[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-95wkCMeUkk[/youtube]Of all the charges of bias leveled against the news media (including anti-Catholic bias), I think class bias may be the one most worth taking seriously. Blue-collar workers, poor people living in neighborhoods journalists are gentrifying and political candidates from the wrong side of town are among the many affected by this bias. Since there is no Al Sharpton (or Bill Donohue) to organize the disaffected against this bias, it tends to go unnoticed.But I don't think it was a factor in the way Sarah Palin was covered. The initial reaction to her "hockey mom" persona was positive. Her candidacy failed when she couldn't demonstrate to the public that she was qualified for the vice-presidency. It's not the news media's fault.

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Paul, the conventional conservative story line is that, when the Palin story broke, incredulous and gleeful laughter could be heard in newsrooms across the country. Within a few days, the press allegedly had concluded that Palin hadn't been properly vetted by the McCain campaign, and the "feeding frenzy" ensued, with hundreds of reporters supposedly descending on Wasilla to harass neighbors and peer under rocks. To what extent that impression is exaggerated, I don't know, but she did dominate media conversation for weeks. The Obama campaign was quite irritated because she was crowding out their message. I don't recall a vice presidential candidate having that kind of media impact, ever.I'm sure you're right that much of the electorate doesn't see her ias vice-presidential timber. But surely the media was a prime player in the phenomenon. What do you think, though?

Also - I think the class story is more complicated. Barack Obama wasn't born into privilege. If they are of different classes now, it would seem that the separation started occurring in the teenage and young adult years, when he was able to propel himself into elite schools, while she was floundering among three sorta-okay colleges. In terms of achievement, she's a late bloomer. You'd think the media would like that sort of pluck - and in fact she did get a lot of favorable coverage.Also - President Bush comes from the rarefied heights of class, but the media has never kowtowed to him because of it, in fact it seems to have been something of an albatross for him.

At this point addressing Palin's illogical claims is more effort than it's worth. But I think it's revealing that she seems at least as underqualified, and is at least as difficult to take seriously -- maybe even more so -- in conversation with a "friendly" questioner as in those supposedly manipulative Q&As with Gibson and Couric.Anyway: Yes, there were juvenile pokes at her supposedly low-class background coming from left-wing blogs and such, but it's delusional to suggest that attitude colored mainstream coverage. Especially when Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton were going out of their way to emphasize their supposed blue-collar roots. And when right-wingers were throwing around "elitist" as an insult aimed at Obama! Further, it's embarrassing that she believes Caroline Kennedy has been or might be treated with kid gloves ("What news sources do you read?" is hardly an unfair question in the face of that suggestion). And it's embarrassing that she thinks "class" is the salient difference between her candidacy for the vice presidency and Kennedy's being considered for a senate appointment.

What's the difference between a soccer mom and a pitbull? Well, this soccer mom whines.Seriously, agree with both of you that there probably is some class distinctions that impact reporting but IMHO would be hard pressed to say that it applies here.

I agree with both Mollie and Bill. If one is preparing to run for any political office, he/she had better be prepared to have the media look into every closet, under every rug, and ask all types of questions of friends, neighbors, enemies, etc., because "all is fair in love and war"(and a political campaign is a type of war).I believe that Sarah lost it when she was not able to articulate her statements or answer questions in a manner that would make people take her seriously. I do not believe class has anything to do with it. One can be educated at elite schools, or in so-so universities, but understanding, research, concern and the ability to articulate---are crucial. In other words, no matter what school one attended, or what social class one is from---a candidate must have done her/his "homework" and have it ready for scrutiny.

There may or may not be something to the class bias allegations, but IMO this is more about what a very politically ambitious governor from a remote state must try to do to stay on the media and political radar screens for another four years after losing a presidential election: she throws out a variety of assertions and allegations and comments in an effort to see which, if any, issues will resonate with the American people, or, at a minimum, the Republican base. It must be very difficult to be tucked away in Juneau or Anchorage or Wasilla thinking and strategizing about what might strike a chord among the residents of the Lower 48. (Sorry, Hawaii.)

Call me delusional. I would not say that all the coverage of Palin was driven by class bias, but it was clearly colored by it, and the comparison with Caroline Kennedy is apt to an extent. Face it, Palin sounds like Winston Churchill compared Kennedy, and while Kennedy hasn't gotten a pass, she has not been subject to ridicule and personal attacks in the same way Palin was. Why? She has the name, she lives in Manhattan, and went to the right schools.Don't get me wrong - even as a conservative, I am no Palin fan. At least not to the extent that I want to see her continue in national politics anytime soon. That being said, the continued denial of the coastal elites that that don't have a coastal elite bias is almost funny. Yeah, they'll give some positive press to the "plucky characters" from flyover countrty, but when push comes to shove they don't respect them and it shows in the press.I do agree that Palion should stop whining about it.

