A presentation and discussion with author David Roediger
In the 2020 elections, both major US political parties stressed their support for the “middle class.” David Roediger corrects this in his pointed and persuasive polemic The Shrinking Middle Class. Roediger demonstrates that such an obsession is relatively new in US politics, starting with Bill Clinton’s attempt to win back the so-called Reagan Democrats, aided by legendary pollster Stanley Greenberg. Their efforts were marked by covert appeals to white racism and the avoidance of wealth redistribution — features that remain prominent to this day.
Drawing on rich traditions of radical social thought, Roediger debunks the thinly sourced idea that the United States was, for much of its history, a “middle-class” nation and the still more indefensible position that it is one now. The increasing immiseration of large swaths of middle-income America, only accelerated by the current pandemic, reveals the fallacy that is a major obstacle to progressive change.
DAVID R. ROEDIGER teaches American Studies at the University of Kansas. His books include Seizing Freedom, The Wages of Whiteness, How Race Survived U.S. History, and Towards the Abolition of Whiteness and Working toward Whiteness. His book The Production of Difference (with Elizabeth Esch) recently won the International Labor History Association Book Prize.
“Brilliant and insightful… Explores the ways in which appeals to save the middle class in electoral politics harm the very constituencies they purport to help.”
—George Lipsitz, author of How Racism Takes Place