Shelter and Solidarity: A Deep Dive with Artists and Activists

The Saturday Bookshelf: David Roediger on the Sinking “Middle Class,” April 3, 2021

April 27, 2021

Co-hosts Rachel Yarashus Patten and Bobbi-Lee Smart talk with David Roediger about his new book, The Sinking Middle Class.

Description of The Sinking Middle Class: "Joe Biden’s current emphasis on the 'American middle class' is typical of centrist Democrat strategy. It is used as a cudgel to defend the party against more radical demands that could win over working-class voters and non-voters. For Republicans, it provides a foil for disingenuous appeals to the 'white working class.' Donald Trump’s 2016 victory made full use of such rhetoric.

Yet, as David Roediger makes clear in a pointed and persuasive polemic, this obsession with the middle-class is relatively new in US politics. It began with the attempt to win back so-called 'Reagan Democrats' by Bill Clinton and his legendary pollster Stanley Greenberg. It was accompanied by a pandering to racism and a shying away from meaningful wealth redistribution that continues to this day.

Drawing on rich traditions of radical social thought, Roediger disavows 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 swathes of middle-income America, only accelerated by the current pandemic, nails a fallacy that is a major obstacle to progressive change.” – OR Books