Face it, Palin sounds like Winston Churchill compared Kennedy...I just think that's ridiculous on its face. Maybe eloquence is in the eye of the beholder, but Palin is certainly not any better than Kennedy at articulating ideas.

The NYT's Clyde Haberman is one of my favorite columnists, and has a gimlet eye for bias wherever it comes from or tilts toward. His column today does a good job of dissecting Palin's whining, methinks:http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/13/nyregion/13nyc.html?ref=nyregionWhat is interesting about the column is how Haberman totes up the media treatment of Caroline Kennedy. It hasn't exactly been gentle, and I think it has also been largely deserved, as was Palin's. But that doesn't disprove the class bias argument--in fact, I think such a bias goes both ways, against the uppercrust folk and against the working class folk. It's "good" middle-class people who are the "norm," I'd say. And I think Palin qualifies there--trying to depict herself as an average working class Jane is a stretch. Whatever the media bias on Palin, her inadequacy/inexperience and the McCain camp's ineptitude trumped all else. I think this interview of hers simply proves the point that she was not a qualified national figure.

To what extent that impression is exaggerated, I dont know, but she did dominate media conversation for weeks. Jim,Wasn't it McCain's intention for that to happen when he selected her? It's absolutely preposterous to suggest that McCain sincerely believed she was the best person to step in as president should they be elected and should something happen to him. He chose her to do exactly what she did, but clearly he didn't vet her properly, so in addition to being a huge success with the conservative Republican rank and file, she was deservedly controversial. Based on her first speech, I thought McCain had made a brilliant pick. Based on almost everything that came after, I thought it was one of the most foolish choices anyone could possibly have made.

Putting 'heavy breathing' Al Sharton and Bill Donahue together as champions of the oppressed is the ticket for me. Add in Palin for the 'evans' and FOX news is in business for the bored.

The media is not fair period. You may have some rare fair journalist. But in general everyone writes according to their bias. That said if you will say things that Russis has to fly over Alaska or you can see Russian from Alaska as a credit to your foreign policy experience, then you really invite a feeding frenzy. The mildest people have gotten upset with Palin.

More trenchant Palin-style media criticism here. (The "say it ain't so!" lead-off line makes me hope this is a hoax.)

I think Palin needed to have more room to move unencumbered by excessive handling and controlling by the McCain folks. The fact that they felt they had to do that, is itself a testament to THEIR class paranoia of the media.There is something to be said for going through the primary process and all those small towns and states. EVerybody makes mistakes, missteps and miscues but generally they are absorbed in the long haul provided you have a vision, mission and can keep returning to key themes and core issues.While I do believe there was some class issues, I think the people (media included) were genuinely willing to sit down and listen to her. The McCain people knew that and didn"t want her to be just herself because they were afraid of a gaffe. The result was a stilted, over-cautious, contrived first couple interviews.If Palin has any beef, it should be with the McCain folks and herself. She simply lacked the confidence to say this is who I am - this is why you selected me. Give me room. They didn't and she didn't press the point hard enough. I think she had the potential to be a good candidate but the fit wasn't good from the get go. Speaking of elitist John McCain son of an Admiral married to an heiress. Give me a break.You would have seen a much different and better performance if it was Biden-Palin. (not Obama-Palin)

I don't know about the "Let Palin be Palin" strategy. I used to think there was something to it, but he subsequent Lone Ranger interviews have shown her to be WAY out of her depth. Like, WAY. The piece Mollie linked to was especially disturbing. She could give Blago a run for his money. Except for the hair. Oh, and the money of course.

I was born into the working class and I consider myself as still belonging to it, though my educational credentials may disqualify me. I am a registered nurse with a B.S. in Psychology and an M.S. in Computer Science. I took more issue with Sarah Palin's presentation of working class America than with the media's representation of her. The working class comprises a very diverse group of people, urban and rural. I think that my father would have railed at being represented by the Joes, Sixpack and Plumber. He fought in World War II, worked his way from office boy to middle management on a DeWitt Clinton High School (NYC)education and read biography and history avidly throughout his life. He maintained contact with boyhood friends and hung out at his VFW post where the guys were more individual than the average data miner might suspect. He had many historical facts at his command and could be consulted on points of Latin, part of the DeWitt Clinton curriculum. The real working class is much more complex than the Republican committee would have had us believe and is not adequately symbolized by a beverage, a lounge chair and a tool belt.

