Conceding the Narrative

[Content Note: Classism.]

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio have co-authored an op-ed for the Washington Post on "How to Revive the American Dream," in which they lay out some very solid and necessary proposals for mitigating the increasingly cavernous class divide in the US.

However, here is one word that never appears a single time in the piece: Poverty. And here is how the piece ends:
Rebuilding our middle class won't be easy, but real change rarely is. It's time to be bold.

The American Dream depends on it.
I really hate everything about that. And the reason I hate it is because it concedes two grossly destructive conservative narratives.

First: The American Dream is a garbage fantasy used to deny the existence of privilege and rooted deeply in the myth of bootstraps. Warren and de Blasio are right as rain that "it's time to be bold," and they should boldly throw the entire concept of the American Dream in a dumpster where it belongs.

Second: The disproportionate focus on the middle class implicitly, even if unintentionally, upholds conservative narratives about people in poverty being lazy moochers who just aren't working hard enough to "lift themselves" out of poverty. By constantly focusing on the middle class, rather than a truly bottom-up model of social and economic justice which centers people in poverty, politicians tacitly suggest that a permanent underclass is acceptable.

I'm sure there's some strategist somewhere being paid obscene amounts of money to tell Democrats that focusing on the middle class plays well in Peoria, and who would tell me for free that I just don't understand how politics works so STFU, but progressives can do better than this. And we must.

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