Warning: Political Post Ahead

(You may be surprised at my writing a political post–I’ve never done it before.  Mainly because so many people do it…and they do it so much better than I.  Plus, I get so emotional about the state of things sometimes that I’m unable to write coherently about them. But I’ve been feeling a little peevish lately and worried about political affairs.  And yesterday, one of my favorite bloggers [and a person I respect] wrote a post that got my dander up a bit.  In fact, I surprised MYSELF at my reaction. Hence, my first political post–I hope you’ll forgive and indulge me.)

Back in 2006, before news broke of his affair and $400 haircuts, I was a John Edwards supporter.  But that same year, he gave a speech during his Walmart-bashing campaign that made me shake my head and groan at his cluelessness. Edwards recounted the story of how his six-year-old son Jack had chided a classmate for wearing sneakers from Walmart, telling his little friend that Walmart treats its employees badly.  Edwards was bursting with pride as he said, “If a six-year-old can figure it out, America can figure it out!”  Why did I groan?  Well, for one thing, I found it appalling that he would encourage his son to make another child feel bad because he bought his shoes at Walmart (very likely because he couldn’t afford otherwise).  If my child had said that, it would occasion a good long talk about being kind to those less fortunate.  In addition, this was a prime example of why so many of my fellow blue-collar friends feel alienated from the Democratic Party. 

It is a source of consternation and amazement to me that so many blue-collar people consistently vote for people that don’t have their best interests at heart.  I voted for Gore in 2000, Kerry in 2004 and will vote for Obama in 2008.  But so many lower-income people I know voted for Bush, not just one but two times!  There are many reasons for this, among them the fact that Republicans in general have become so skilled at manipulating the minds of the less sophisticated, with emotional appeals designed to exploit that lack of sophistication.  But some of the problem stems from the fact that the Democratic Party has failed to convey to us blue-collar voters that they really care about the things that keep us awake at night—how to pay for health care, how to keep a roof over our heads, how to pay for gas (if we’re lucky enough to have a running car), and how to feed and clothe our children.  Instead, to show their commitment to poor people, they go around bashing Walmart, where most of us shop on a regular basis.

Now I’m no defender of Walmart.  I do think they have some appalling corporate practices…but so do many, many other mega corporations.  But here’s the thing:  they sell things at a price that people like me can afford.  A much better price, in many cases.  Sure, I’d like to be able to buy that fancy organic, free-range chicken at the fancy organic food store.  But I just can’t swing it.  After health insurance and taxes, etc. are taken out, we bring home about $250 a week.  We’re lucky if we even have chicken.

So, my fellow Democrats—don’t lecture me on how my buying choices are a “moral” decision.  The truth is:  I don’t have a lot of choice. Don’t bash the very people you claim to champion for shopping at the one place they can afford. I wish I could always afford to weigh the human costs against the cost to my wallet, but when you make $12.00 an hour, the cost to your wallet is a real and practical consideration.   Get off your high horse in your “noble” campaign against Walmart, and walk the dusty roads with those of us that don’t have a horse.  🙂

And try to get a clue about the realities of being poor.  As the son of a millworker, John Edwards did grow up poor, but I think he forgot what it was like.  Back in 2006, I honestly considered offering myself as his blue-collar advisor because, Lord knows, he needed one.  I have to roll my eyes when the Democratic Party wonders why blue-collar folks think they’re elitist.  Wake up, Democrats.  Stop bashing just Walmart (thereby pandering to the unions) and the people who shop there.  Campaign for ALL corporations to pay a living wage.  Campaign for health care for everyone.   Do something about the huge and growing gap between the rich and the poor.

And do you know what I’d really like to see?  Every lawmaker in Washington being forced to live for a year with their family of four on $12.00 an hour.  Without the fancy homes and cars they already have.  Maybe then we’d see a change we could believe in.


13 Responses to “Warning: Political Post Ahead”

  1. June Says:

    I think you’ve got a good idea there! I’m right with you on this issue. Lots of people I know in Floyd will not shop at Walmart on principle, but the lower prices are hard to pass up. I think they have gotten more socially responsible lately. Let’s hope they continue down that road.

  2. Judy Says:

    I shop at Walmart all the time and for the same reasons you do Beth. They have better prices and I can afford to shop there. I don’t buy organic and like you said I do well to buy some meat. Groceries have become so high you can’t afford to eat and on top of that put in gasoline.
    Anyway, I am glad you did this post. It is a good one.

  3. CountryDew Says:

    Excellent points, Beth. Neither party really represents anything but the upper classes anymore. They’ve disenfranchised a lot of people.

  4. Margie Miller Says:

    Beth, your argument is valid. I too shop at Wal Mart. Once upon a time, I made $38,000 a year but that has been a long time ago..in 1997. When Bob retired in 1985, we thought we had enough savings to last us a lifetime. I had my profit sharing from the radio station and he had his retirement from Phillips Petroleum. But most of that money is long gone. In all that time, we have taken only one vacation.