Ms Palin's response to the questions about what you read is not as damning as her explanation of it. She took it as a 'gotcha' question, and took offense at the idea that someone might be interested in knowing something about her. Someone with such a chip on her shoulder is not qualified to be president; she needs to learn how not to take offense and to turn aside improper inquiries in a more uplifting way.The class question is interesting because it is built into our government. The senate is supposed to be the elite of the country, while the House represents more the common man. While that distinction is not as vibrant as in England, with its houses of Lords and Commons, it still functions that way to some extent here. Caroline Kennedy will be an exemplar of our upper class if she becomes a senator, as would Ms Palin if she goes that route. The Presidency wobbles in that respect, as populists try to make the President exemplar of the commoner and other try to make him into a 'quiet' royalty. (W tried to have it both ways, being someone with whom you would like to have a beer while he bombs your house and holds you captive without redress.) Anyway, CK has to show herself as one of our classiest in order to be a Senator, something that was not asked of Ms Palin.

"Jim,Wasnt it McCains intention for that to happen when he selected her?" Yes, I'm sure it was. Didn't he announce the choice the morning after Obama's convention speech? I.e. it was part McCain-as-rogue, part media stunt. But I believe his campaign neither predicted nor was able to handle the ensuing media cyclone. They rightly predicted that she would appeal to the conservative, Religious Right base; but I think they underestimated the visceral loathing from the Left. I believe they thought that her being a woman would douse their heat. Instead, it seemed to inflame it."Based on her first speech, I thought McCain had made a brilliant pick. Based on almost everything that came after, I thought it was one of the most foolish choices anyone could possibly have made."Yes, I agree.But she certainly will try to reinvent herself. Palin vs. Huckabee in the '12 primaries?

Ive been a registered Democrat all of my working life. I was born into a working class family and was able to advance into upper middle management in my work before retiring. I think that I have retained the values (for the most part, excluding Tridentine Catholicism, of course) that I learned from my parents and surroundings. I remain a Democrat, but freely admit that the Democratic party has been so enamored of attracting and retaining swimming pool liberals that they have willingly divorced themselves from the ranks that supported them during the 1940s and 1950s, i.e., the working class. Most registered Democrats seem to forget that the background from which most of us came is the background of rural, Regan Democrats, religious and traditional-value people. There is nothing smarmier than a professional who rhapsodizes about how (s)he rose from a humble working class background and rejects all of that narrow-mindedness. The narrow-mindedness seems to have found a fertile home in the suburbs, academia, management, professional and cocktail circuits of today. Well see how these groups survive the rather rude economic and political awakenings that are happening today and most likely will continue into the next few years. Maybe a little chance to reconsider their rejected backgrounds will come in handy. White collar unions, anyone?

Mollie"s right!The conservatives are already pushing Palin in 2012 and this is another ploy to minpulate te media. And don't forget to say happy birthday to Rush while you're at it.

Mr. McK writes "The senate is supposed to be the elite of the country,..". I fear my reaction was "Howzat? Come again?". Jimmy Mac writes:"There is nothing smarmier than a professional who rhapsodizes about how (s)he rose from a humble working class background and rejects all of that narrow-mindedness. The narrow-mindedness seems to have found a fertile home in the suburbs, academia, management, professional and cocktail circuits of today".He forgot to include journalists and commentators. That the Kennedys are meant to be upper-crust displays an astonishing ignorance of Irish Boston.

OK, you all have parsed the working vs upperclass. But what class is 'pageant walking'?

Jim wrote: "the conventional conservative story line is that, when the Palin story broke, incredulous and gleeful laughter could be heard in newsrooms across the country."I'm glad there is still some laughter in newsrooms, given the hard times newspapers face. I assume, from the link Mollie posted from the Anchorage paper, that there are still plenty of laughs at Gov. Palin's expense in Alaskan newsrooms. More seriously, I would expect a skeptical response to the choice of someone who had little experience as a national political figure. That's textbook journalism. I don't think class bias had anything to do with the initial newsroom reaction, whatever it was.

