From “Remaining Closed” to “Rebuilding America”

Rahm Emanuel thinks the Democratic Party needs to rebrand its response to the Covid-19 shutdowns. Is he right?

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President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks Thursday, May 14, 2020, at Owens & Minor Inc. Distribution Center in Allentown, Pa.. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

What journalist Peggy Noonan wrote about today is something many of us have been noticing for quite some time now:

Scenes From the Class Struggle in Lockdown.

Though the press and many Democrats have been anxious to characterize re-open protesters as moronic Trump-loving hicks who just want to go to Fuddruckers, compassion for the working-class, and for small-business owners going out of business, has been strangely absent on the left; from mainstream media to social media.

“Asking workers to return to work is asking them to risk their lives!” say the writers of the Los Angeles Times.

But just so we’re clear, the workers being asked to “risk their lives” once the economy does reopen are members of the elite white-collar class…like the journalists writing these stories.

Meanwhile, an army of working-class people including health service workers, tech workers, food producers, street policers, grocery store stockers, waste-management employees and an army of other essential employees have been keeping this new ruling-class managerial bourgeoisie in food deliveries and Netflix for weeks.

Not everyone has been so fortunate.

Some people have been able to stay home during this outbreak, enjoying the safety and comfort of their own houses and no interruption of income. Some of this group, and members of the press are especially guilty, have abused the privilege by tweeting from their cloistered ivory towers that, for the safety of everyone, the U.S. economy has to stay shuttered indefinitely.

This group has not suffered financial hardship as a result of these lockdowns; and they demonstrate no sympathy for working-class people who have.

Most people on the left and in the press are quick to admit Covid-19 has hit vulnerable and marginalized communities the hardest. But lockdowns have just as disproportionally impacted these same at-risk populations, and this has been completely lost in the narrative.

Instead we have entered what Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi warned about; what writer Frank Thomas rightly termed a “Utopia of Scolding.”

Now, your neighbor or your favorite celebrity can do more than disapprove of your behavior; for running out of money and maybe being anxious about when you might be allowed to return to work or open your store, you can now safely be called a murderer who wants to kill Grandmas.

If you are one of those worried about how the government isn’t currently “allowing” some companies and people to continue making a living or practicing their religious faith, you can be called much worse.

Proponents of extended lockdowns are confusing people who happen to agree with Donald Trump, be it about criminal justice reform or that lock-downs targeted towards at-risk populations would be a better approach, with Donald Trump himself.

Some of those dealing the most judgment during this crisis, besides those who have been impacted the least by financial hardship, have been people who aren’t willing to curb their own “unsafe” behaviors but are unusually zealous in attacking others.

Typically their complaints go as follows: “Tried to go to Lake Afton yesterday; it was totally packed! (Sad face) Had to go back home. (crying emoji) #juststayhome. #doyourpart #socialdistancing.” Or:

“Riding our bikes last night, there were a lot of people out at McAllen Park. Shame on you people!! People’s lives are on the line, don’t you even care? #itsnothard. #saferathome.”

The fact that these posters were only able to make these judgmental observations because they themselves were also out unnecessarily, defying stay-at-home rules, is completely lost on them.

These well-meaning but misguided scolds aren’t making the Democratic Party seem any more in-touch with the working-class. Some of those insisting the lockdowns need to continue for months don’t seem to understand who these lockdowns are really hurting.

Our reaction to coronavirus took us from “Support local businesses!” to “Buy Amazon!” in a matter of weeks. Which is problem because small businesses, and the people they employ, are the lifeblood and financial engine of the United States economy.

Now, your local video game store or boutique retailer is out of business. It was a small, independently owned business, employing perhaps five employees. But even a corporate franchise like GameStop needed other local things; like banking and credit card services.

All those bored gamers- stuck at home during Covid-19 lockdowns; they still bought video games. People who would have shopped at a local video game store almost certainly bought video games over the last month.

Only now, they all bought them from Amazon.

Oh, you don’t play video games? Don’t think a video game store is an essential business in a health crisis?

That gamer who bought from Amazon instead would have made other stops at the strip mall housing their local gaming oasis.

Gamers would have gotten a bite to eat from a restaurant next door, also an independently-owned small business. Gamers might have grabbed a coffee from the coffee shop, filled their car up with gas at the convenience store, maybe picked up a few other essentials as well.

Now, instead of reinvesting in the community and in the worthy business ventures of his neighbors, our gamer gave it all to Amazon.

Former GameStop employees spent money everyday in that little retail slice of strip mall paradise, too. It might seen nonessential to some, but for others gaming is what helps them cope. Other things hurt them worse; alcohol, drugs and other self-harming behaviors were abundantly available during the outbreak.

And for the small business owner, that humble video game store- non-essential as it might be- represented their piece of the American dream; owning your own business, being your own boss.

Now, these former businesses owners, who once employed people and paid state and local taxes are now standing in unemployment lines right alongside the “nonessential” employees they had to fire.

If elected Democrats and members of the press continue to ignore, insult, and belittle working class people and anyone else facing dire prospects under extended lockdowns, they do so at the risk of driving the working class further into the waiting arms of Donald Trump and the Republican Party.

Rahm Emanuel is right; it is time for the Democratic Party to embrace a message of rebuilding and be true to its working-class roots.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)

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