Monday, June 27, 2005

Juan Cole's Class Trouble

Juan Cole, whose blog Informed Comment has enlightened and entertained many (including this reader), gets the class question wrong on the American and Iranian presidential elections:
Newly elected Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad won in some part by using the same electoral tools as George W. Bush and Karl Rove.

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2. False Consciousness

Ahmadinejad, a rightwinger, poses as a champion of the common people, and once dressed up as a street sweeper. He thus got a lot of working class people to vote for him, even though he will do the bidding of billionaire clerical hardliners who have done little for ordinary folks.

Likewise, George W. Bush affects a southern drawl (he is from Connecticut) and makes himself out to be a friend of the common man, with his "tax cuts" and program to "save" social security. In fact, everything Bush does primarily benefits the rich and actually hurts the interests of workers and farmers. Nevertheless, as with Ahmadinejad, he gets many in the working classes to vote for him. (Juan Cole, "Ahmadinejad Uses Bush's Tactics," Informed Comment, 26 Jun. 2005)
First of all, while Bush may pretend to be "a friend of the common man," his economic policy, even at the level of rhetoric, is the antithesis of Ahmadinejad's's platform. Bush wouldn't even dream of using the populist rhetoric of taking from the rich and giving to the poor that Ahmadinejad did, let alone putting populist economic policy in practice. The language of Ahmadinejad is precisely of the sort that Bush, as well as the Republican Party in general, abhors as stuff of class warfare from below.

Secondly, both the majority of the American and Iranian working classes knew where Bush and Ahmadinejad stood on class matters and voted accordingly. Take working-class voters in Ohio, the crucial battleground state, last year: "Ohioans whose annual income is less than $50,000 voted against Bush by a margin of 16% (Ohioans whose annual income is $50,000 or more voted for Bush by exactly the same margin), but they constituted only 48% of the Ohioans who voted" ("Ohioans with an Annual Income of Less Than $50,000," Critical Montages, 3 Nov. 2004). Nationwide, 55% of voters with the annual income of less than $50,000 (constituting 45% of those who cast their votes) voted for John F. Kerry and 44% of them voted for Bush; and 43% of voters with the annual income of $50,000 or more (making up 55% of those who cast their votes) voted for Kerry and 56% of them voted for Bush (, "Election Results: US President/National/Exit Poll"). While a minority of working-class voters indeed voted for Bush, it's clear that his base is the rich, the majority of working-class America being still opposed to the Republican Party. Not so with Ahmadinejad: "Ahmadinejad’s supporters, in contrast [to Ali Akhbar Hashemi Rafsanjani's as well as Bush's], come mostly from the working class, rural poor and unemployed who admire his humility and pledges to redistribute the country’s vast oil income" (Paul Hughes, "Iran Run-off: Voters Split along Class Lines," Indian Express, 24 Jun. 2005).

In short, in terms of both political platform and base of support, Ahmadinejad and Bush have nothing in common.

Whether or not Ahmadinejad will deliver on any of his campaign promises is another question, but liberal reformers who can't see the glaring difference between him and Bush can't hope to appeal to workers in either Iran or America.


cuibono said...

Really outstanding reporting! If I was Mr Pulitzer you'd be at the top of my list:) Thank you so much.

Have you seen Bob Scheer's kneejerk rap in The Nation? somebody should pull his coat, but trying to email them is a lost cause. It would be good to fwd him this & a wakeup call, if you can come up w an edress -- ?

Thanks again,


CEJ said...

Why bother with the Nation?
It's total self-involved assholes like Duff Henwood who write for it or influence what gets published. It's garbage. A total waste.