"Speaking of elitist John McCain son of an Admiral married to an heiress. Give me a break."I can see your argument about marrying into money, but being the son of an admiral may have given one a higher class status forty years ago, but I think beginning with the savaging of Admiral Stockdale in 1992 we were dispelled of any notions that the non-veteran public honor our flag and field grade officers - or Medal of Honor recipients for that matter - with some sort of special class status. I guess one could argue that this is not true South of the Mason-Dixon, but I would counter that is only because such a huge portion of our veterans and current volunteers and their families are there.

The premise is correct that Palin was not qualified, and it is just as simple as that. There was no media bias. The more she spoke, the more apparent it was that having her near the White House was not an asset. On the other hand, I do think there was some media bias against Hillary, who was indeed qualified for the job. Obama recognized it and is using her talents in his administration.

On the point of qualifications and the whole debate around is she or is she not qualified. It is a subtle but I think important point. The qualifications for Presidency are listed in the US Constitution.US Constitution, Article II, Section 1No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty-five years, and been fourteen years a resident within the United States.Strictly speaking then she, or anyone else who meets that criteria is in fact qualified as far as the Constitution is concerned. Suitable? That is another question. That criteria is always shifting and changing but I think it is important to critically examine that point. I do agree that there is mostly a quiet royalty that Americans have evolved into. The Kennedys and the Bushs are that for the US. But the populist mythology looms large which is why you have people who run for high office touting their humble origins. The point is that they cannot actually still be LIVING in those humble origins to make it to the highoffice. Hence, governors mansions are good stepping stones to that tier. Palin needs to focus on her state, and energy. The election is over. Maybe 2012. She will have gained more experience as governor. The populist thing doesn"t work unless you can translate it somehow into policy.

Gabriel, I think the idea of an elite is expressed in the choice of Senate for the name of the second legislative house. While the rationale has drifted, some of that has remained, such that the Senate is still more "elder statesmen" than the House.John Jay, in Federalist Paper #64, discusses his idea of what a Senator will be:"there is reason to presume that their attention and their votes will be directed to those men only who have become the most distinguished by their abilities and virtue, and in whom the people perceive just grounds for confidence. The Constitution manifests very particular attention to this object.... The inference which naturally results from these considerations is this, that the President and senators so chosen will always be of the number of those who best understand our national interests, whether considered in relation to the several States or to foreign nations, who are best able to promote those interests, and whose reputation for integrity inspires and merits confidence."

More fodder for the politics of resentment.Perhaps McCain should have selected, say, Paris Hilton instead.The issue with Caroline Kennedy has nothing to do with class and everything to do with the mystique of lineage.

On the point of qualifications and the whole debate around is she or is she not qualified. It is a subtle but I think important point. The qualifications for Presidency are listed in the US Constitution.Speaking of subtlety, note the use of the word "eligible" in the constitutional text you cite.

The way I was taught it, Senators are to provide some continuity to the Convress, while Representatives' short terms provide for quick change as circumstances require it. Amd as the Jay quotation ssys Senators should provide men of proven ability amd integrity. He says nothing about being born into an upper class orr old family or family with money It was to escape the sort of privilege found in European countries that this one was founded.It seems to me that notions of "class" are not terribly relevant in this country, though there are privileged persons in some matters, for instance getting into certain schools and clubs. As I see it it is money which pretty much establishes privilege these days (who h school would turn down Bill Gates' pchild?), though we seem to be developing a new sort of status-bepari g group, the cels rities.p

That should be "status-bearing group , the celebrities" .Sorry

The way I see the Caroline Kennedy phenomenon is the power of celebrity and a good means to attract financing. That is lgitimate from a certain point of view.In parliamentary systems you have 'back benchers' meaning MP's who are elected but are not in cabinet positions. Their role is to vote yes. Trudeau referred to them as nobody's (half-jokingly).In the senate, the power lies with committee chairs and even there, while there is some decision making it is nowhere near as powerful as a governor or President but it is close.In the senate Caroline Kennedy really doesn"t have to get to deeply into policy. She can just read the summary and bullet points. Her function can be the marketing person (goes only and papers to sell). You can't hide that way or exercise the same function when you have an executive position because you have to actually lead and move groups around an objective. That is very difficult.

Ann:It would be interesting to unpack that whole class issue. I think that class, even more than race, does play a role in advancement, perception and leadership.There is something to the wearing the 'power suit', titles, personnas.I think equality is/was an ideal but people do want their leaders to have a certain class.Bush could get away with his malaproisms, and have it attributed to a certain charm because of his patrician pedigree.

