The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas. Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels: The German Ideology
We citizens of the United States may be divided into two groups: the elite and the non-elite. (Peggy Noonan has labeled these the “protected” and the “unprotected.”) The elite own capital and use it to earn further capital and reap profit. They do this through the control and utilization of the means of production, labor and – to an ever increasing degree – advanced technology. (The non-elite own little outright beyond their own bodies.) From the very foundation of our republic, the elite has also sought to control and use government to serve and protect its interests. The “Founding Fathers” gutted the Articles of Confederation, which were built upon the popular control of state governments. They put the federal government as far from the people as possible through an elite body to choose the president – an “electoral college” – and a “representative” congress that almost from the start tended to over-represent empty, rural areas – easily controlled by the local “gentry” and car dealers – over populous urban ones. But the most effective method of control was the ability of the political agents of the elite to convince many of the non-elite to follow them against even their own best interests. Since the early part of the 20th Century, the party of the elite has been called Republican.
The Republican Party has been the political front of the elite minority in its class war against the non-elite majority. Make no mistake, it is a class war even though there is only one side fighting it. This was clearer in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries when the big owners of capital set their goons and strike-breakers on early attempts to unionize workers. But the efforts to deny worker rights, limit wages, reduce or deny basic social services and health care and send other people’s children to police the cities and fight the wars are cut from the same cloth. Republican ideology – no matter how gussied up in the rhetoric of patriotism, religion, “lower taxes” and trickle down economics or hidden behind barely veiled expressions of white privilege – demands no government “interference” in the profitable deployment of capital while selling government every bill of goods it can. Fox News has become the “ministry of truth” for this ideology. Riding victories in empty “red” states and gerrymandered congressional districts, the Republicans have been able to win majorities in the Senate and House as well as elect two recent presidents despite having lost the overall popular vote. Seems you can fool enough of the people all of the time.
The non-elite has few champions, no organized party and no coherent expression of its own self-interest. The Democratic Party sometimes appears to be onside with the unprojected majority but it also serves the interests of the elite because that is where the money is and when money talks, nobody walks. Some Democrats do seek to present more egalitarian and balanced approaches to governing and they have done some good over the years, especially when there were moderate Republicans to work with. But today’s Republicans and their media allies have been successful in demonizing anyone who offers alternatives to their “conservative” ideology as injecting socialism or class-warfare into traditional, “pure” American politics. This while continuing to wage their own one-sided war to protect their privileged position.
America needs a new beginning. Not sure when that might happen. Meanwhile, we are in the hands of our still free press seeking to provide facts and truth even to those who refuse, for now, to hear. The Republican majorities in Congress have made their deal with “their” president and will use him to front their efforts to roll back even more of the government protections built up so painfully since FDR. It is still too early to know whether, in whatever time they have left, they will be able to inflict irreparable harm to our social fabric and international relationships and to the environment. The key question is whether enough of the non-elite will come to resist this class warfare through more understanding of how its own interests differ from those of the elite.