Political rhetoric in this year’s Presidential election seems to be fixated on use of the term “middle class,” to refer to the vast electorate. We hear the “middle class” drumbeat incessantly. Yet in our supposedly “classless” society, we almost never hear a politician refer to the “lower class” or the “upper class” that would give the phrase “middle class” some relative meaning. What we hear instead are the words “the poor” in place of “lower class” and “the rich” in place of “upper class.” Politicians just can’t seem to articulate that indeed we have a downtrodden unemployed and marginally employed “lower class” that amounts to the social serfs and peasantry of our contemporary American culture, and heaven help us, bookended by a moneyed, uppity “upper class” that is populated with the princelings of our modern society. Why is that?
Well, when we hear “middle class,” I think what is really meant is reference to a middle-income class, not some middle social caste. And often, much or the lower-income class consisting of regularly paid workers are meant to be included in that aspirational, voting “middle class” moniker. As for the unheard of “upper class,” it suffices politicians to refer to “the rich.” They seem to dare not refer to the well-born and socially prominent, but to those who have accumulated great wealth. Donald Trump is “rich” but hardly “upper class,” except for the trappings of estates, planes, country clubs and starlets that come with vast fortune.
So, that leaves us with a political “middle class” electorate with no acknowledged “lower” and “upper”social bookends to surround it. I think I’ll choke the next time I hear the epithet “middle class” from a politician. Can we get back to a socially classless American society, where we have people with a little or a lot of money, and those of us hard-working managers and professionals struggling somewhere in between?