PSI am not saying that this is entirely the csse with Palin but there was probably at least some of that.At any rate, the solution is that she feels she has to work twice as hard which only makes it worse as she gets into over-explaining and on and on. Best to let the whole thing go and run again. Learn from your mistakes - and many/most of them were HER mistakes nobody else's. she has to own those. She will get more respect that way.

George D: The Senate is full of senators with bullet point mentalities. That's one reason among others that almost everything important dies there. What the Senate needs is someone without a bullet point mentality, someone willing to invest their time and energy into learning the intricacies of a subject, transcribing it into legislation, and building the kind of credibility among colleagues that turns into a willingness to cooperate and perhaps even change positions to get something passed. And if I lived in New York, this would be my biggest question about Kennedy: does she want the position or the actual responsibility? Is she going to do the work herself or does she expect her name to get things done for her? I have no idea, but unlike Andrew Cuomo (or Edward Kennedy), I don't think she has ever really addressed these issues either by evidence or implication. (Cuomo is a workhorse -- there is no doubt.) On this, her uncle, Senatory Edward Kennedy gets a platinum star. If she genuinely followed his model, I think the state and the nation would be lucky to have her. Regarding class based issues and the press: In my experience, class bias starts at the middle and radiates outward in every direction, except when it focuses on those in the boring middle who are too jejune to lead anything remotely close to an interesting or joyful existence. Journalism survives on controversy and criticism. A skillful politician internalizes that fact and learns to ignore it most of the time, capitalize on it when possible, and joke about it when its sting can't be avoided.

Classist, indeed: "... those in the boring middle who are too jejune to lead anything remotely close to an interesting or joyful existence. "Would you like your jejune with white wine, brie ... or both?

Jimmy, I am not sure whether it is you or me that lacks a sense of humor or irony. (That's my way of wondering whether it's you who didn't get my joke or it's me who can't discern whether you are taking that statement as having been made seriously when it was meant in jest.) I am incapable of using the word jejune other than ironically. But lacking as I might be, I do know one thing for sure: the majority of working class people have been living in the suburbs for more than 30 years now, and the majority of people living in the suburbs belong squarely in the working class. So the narrow mindedness of "academia, management, professional and cocktail circuits (!!!!) of today" is decidedly more urban than the national average. It's time to stop beating up on the suburbs on social elitism grounds.

Barbara:"A skillful politician internalizes that fact and learns to ignore it most of the time, capitalize on it when possible, and joke about it when its sting cant be avoided."Yes. I have had extensive experience with grass roots women's group, poverty groups environmental activists, ecoglogical groups. Almost to a person, they have despaired of big "P" (i.e. parliaments, senates, congress) doing anything substantive about the actual issue. Maybe I should get a life and not be such a social activist although I think it is pretty intersting and meaningful. But I can tell you this, it is very tiring when political groups use progressive language to cover regressive or ineffective policies.They have, by and large, dropped out of the politcal (big "P" that is) political process and politics has been, as a result impoverished. Skillful politicians know how to perpetuate the institutions they are a part of. It is the very, very, very rare politician who can move the system, and lead a movement in a particular direction. Very, very, very rare.Obama has that potential. But is is a potential that needs to be exercised. So far he is playing it safe which i understand. I really do hope and pray for the best because he has been handed a historica and golden opportunity. I sincerely hope he can inspire because, where I sit there is a lot of cynicism and it is a rational, reasonable response based on experience.Any politician who minimizes that or jokes about it isn"t worthy the honour of elected office - and it is an honour.Character counts!!!!

A small factoid from a party I went to on Saturday full of NYC voters. Conversation suggested to me that many thought Carolyn Kennedy was as big a joke as Sarah Palin. Somewhat to my suprise, Tom Suozzi was touted, though he seems to be the dark horse among the choices Governor Patterson will have to make pretty soon.