    We are 72 and 78 and have $7800. in savings left. Inflation has eaten it up….groceries, gasoline, and utilities have taken it over the years.

    We are driving a 2000 Ford Ranger and a 2001 Honda Civic, both vehicles had been wrecked and salvaged. My Honda has 106,000 miles on it and Bob’s Ranger has 86,000 miles on it. They have to last us because we cannot buy another vehicle.

    I used to buy “good” clothes but anymore I look for bargains at Wal Mart and am happy to find them.

  5. luckypennies Says:

    Tell it, Mama! Yeah!

    I feel like so often our representatives and lawmakers either take a completely moral stance or a completely practical one. That’s what I’m looking for myself, someone who can see in both directions, someone who can appreciate the working man (or woman) and condemn Walmart at the same time.

    And Margie, I’m saying a prayer for you. It sounds like y’all are barely making ends meet. I hope things look up for you. 🙂

  6. pticester Says:

    “And do you know what I’d really like to see? Every lawmaker in Washington being forced to live for a year with their family of four on $12.00 an hour. Without the fancy homes and cars they already have. Maybe then we’d see a change we could believe in.”

    I’d also like to see how they make it without all their benefits that are paid for by our government. I spent a year without health insurance and my daughter several years – that was scary.

    Great post.

  7. Jeff Says:

    Beth, I’m so glad that you’ve posted this. I wanted to elaborate on my post on the other blog, but sometimes, that isn’t the place to do such things! First, I want to say that I admire you very much – you’ve not had an easy life at all. Neither have I – I grew up with hand-me-downs and surplus government food (those were the days before food stamps). I don’t buy free-range organic chicken or drive a Prius, either. What gets lost in the translation about Wal-Mart, however, is that all of us are suffering because huge multi-national corporations are in the drivers seat. And the idea that Obama and the Democrats will do anything to alter that is utter nonsense, despite the halo hanging over their heads. The Democrats are just the other side of the coin from the Republicans – neither of them have our best interests in mind. Both are the party of the ruling elite, which has nothing but contempt for the peasantry. And that is where Wal-Mart comes in: yes, they have low prices, but they also are part of the ruling elite that sets the agenda for what will be discussed in government. Wal-Mart and a whole bunch of other huge corporations. I perfectly understand the struggle to make ends meet, but when you sell your soul to the Devil ….. there has to be another way, that’s all. I don’t profess to know the answers, but I really am impressed with Wendell Berry – his emphasis on community and morality really gets to me. And he is not afraid to put the Christian Right in its place, either. That irritates the Christian Right, of course, but they cannot challenge him either, because he is very well versed in the Bible. He is very spiritual and acts out of deeply held moral beliefs and I am very, very impressed. All I meant by my post is that we need to use what few dollars we have to effect change in this world – we can’t continue to pay the masters who grind us into the dirt. I agree with everyone who has posted so far and I would add that it would really be nice to see all of the Senators and Representatives live on Social Security. As it is, they are guaranteed, after ONE term, a very generous sum of money every year for the rest of their lives!! I’m not voting for Obama or McCain – I’m voting for a third party candidate. I’m through with voting for “the lesser of two evils” – it is time for real change in this country. Not the “change” touted by the Demoreps!

    Anyone read Joe Bageant’s blog? http://www.joebageant.com – the latest post, “Moving to the Center of Elite Consensus is in-your-face plain truth.

  8. Margie Miller Says:

    Anyone who votes for a third party candidate, unfortunately, is only fueling the McCain contest. That’s how Bush won his first term. Besides the courts deciding Bush was the winner, the vote had been split by Nader and if he hadn’t won the votes he did, Gore would have had an even larger lead and there would have been no dispute.

  9. Jeff Says:

    Margie, with all due respect, please read this:


    I know your heart is in the right place, but it is time to take off the rose-colored glasses and take a hard look at the reality in this country.

    I’ve voted Democratic my entire life. In 2006, I voted for change (Democrats – again!) and got sand kicked in my face. The Bush administration has committed dozens of impeachable offenses and Pelosi says impeachment is off the table? Impeachment is not conviction – it is similar to what a grand jury does. Can we not have a honest discussion of what is and is not right in this country? Apparently not! Where are the leaders that we had in the early 60s, like Wayne Morse, of Oregon? Or William Fullbright, of Arkansas? There is no one, except perhaps Kucinich and Feingold, who has the spine to call a spade a spade. Bush has famously said that the “Constitution is just a goddamn piece of paper!” The Democrats have just as much blood on their hands as the Republicans. That’s why they refuse to bring charges against the Bush administration. They will be exposed as the enablers that they are.

    No, in good conscience, I cannot support those who do not support the Constitution. If and when the Democrats prove they have some spine, instead of the empty, feel-good rhetoric that drowned Denver, I may return to support them. But not until then.

