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The Ruling Class v. the Country Class: a Populist Fool’s Dream

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One of the longest conflicts running in American politics is rooted in the populist idea that in the United States there are two classes of people which are divided not by income, but by power held in the financial and political realms. Not all successful politicians and businesspersons, though, are members of what is commonly referred to as the Ruling Class, just those who might appear to be a bit pretentious in the eyes of one individual typically holding the power to influence the minds of millions, who belong to the Country Class.

For much of the twentieth century, this massive inferiority complex was propagated principally by far-left activists and pseudo-intellectuals seeking to ignite an uprising against the capitalist establishment. Interestingly enough, this debacle did not take off during the 1900s and ’10s, during which the fight for workers’ rights was raging. The concept of class warfare really gained steam during the 1930s, when the Great Depression left much of the nation facing the horrific prospect of either permanent unemployment or marginal opportunities digging ditches for Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal-inspired Works Progress Administration. Class warfare then stagnated a bit during the mid-1940s’ post-World War II economic boom, and the stability derived from this during the succeeding decade. By the time of the social revolution of the 1960s, however, the Ruling and Country classes were battling once again in the minds of those attempting to overthrow civilized society in favor of a utopian (there goes that word again; trust me, we will discuss it at length shortly) construct which entailed free love, free material goods, and plenty of free lunches. After this bit of nonsense fell out of public favor, the much-hyped class conflict came to naught and was essentially forgotten.

Despite popping in and out of the mainstream of American political discussion from time to time, class warfare remained more or less a quizzical absurdity relegated to a handful of history books; until the presidential election of Barack Obama in 2008. It was then that the far right picked up where their opposite numbers left off and propelled the notion that it was not capitalists who were the true Ruling Class, but essentially all politicians belonging to the Democratic party, most moderate Republicans, and those just not seeming to be “Real Americans,” meaning people choosing to refrain from becoming excited about hot-button issues, dress and speak in a down-home fashion, or, simply put, think for themselves. Of course, this new-found vendetta makes about as much sense as its predecessor did, but this is unimportant. The fact of the matter is that the reactionary right proved itself effectively to be no different from the radical left; they are two peas in a hell-raising, crypto-authoritarian pod. Sadly, this is clear to see for all but their adherents, whose numbers, it would seem, are growing at an alarming rate.

Needless to say, the overreaching notion of there being an elite group controlling the masses is totally false. While the United States is home to several very influential corporations and public officeholders, under the circumstances of the former sometimes pulling the strings of the latter, our entire system of governance is set up so that there never can be a truly omnipotent force in place capable of bringing about a Ruling v. Country class scenario. The only way in which this could possibly happen is if we allow it. After all, even the strongest of companies is incapable of casting a ballot but we, as American citizens, can. This is why it is of the utmost importance that a civic-minded voting populace be present, so that even the most nefarious of politicians should be forced to think twice about engaging in nefarious activities if intending to keep their job. Complaining about how others are keeping one down when those in question are merely a group onto whom he or she has projected a great deal of anger is not only wasted energy, but is also counterproductive towards really getting to the root of the problem — which those who are responsible for must be dealt with on an individual basis.

Group-think has always been a bad thing, and class conflict is one of its worst products. Let us not fall for this easy way out of tending to our nation’s sociopolitical debacles. If we take responsibility and deal with the problems at hand in a rational, pragmatic manner, then, in the future, the subject of the Ruling and Country classes going at each other’s throats will be one of laughter and mockery, not serious consideration.

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About Joseph F. Cotto