In my observation, the media reactions to Palin's nomination were almost exclusively negative right from the announcement -- although they became more muted following demonstration of her initial popularity. When she stumbled in her first on-camera interviews, the piling-on resumed with an even greater intensity.I have seen many comments by reporters and pundits that smack of class bias against her (and not just I -- Camille Paglia is a notable progressive who has written about this); but also many others that focus on her inexperience and her steep learning curve on some public-policy issues. The one constant, however, is an abiding antipathy against her presence on the national political stage. This animus, in my judgment, can't be attributable wholly to any combination of the ostensible reasons given for it. I think these are proxy issues -- culturally acceptable premises to justify an attitude that is based rather on other grounds that journalists are less willling to admit publicly, or maybe even to themselves.(I do find it interesting, even as commonplace as it is, that class-based prejudice is considered socially acceptable enough to serve the purpose of such rationalization. Gov. Palin -- although I think she's mistaken in attributing media scorn against her primarily to this phenomenon -- probably joins millions of working-class Americans whose voices are not often heard on the media stage in being more sensitive to this reality than those who are not the object of such scorn.)My personal opinion is that the strong feelings of so many opinion leaders against Palin are the opposite side to my own of the same coin. As a Democrat, I hold many policy differences with Ms. Palin. However, as a Catholic, I was touched to learn of her family's openness to the gift of life, even to the point of welcoming a Down's Syndrome child -- a child, the studies show us, who would have been aborted if conceived in the overwhelming majority of American families. Her apparent genuine appreciation for the Culture of Life, even to the point of obvious self-sacrifice, warmed my heart to a politician who otherwise would not have been a strong candidate for my affection.On the other hand, the abiding values of the media elite -- absolute personal autonomy and the culture of sexual liberty -- make Palin's personal choices and their potential implications for public policy horrifying. I occasionally do a thought experiment that demonstrates to me the significance of these values in determining media opprobrium. I give myself 10 minutes to write down as many well-known public figures as I can, from entertainers to religious leaders to politicians, and then I draw one column and mark whether I perceive each figure to be portrayed mostly positively or mostly negatively in media citations. Afterwards, I draw a second column and mark whether each is known to be pro-life or pro-choice. Then I correlate the responses for those public figures for whom there is a mark in both columns. There is always an extremely high correlation between positive media and pro-choice views, and negative media and pro-life views. I have done follow-up studies using partisan affiliation, religion, and race (though not class -- I'll try that one next time), and while there is some correlation apparent using other variables, it's never as strong as the correlation using abortion views.What John McCain and his handlers failed to appreciate when the vetted Sarah Palin is this prejudice that drives the media perception-builders. You can be from the wrong side of the tracks and become a media darling (cf. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton); your resume can even be a bit thin for the job to which you aspire (Barack Obama). But don't have a mess of kids, welcoming even a child with a "poor quality of life" who will also wreak havoc on your own, and talk about your pro-life convictions backed up by actions that prove you really mean it.

Barbara: I would appreciate your basis for declaring that "the majority of working class people have been living in the suburbs for more than 30 years now ". The Midwest, Southwest, Northwest, Far West and deep South are not overloaded with suburbs. Maybe this is a definition issue. I use "working class" synonymously with "blue collar." The secular magisterial source, Wikipedia, has this definition: When used non-academically, it typically refers to a section of society dependent on physical labor, especially when remunerated with an hourly wage (Furthermore), in popular American political discourse, medium-income skilled workers and tradespeople are termed middle class, despite having minimal investment income, as are college-educated white-collar workers. I really don't think that most white collar workers, no matter how low-paying or menial their jobs may be, consider themselves to be anything other than middle class.

Chris, very interesting thoughts. How would you account for this, though: in that late '90's, George W. Bush was a Bible belt governor, openly pro-life, whose media appearances were carefully handled/controlled. Yet I don't hav the perception that the media singled him out for destruction as it (allegedly) did for Palin. Is it that she is a woman? Or that Barack Obama was the Chosen One?

Oh boy.Sara Palin does not speak for the working class.The Joe Sixpack thing isn't an image of the working class, it's a slander of the working class.The Know Nothing "salt of the earth" identity doesn't come from the working class to be supported by the GOP, it's a populist and nationalist advertising technique developed by the GOP.Palin made a fool of herself all by herself. Or to put it another way, why would the GOP claim that the public is so naieve about what the "media" tells them (since this is the only way her charges make any sense) unless they themselves operate with this mindset? This is what we are really seeing here.

