Class—the Word We Dare Not Speak

How often during the last year of woke, have middle- and lower-class Americans listened to multimillionaires of all races and genders lecture them on their various pathologies and oppressions? 

Million-dollar-a year university presidents virtue signal on the cheap their own sort of “unearned white privilege.” 

Multimillionaire Meghan Markle and the Obamas, from their plush estates, indict Americans for their biases. 

Former Black Lives Matter founder and cultural Marxist Patrisse Khan-Cullors Brignac decries the oppressive victimization she and others have suffered—from one of her four newly acquired homes. 

Do we need another performance-art sermon on America’s innate unfairness from a Hollywood billionaire such as Beyoncé, Jay-Z, or Oprah Winfrey—or a multimillion-dollar-per year Delta Airlines or Coca-Cola CEO? 

During the 1980s cultural war, the Left’s mantra was “race, class, and gender.” Occasionally we still hear of that trifecta, but the class part has now increasingly dropped out. 

The neglect of class is ironic given that dozens of recent studies conclude class differences are widening as never before. 

Middle-class incomes among all races have stagnated and family net worth has declined. Far greater percentages of rising incomes go to the already rich. Student debt, mostly a phenomenon of the middle and lower classes, has hit $1.7 trillion dollars. 

States like California have bifurcated into Medieval-style societies. The state’s progressive coastal elite can boast of some of the highest incomes in the nation. But in the more conservative north and central interior nearly a third of the population lives below the poverty line, explaining why one of every three American welfare recipients lives in California. 

California’s heating and cooling, gasoline, and housing—the stuff of life—are the highest in the continental United States. Most of these spiraling costs are attributable to polices embraced by an upper-class elite—in Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and marquee universities—whose incomes shield them from the deleterious consequences of their utopian bromides. The poor and middle class have no such insulation. 

So why are we not talking about class? 

First, we are watching historic changes in political alignment. 

The two parties are switching class constituents. Sixty-five percent of Americans making over $500,000 are now Democrats. Seventy-four percent of those who earn under $100,000 are Republicans. Gone are the days of working people voting automatically Democratic or Republicans caricatured as a party of stockbrokers on golf courses. 

By 2018, Democrats controlled all 20 of the wealthiest congressional districts. In the recent presidential primaries and general election, 17 out of the 20 wealthiest zip codes gave money overwhelmingly to Democratic candidates. 

Increasingly, the Democrats are a bicoastal party of professional elites of corporate America, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, the media, universities, entertainment, and professional sports. All made out like bandits during 21st-century globalization. 

Democrats have lost the most support among working-class whites, especially in the interior of the country. But they are also fast forfeiting backing among the Hispanic middle class, and just beginning to lose solidarity among similarly situated African-Americans. 

The Left does not wish to admit it has become the party of wealth. All too often its stale revolutionary speechifying sounds more like penance arising from guilt than genuine advocacy for the middle class of all races. 

The wealthy leftist elite has mastered the rhetoric of ridicule for the lower middle classes, especially struggling whites. Multimillionaires Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden wrote off their political opponents as supposedly crude, superstitious, and racist, in smearing them as “clingers,” “deplorables,” irredeemables,” “dregs,” and “chumps.” 

Class is also fluid; race is immutable. So by fixating on race, the Left believes that it can divide America into permanent victimizers and victims—at a time when race and class are increasingly disconnecting. 

The wealthy of all races are the loudest voices of the woke movement. Their frequent assumptions of  “victimhood” are absurd.  

Americans who struggle to pay soaring gas, food, energy, and housing prices are weekly berated for their “white privilege” that is “unearned,” by an array of rich network and cable television news hosts, well-paid academics, media elite, and corporate CEOs. 

Note that the woke military is the brand of four-star admirals and generals, and retired top brass on corporate boards, not of the enlisted. Multimillionaire CEOs bark at the nation for their prejudices, not saleswomen and company truck drivers. 

America is a plutocracy, not a genocracy. Wealth, not race, now more likely ensures one power, influence and the good life. 

In the pre-Civil Rights past, race was often fused to class, and the two terms were logically used interchangeably to cite oppression and inequality. 

But such a canard is fossilized. And so are those who desperately cling to it.

The more the elites scream their woke banalities, the more they seem to fear that they, not most Americans, are the real privileged, the coddled, the pampered—and sometimes the victimizers.

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004, and is the 2023 Giles O'Malley Distinguished Visiting Professor at the School of Public Policy, Pepperdine University. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush, and the Bradley Prize in 2008. Hanson is also a farmer (growing almonds on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author of the just released New York Times best seller, The End of Everything: How Wars Descend into Annihilation, published by Basic Books on May 7, 2024, as well as the recent  The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won, The Case for Trump, and The Dying Citizen.

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