  10. eemilla Says:

    Your foray into the political post realm was great! I love reading your blog in general.
    When I worked as a server, a co-worker used to joke about being issued a license to dine out which would require one to live off tips for year. Yes, John Edwards and Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Joe Bidden, and even Barack Obama are out of touch with the daily lives and sacrifices we as working class or middle class families make. How true that they should have to live on at least the average american income before they can offer themselves another raise or call seven dollars an hour (without health coverage) a fair minimum wage. Being most closely affiliated with the Democrats my judgement against them is harsher as I don’t expect Republicans to do anything other than help big biz.
    I can understand why one might vote against their own economic interests to protect their moral interests, and this is were the Republicans have brilliantly ripped the blue collars from the Democratic party. Democrats are scarred to call the Republicans out on their fear mongering; like if homosexual couples are allowed to enter into a state contract called marriage, then the whole world will end. Democrats fail to frame a state marriage as a legal contract and nothing more. No church should have to perform a marriage that it doesn’t believe is moral, but this country has a separation of church and state so consenting adults should be allowed to marry.
    I don’t want to vote Democratic anymore than Jeff does, but like Margie I agree that a third party vote is the same as not voting. I would blame Gore and the Democrats for not being strong enough to defeat a failed businessman governor who can’t be trusted to speak proper English, just as I would blame Kerry and the Democrats for a war hero losing to a deserter. I pray with all my being that the third election will be the charm, and Democrats will stand tall and proud rather than chase after the Republicans. The two party system has helped prevent any real candidates from being viable. Unless one is a multi millionaire (or married to one) it just isn’t feasible that one could mount a campaign especially outside of the duopoly.
    I can’t imagine myself supporting WalMart, but neither can I support EarthFare or any of the other yuppie supermarkets. Neither outlet has any interest aside from their bottom line at heart. This year we planted our victory garden which has helped our grocery bill, and we don’t eat meat. I chose to stop eating meat and animal flesh out of my disdain for handling it coupled with the huge environmental costs (not that I am a vegetarian because I love fish).
    It all comes down to choices; we don’t live in a doublewide, but we also don’t have privacy and gorgeous mountain views from our front porch. We have downsized to one car, and we take turns riding the bus for work and errands. My husband still doesn’t have a 401(k), and if he weren’t able to cook food all day my salary couldn’t support us for even a month (and we don’t even have an kids that need new clothes all the time), but we do not shop at WalMart. Although we are guilty of shopping at KMart, Target, and Lowes to name a few.
    Anyway I guess I have rambled enough. Thanks for the great blog!

  11. Benjamin Says:

    Amen. And yes, thanks for your intelligent thoughts blessing the large tangle of data that is the Internet.

  12. colleen Says:

    Well said!

  13. Going Crunchy Says:

    Hi Beth,

    Hooray you for doing a political post. When you (well, I) can get over the nervousness of doing it, the outcomes and discussion are very interesting!

    I can honestly say that I do the majority of my clothes shopping and such at Goodwill, both for the finances and for the re-use aspect. I’ve actually been tossing around the idea for doing a section called “Look what I got at Goodwill!” Seriously, I wore a kick-butt suit today that I got on sale for $5.00. I get tons of “brand names” there and such, and pretty much really look good. Break outta the Wal-Mart and head to the thrift store hills!

    I think the problem with bashing Wal-Mart is that often too folks aren’t putting forth the full story. Wal-Mart to me symbolizes over consumption in want vs. need, and the American ideal of more, more, more for less, less, less which harms our pocketbooks and environment. And leaders in Wal-Mart fight like hell to keep minimum wage low, and drive down prices for the people that manufacture. What is the outcome in that? Ship the jobs overseas.

    It isn’t only Wal-Mart. It is our consumption cycle and consumer choices for the most part.

    I totally agree with you about needing more affordable sources for when we actually do need things at a great cost savings. There are some things I can’t get used like socks, underwear, some shoes, etc. Like you, I can’t afford to buy them at expensive prices. I figure I do alot of offsetting by buying most everything else used or thrifted.

    Though I make a good living by U.S. standards and a mammoth amount by world standards I’m still in the land of home haircuts, driving a car with 190.000 miles on it, etc. I just try to look at my money to spend, and spend it in the most responsible way that I can.

    And quite frankly, I’m alot more inclined to poke fun at somebody for shopping at a Fields, or a Macy’s, etc. Why on earth would somebody want to pay a zillion bucks for something just to do it- – when it isn’t focusing on organic, whole, or local. That eludes me more then somebody buying something at Wal-Mart. Gotta be honest, I’m teaching my kids to give a little fist pump of victory in the air when we find something thrifted- -reduce, re-use, recycle!!!! And making them damn proud of that at an early age so there isn’t really a shame in buying used. Um, my kid would probably be the one to pop the Edwards kid for saying something kinda snotty in that respect.

    When you actually get down to it, even those of us that make the least live in a standard that is higher then the majority of the world. When we get beyond the gotta-have-ems (and I am NOT saying that you do because if anything you strike me as one of the most down to earth way cool people) of our society I think you can see more of the disparity of expectations in how we are supposed to live.

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