Excellent question, Jim. While I certainly wouldn't have labeled W a media darling, even before Iraq, he was not savaged during either of his campaigns to the extent that Palin was. Which is interesting because of the similarities you note between the two, to which I would also add that Bush was commonly portrayed as dim-witted and unknowledgeable, much like Palin. As it happens, this illustrates another of my observations about media behavior. If you're a pro-life politician, you deserve to lose; but if you're a pro-life politician and a member of one of the constituencies that is considered part of the pro-choice political coalition, then you must be damaged so badly that there is no chance you'll ever be considered a serious candidate for office again. You'll be as Carthage was to the Romans, and your media enemies will not only seek to destroy your campaign, but to salt the rubble so that no future ambition will ever germinate in you again.Anyone knows that to be a female political leader means that you zealously promote "women's issues" -- the right to a safe, legal abortion primary among them. At least that's the image that our news media carefully nurtures and protects. Sarah Palin, by being a young, telegenic, glass-ceiling-busting, powerful woman, explodes the media stereotype that such qualities naturally associate with pro-choice views. That helps to explain, I think, the near tone of desperation that I detected in much of the media onslaught, at least up until the polls started showing that the re-branding of her (part of which she abetted by her own mistakes) took root in the popular imagination.In my home state of Maryland, we witnessed a similar spectacle when Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, a staunchly pro-life, African American Catholic, ran as the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate a couple years ago. Young, handsome, charismatic, articulate, having grown up poor in a single-parent household and risen dramatically to vie to become the first African American Maryland Senator, Steele was the GOP analogue to Barack Obama. Yet, throughout the entire campaign, I found no instances of the mainstream media calling his campaign "historic." (In fact, just to confirm that I wasn't missing anything, I just Googled the terms "Michael Steele" "historic" "first" "senator" and after scanning several pages of returns, found no hits from the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, or any other local media (although plenty from right-wing Web sites, conservative publications, and some foreign press). And it couldn't be explained merely by partisan politics -- after all, I live in a county that provided the 7th largest margin for Barack Obama in the whole nation (a plurality of more than 250,000) and a majority of my county's councilmen -- all Democrats -- endorsed Steele. And Steele is no hardcore right-winger, either -- his Catholicism and his racial cultural heritage lend his politics more of a communitarian cast than many other Republicans. Instead, it was his fervent belief in the sanctity of human life that made him so anathema, particularly as a racial minority who might have encouraged other African Americans to bring their latent pro-life views into their political decision-making.I've had my own experience of media hostility, which began when I ran in the Democratic primary for County Council and the local media got wind of my membership in Democrats for Life of Maryland. Even a couple years after I lost, the Washington Post still had it in their heart to publish an utterly superfluous hatchet job on me, twisting and editing my words to make it appear I was saying something I wasn't -- and at that point, I was only a lowly City Councilman. But, thankfully, I'm mostly Caucasian, male, and not much of a threat to Roe v Wade, so I haven't had to put up with the media equivalent of Total War.Sorry for unloading the personal baggage, but I think my case stands on its own merits ...Chris

Michael Steele was not the first African-American candidate to run for the United States Senate from Maryland. Alan Keyes ran in 1988 and 1992, against Paul Sarbanes and then Barbara Mikulski. Maybe that's why Steele's race wasn't associated with the words "first" or "historic" by the Washington Post.

Historically, the poor are really unknown as history is written by the rich and the middle class who feel they have to protect the rich. Even today we only know the poor by looking at criminal records. Jimmy, you might have grown up poor but do you have any idea of the poor today? Do any of us?Is there one person here who understands the poor today?

Well, aside from the fact that Alan Keyes was never considered a serious contender for the seat, the period I was referring to was not Steele's campaign for the Republican nomination, but from the time after he had already achieved that milestone and was campaigning to be Maryland's first African American U.S. Senator. At that point, it was the latter achievement that would have been termed "historic," much as it was hard to read any daily newspaper during the last several weeks of the 2008 Presidential campaign without seing that adjective applied to Obama's run for the White House, which, certainly, was legitimately termed "historic." Of course, the slight against the signficance of Steele's run was among the mildest examples of the local media's campaign against him. It was just an easily quantified and objective benchmark that allows a comparison and contrast with another well-known and analogous campaign.I will concede that the media didn't exactly roll out the red carpet for Kweisi Mfume, the former Mayor of Baltimore, who was a pro-choice candidate vying to be the first African American Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate during the same cycle (and the candidate I supported in the primary). There seemed to be a concerted campaign both by the Maryland Democratic establishment and the Baltimore and Washington media to sink Mfume's campaign before it could get traction -- provoking charges of racism by some Democratic Party activists. But those even on the outskirts of the state Democratic Party machinery (as I am) understood that Schmoke was being blackballed because it was perceived that he was potentially a weaker candidate against Steele, the presumptive Republican nominee. (He was, incidentally, a less militant abortion-rights advocate than his opponent, Rep. Ben Cardin.)I suppose the media picked sides in the Democratic primary for the same reason the party kingpins did. But I found it unusual for them to become so heavily invested in a primary battle, and attributed it at least partially to their morbid fear of Steele.

