There’s a good reason the video of 1400 factory workers learning of their dismissal is going viral.
Last week, several outlets began reposting a clip of hundreds of Carrier Air Conditioning workers in Indianapolis learning the bad news that their plant was going to be relocated to Monterrey, Mexico, over the next three years. (RELATED: Employees React To News 1,400 Jobs Are Leaving The Country)
The pink-slipped employees evinced rage at the announcement and many began swearing and yelling at the company spokesman delivering the message, as should be expected in this kind of situation. But the messenger did little to allay these tensions in giving an impressively un-empathetic speech.
The unidentified company man scolded the hecklers about interrupting the “important” information he was trying to share and, “if you don’t want to hear it other people do, so let’s quiet down.”
That important information had little to do with the workers’ employment prospects and more to do with how the move will help the company maintain “competitive prices and continue to serve the extremely price sensitive market place.”
“Why would we care?” shouted one irate employee in response to the statement.
The “strictly business decision” went about as well with the Americans who read about it as it did with the workers who heard it first-hand. Donald Trump, not surprisingly, is now haranguing about the incident on social media and in stump speeches, making it likely that the Carrier announcement could be a key theme this election cycle.
With both Trump and Bernie Sanders harping on companies for cynically sending jobs overseas to increase profit and how generous trade deals hurt American workers, the Carrier plant video illustrates both talking points pretty well.
The most astute, and colorfully-worded, comment to come from the video is uttered by an enraged worker who upon learning his job is going to Mexico, yells, “That’s why you brought all those motherfuckers here!”
The “motherfuckers” are, of course, Mexican immigrants who have come here both legally and illegally on the premise that they would take lower wages and would do jobs “no American would do.”
Probably without the knowledge of that one worker, former Mexican president Carlos Salinas made a parallel point when he promised American audiences back in the early 1990s that NAFTA would curtail immigration from the Central American state by bringing jobs to Mexico.
That certainly didn’t happen after NAFTA passed as illegal immigration from Mexico skyrocketed while thousands of manufacturing jobs were sent across the border.
The anxiety many working-class workers feel over immigration and outsourcing was encapsulated in that one vulgar heckle. It’s why many within this demographic are embracing Trump.
Coupled with their rising mortality rates and declining political influence, this group is starting to feel resentful — a fact surprisingly acknowledged in the last Democratic debate.
But the (largely white) working class element that has found their man in The Donald has irked several conservatives as a loathsome development. These conservatives are more likely to justify Carrier’s move as one of absolute necessity and anyone who disagrees should, in the words of the company spokesman, “quiet down.” In the opinions of some of these right-wing critics, appealing to the interests of blue collar voters is rank demagoguery and these citizens don’t deserve special attention.
The most prominent writer voicing this criticism is National Review’s Kevin Williamson.
In an Playboy-published excerpt from his book “The Case Against Trump,” Williamson gleefully recounts how this downwardly mobile class is basically composed of sexually frustrated bigots who buy into the “fantasy” that they once had stable employment. Williamson implies that there really isn’t a place for these troglodytes in 21st century America and there’s nothing you can really do about it.
He developed this argument further in a February National Review article declaring this class “Buchanan’s Boys.” Insinuating there’s rancorous white nationalism lurking underneath both Trumpism and Pat Buchanan’s past appeal, Williamson puts forth the notion that the free enterprise dogmas of the conservative movement is the only message the working class should receive from the Republican Party. Anything else amounts to “white identity politics” and “welfare statism.”
Considering how well talk of burdensome regulations and cost efficiency went over with the soon-to-be laid-off Carrier workers, that doesn’t seem to be a winning strategy.
After receiving criticism for appearing to show contempt for the white working-class in that article, Williamson clarified his position and said conservatives should tell this group to “get a job.”
Williamson isn’t alone in this sentiment as numerous conservatives and libertarians have repeated the famous “South Park” line of “Dey Took ERRR Jerbs!” to skewer the supposed ignorance of The Donald’s fanbase, along with several other pleasantries.
While all these anti-Trump conservatives are quick to say that Republicans should still try to woo over disenchanted blue collar folk, the common line is that it should be done with typical conservative messages about limited government and how awesome the free market is.
That hasn’t worked in the past and seeing how the economic measures championed by leading conservatives — from increasing immigration to international trade deals — has come at the cost of reducing opportunities for low-skilled Americans to find gainful employment, it’s a fool’s hope to think doubling down on conservative orthodoxy will win over this demographic.
It’s also a bit hypocritical for some conservatives to condemn appealing to the interests of the white working-class while, at the same time, support outright pandering to the interests of various minority groups.
Republicans are told to embrace criminal justice reform, regardless of its consequences, in order to make in-roads with the black community. Similarly, Republicans are told to push through amnesty and start speaking Spanish for the sole purpose of winning over the Latino vote.
These ideas all constitute a form of identity politics as they are articulated not with making America a better country, but in the hope that the measures will go over well with a specified group. Ironically, the same conservatives who sneer at the white working-class and get on bended knee before minority groups describe their philosophy as “compassionate conservatism.” Apparently, it’s only compassionate towards some people.
Conservatives seem more willing to entertain the minority outreach proposals because they don’t come with the price of altering free trade shibboleths.
While some on the Right may hope that sacrifices on social policy and none on economic policy will result in more minorities voting Republican, that’s about as likely to happen as appealing to the white working-class with the promise to eliminate the capital gains tax. Minorities, like everybody else, primarily vote based on economic concerns and polls show the Republican agenda on that matter doesn’t appeal to them.
On the other hand, it appears many otherwise disengaged working-class voters are willing to vote Republican — if given the right message. Sadly, Republican elites would prefer this class not sully their party with their odious presence and are not willing to tailor a message that would bring them to the Republican fold.
If Republicans would rather take the side of Carrier in its decision to leave for Mexico and tell its fired workers, “tough luck,” they probably deserve to continue to lose national elections.