Yasmin Nair

Class in Drag or Who's Middle Class Anyway?: Sarah Palin, Joe Sixpack, and Main Street

Filed By Yasmin Nair | October 05, 2008 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Fundie Watch, Living, Politics, Politics, Politics, The Movement
Tags: drag queens, Joe Sixpack, Middle Class, poverty, Sarah Palin, working class

I watched Sarah Palin on Thursday night with my fingernails digging into my hands. Joe Biden must have remembered the fuss over Al Gore's sighs during the latter's debate with George Bush, because he showed restraint even as Palin consistently refused to answer critical questions on issues like health care.

Well, that didn't stop me from sighing, screaming, and yelling at the television. I've previously written about Sarah Palin's politics on abortion in "Barefoot and Pregnant in the White House," and the debate only reinforced my worst fears, despite the absence of any mention of the issue- Neither Palin nor Biden were asked about their positions on abortion (or perhaps they were asked about it during the time that I vainly attempted to bury my woes in a giant cookie). If McCain and Palin get elected, we can look forward to our lives resembling scenes straight out of The Handmaids of God. I'd look horrible in a red wimple.

But I'll admit that even I forgot about abortion on Thursday because I was distracted by Palin's peculiar evocation of "Joe Sixpack" and her constant attempts to perform a version of class that's supposed to remind us all of "middle America," the land of the virtuous and hardworking folk who say "gonna" and "doggone it" and... oh, forget it. I'm not even going to try to replicate what she did. Her folksy rendition of the speech patterns of people we're supposed to recognise as the "average American" was nothing more than a caricature of class in America.

I've long been fascinated by the impulse of so many politicians to simulate middle class/working class origins. But even more fascinating to me is the extent to which we hold on to the idea that we're all just part of a struggling middle class, despite mounting evidence that a lot of us are just plain poor. According to the reigning fiction of our times: Nobody's poor; we're all just middle class; and we're all just coasting by, agog at the possibility of a hint of the illusion that we just might, perhaps, perchance return to the hollow shells of foreclosed houses and dry grass lawns and reclaim our middle class lives.

When will we admit to our widespread poverty and forget the fiction of being middle class? When are we going to tell the politicians around us to shut up already about rescuing the middle class and do something for those of us who are just plain poor? I'll be attempting to answer that question in a variety of ways over the next few months, and the first foray comes in the form of (shameless plug here) an article on class in America I wrote recently for the October issue of The Guide, titled "Class in Drag" which you can find here. While you're at it, please do look through the rest of the magazine, which is probably the last truly radical/leftie queer publication in the United States, and an extremely useful gay tourism guide. Back issues are archived on its website, and there's some fantastic and enlightening material here. Pick a month, look through the table of contents, and you'll see what I mean.

For my article, "Class in Drag" see http://tinyurl.com/3opzwj
For more from The Guide, see http://www.guidemag.com/ and check out the archives.

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As a McCain/Palin supporter, I can read your article thought it was very even-handed and brought up some interesting points. We would probably not agree with methods, but I think we could about your underlying ideas. Yes, it is only the elite that can run for office anymore, and yes the poor are dressed up as the middle class. I don't think either of these candidates is going to help anyone in the end, but only choose McCain based on exerience. If Obama had a term or two behind him, that could very well put me in his camp. I'm pretty sure we'll be pulling different levers in November, but it would be nice to have more intelligent discussion like this article instead of the name-calling and mean-spiritedness that both sides are exhibiting.

Welcome to the Project, Jeff. I hope you stick around and join the discussion.

Yasmin, I agree with you wholeheartedly. Great article in the Guide!


Thanks for commenting, and for your compliment. Yes, you're right that we agree on the point about how the lower class gets dressed up as middle class these days.(Although, I'll admit I'm also against the two-party system, and aim to agitate much more strongly for a fundamental change in that regard once this election is over...but that's for another day).

Another example, which I'm sure you've noted, of how only the elites seem able to run for office these days is the example of Michael Bloomberg in NYC, who seems poised for a third term mostly on the strenght of his vast wealth.

And there's lots to discuss about that!
Thanks again,

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | October 5, 2008 6:54 PM

The corporate rich have reintroduced the word class into America’s vocabulary by engaging in unconcealed class warfare against the rest of us. For twenty five years or more business managers and the politicians they own have launched successful raids against unions, slashed welfare and enabled the export of jobs. That combined with Clintons deregulation allowed their gluttony and gross incompetence to destroy the economy.

The realization that there is no middle class will follow as the crushing burden of an unwinnable war, a failed economy, enforced austerity and an end to social programs generate protest and then rage among working people.

An unwinnable war, a wrecked economy and the rising anger of most Americans will create a tripe whammy that will politically tear down the winners of the November 4th election. Sooner, rather than later, the class war will become two sided. Both parties associated with the grand theft of trillions to cover the losses of the incompetents who own the economy are already extinct. The Republicans will learn that on November 5th, and the Democrats as they flounder trying to deal with war, economic chaos and the mounting rage of working people. Both parties are just too dumb to know they're politically dead... for now. .


Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | October 5, 2008 11:56 PM

I enjoyed watching the CNN coverage of the debate. When Palin used the phrase "Joe six pack" the rating lines skidded downward among the undecided voters who will decide the election. I think we already have a third party of the determined middle who choose non organization (and thinking) over indoctrination and not being confused with new facts. An openness to a variety of viewpoints builds a superior voter.

If we were to take the massive step of killing off the electoral college so that all votes counted equally, from all Americans regardless of state or whether they live in the United States, we would go a long way faster toward universal franchise and greater voter turnout.

Thanks, Bil!

And Bill, as much as I'd like to see and hear more about economic disenfranchisement, I'm perhaps less optimistic than you about that happening in the near future. I think we're too wedded to the fiction of the U.S. being an inherently classless and egalitarian society to seriously engage in a discussion about class. The way to address the issues is to speak more openly about our identities as workers, and I'm curious to see whether or not that transpires any time soon...keep me in touch about what you hear!

Glad to know that there may be more scepticism about Palin's rhetorical strategies than we've imagined. Yeah, I think the electoral college is a mystifying, unegalitarian, and dead-end method that does nothing to reflect voter wishes. It should be scrapped...but when and how is the question.

Class warfare is over. We lost. The "city on a hill" us a gated community. If you don't emigrate, better brush up on your looting skills.

But in the meantime, flood the polls (that's becoming my "Carthago delenda est")! I can live with Democrats telling my friends not to get too uppity. Not for too goddamn much longer! But it beats hell out of having to show your bible or your certificate of whiteness and straightness to the cops.

"We lost.

Not quite. The bailout, the grand theft of $700 billion dollars, the war, AIG, GM/Chrysler/Ford, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and etc. will nearly double the national debt from $8. trillion on 01
Jan 08 to about $15 trillion by 01 Jan 09.

That could lead to a renewal of the Great Depression or to a very long period of imposed austerity enforced by greater authoritarianism.

Both parties support that in full. That's why both Obama and McCain voted for FISA and to extend the anti-democratic Paytriot Act.

Whether it's a depression or austerity and stagflation, the reaction to imposed austerity will be an eye-opening shock followed by mounting anger and then by mass action.

By the time it's over the rich won't be looking for a bailout, they'll be looking for bail. In the meantime the polls are the last place to look for change. It'll never come as long as the rich run the parties and the government.