Bill Mazzella wrote:"Is there one person here who understands the poor today?"Point well taken, Bill. Speaking for myself, even though I grew up in a working-class neighborhood and attended public school with kids who nearly all lived in the nearby public housing projects, I, like so many others in our upwardly mobile society, assumed a middle-class worldview as our family moved to the suburbs and I was educated at Jesuit high school and university. I didn't have any meaningful contact with the poor again until I became the City Council representative of a ward gerrymandered (under threat of ACLU lawsuit) to create a majority-minority district but really ended up a majority working-poor district since so many aging garden apartment complexes were strung together to create the targeted racial demographics. I also spoke personally with thousands of low-income voters when I ran for County Council in the Washington suburbs' poorest district. During my campaigning and during eight years on the City Council, though, I was definitely an outsider looking in on the lives and perspectives of my community's under-privileged residents. I consider myself no expert on their experiences or worldviews. However, what I *did* learn was the sometimes jaw-dropping differences between their self-expressed wants and needs and the perception of same by many in our community's middle-class.To take one of many examples, I co-sponsored a bill to require owner-occupied rental properties to get health and safety inspections annually. Until that point, landlords could engage in the rental business without any public oversight as long as they lived in the property themselves. In my Ward, with its large population of low-income renters, I discovered some horrific abuses -- for example, a house where several young children of renters were kept in an unheated garage, with only a pail for toilet facilities. My wife, who directed our parish's Gabriel Project for assistance to pregnant low-income women, put me onto another property where one of her clients, a single pregnant mom, was living in a basement with no egress, where she tried to care for her severaly handicapped quadruplets. If a fire would have occurred in that house, all of them would surely have perished. Although, following inspections, most of these properties could and would be remediated, dramatically improving the quality of life for our CIty's poorest residents, many of our communities most "progressive" middle-class residents cried foul when this bill was introduced. We cosponsors were called racist, anti-immigrant, and classist for daring to close this loophole. What they didn't comprehend is that their opposition to the bill actually favored the mostly middle-class homeowners of these problem properties, while the mostly poor, minority and often immigrant tenants were being left to live in squalor. The ignorance was easier to understand than the subtle bigotry of some of those claiming to be champions of the under-priveleged. Code enforcement measures were often opposed because they supposedly discriminated against poor and minority residents. Yet I found time and again that most of these residents were among the strongest supporters of strong code enforcement. While their support may not have always been on the conventional middle-class grounds of aestheticism, concern about property values, and status-consciousness (yet sometimes these also figured into the equation for lower-income residents), even graver concerns like fear of crime and encroachments of the drug culture were frequent motivators of poorer residents for tough code enforcement.Once, I was so enraged by comments at a public meeting, where one yuppie resident of our city's most affluent neighborhood got up and said, to much applause from his neighbors, that "if you don't like cars up on blocks, littered front porches, peeling paint, and unmowed lawns, then you should just move to another town!" He and his neighbors, who lived on blocks where none of those things could be observed, clearly thought that low-income people loved that environment and for white, middle-class residents to fail to countenance any of those things was racist and classist. On my street of small bungalows and Victorian duplexes, next to a melange of unlicensed junkyards and small auto repair shops which routinely poured engine fluids into our storm drains and dumped old tires and other debris alongside the railroad tracks across the street, the working-class and working-poor black, Hispanic and Appalachian residents would be surprised and upset to hear these bigoted assumptions. They were among the loudest and most persistent reporters of the various code infractions committed by absentee owners who thought our type of neighborhood was a safe target to dump on. They were fighting for the survival of their modest ideal of the American dream -- one that some of their more affluent and well-educated deconstructionist neighbors had long abandoned in favor of a stultifying race and class based consciousness that is based on erroneous and patronizing views of poor and working-class people.To bring this off-topic discussion full circle, my reaction to the comments I heard at that public meeting -- a sarcastic parody that I posted on a local list-serve -- became the vehicle for some of the same folks who alerted the local media to my scandalous pro-life views during the recent County Council campaign to entice a Washington Post Metro reporter who covered that campaign and was similarly unfond of my retrograde views to craft a hatchet job on me, attempting to paint me as being the opposite of who I was.It's a lonely life trying to take all of the Catholic Church's social teachings seriously. Sorry for unloading again and going so far off-topic, but I feel that perhaps in this forum there might be some tolerance, if not sympathy/empathy, for people like us. Good night and God bless --Chris

I never grew up poor. My parents were (very) small town Midwestern working class. The two are not synonymous. There were poor in my town.Do I know poor today? I live surrounded by Oakland, CA, so have seen more poverty than I care to. But do I know it? Nope.

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