Thursday Dec 01

Fall 2022

Economically Secure People Do Not Care So Much About Being “Replaced”

The “Great Replacement”

There is absolutely nothing “great” about the “Great Replacement.” It is nothing new either.  Its genesis began in the early twentieth century by French nationalists who were horrified at immigrants, largely black and Muslim, seeking refuge in France.  In this iteration of hatred, antisemitism was not included among the targeted groups. That would develop later as white supremacist organizations in the United States added the Jewish demographic to their list of scapegoats. This was painfully evident in the chant of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017:

“Jews will not replace us.”

Unsurprisingly, immigration from the French colonies was encouraged by French governments to help rebuild France after the devastation of World War II. The miserable living conditions of those in French colonies is rarely discussed as a component that drove immigrants from North Africa to France. However, Algerian psychiatrist and activist, Franz Fanon wrote two compelling books-“Black Skins, White Masks” and “The Wretched of the Earth” exposing the dehumanizing conditions suffered by the native population under the brutal economic model of successive French colonial governments.

The similarities of white supremacist organizations in the United States and those in France’s history are evident. Immigrants arriving here from non-white countries are often met with considerable animus  since Mr. Trump.

“Economic Tree”

The foundation of this animosity must be recognized and acknowledged. It emanates from an “economic tree” that all working people depend to maintain their lives and families.

Those who ascribe our social ills to economics are often marginalized as “economic determinists.”  However, an “economic tree” contains branches of every social necessity: access to viable employment opportunities, effective, affordable healthcare, comprehensive, educational opportunities, comfortable, secure housing opportunities,  wholesome nutrition, safe,  reliable transportation, environmentally clean water, air and land. Certainly, the most important component  are wages and salaries. According to the data, Americans are not doing well there, either.

Mainstream corporate media tends to avoid the issue as it may raise challenging questions about our economic model. The numbers though, are problematic. The vast majority of Americans are struggling to maintain a moderate standard of living. Our “economic tree” is failing most Americans.

Oligarchs’ Power

That “economic tree” is controlled by a tiny group of oligarchs. Inevitably, the bulk of economic benefits accrue to them at the expense of working people.

To maintain their power and privilege, oligarchs fund reactionary organizations and media who have supplanted most conventional conservative groups. Conservativism is arguably a historically credible political philosophy now marginalized by reactionary groups particularly since the appearance of the demagogic Mr. Trump.

These organizations spew an incoherent and irrational jumble of lies often without a nod to common sense. 

 The fact that significant numbers of hard working, patriotic Americans accept their irrational ideations is troubling. It may be in part from the “illusory truth effect” that is a common element of our political culture peddled shamelessly by Mr. Trump.

However, a review of the demographic most deceived by Mr. Trump and his sycophants is instructive.

Left Behind or Losing Status

Demographic studies to determine what groups constituted the support of the Trump administration largely rejected the prevailing assertion that Mr. Trump’s success was due to his capturing the vast majority of white American working people. They were identified as those who felt economically “left behind.” The best-known study was published in the estimable “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”( PNAS) in April 2018.

The PNAS study concluded that “losing status” was the determining factor for much of Mr. Trump’s support by white working people in the 2016 election. The study asserted:

“I find that change in financial wellbeing had little impact on candidate preference. Instead, changing preferences were related to changes in the party’s positions on issues related to American global dominance and the rise of a majority–minority America: issues that threaten white Americans’ sense of dominant group status.”

“Results do not support an interpretation of the election based on pocketbook economic concerns.”

“Evidence points overwhelmingly to perceived status threat among high-status groups as the key motivation underlying Trump support.”

The study is a peer reviewed paper impressive in scope and detail. However, the questions posed do not really address the wider ramifications of “losing status.”

If loss of status is the determining factor for much of Mr. Trump’s political support, then it must be  specifically defined.

Status in this context has an undeclared economic basis. In our culture, it is primarily about material acquisition. With material acquisition brings status; without it often brings subtle or not so subtle derision from others, and self-loathing. 

Any study not addressing the subtle question of what status actually means to people and does not press for the details is perforce flawed.  Implementing remedies that only address the symptoms of our economic model cannot hope to advance to a fair and just society.

 Default Encourages “Replacement”

 There is a moral basis for creating societies that do not manifest the amount of organized fear and hatred that presently wafts through some areas of the United States.

Discrete religious or spiritual entities have identified remedies for our most serious challenges. Their historical participation contributed notably to the Labor Movement,  the Peace Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, the Environmental Movement and the Women’s Movement. 

Regrettably, most progressive entities are reluctant to address the fundamental cause of our social ills which is our economic model. This default position of addressing only the symptoms of  our economic decline gives agency to the myths of those who fear being “replaced.” It is occurring, but not how they imagine.

Real “Replacement”

There has been a significant “replacement.” Economist Richard Wolff asserted in June this year that corporations owned by American oligarchs are replacing primarily white, Christian, males by automation, moving production to foreign countries, and exploiting immigrant workers arriving here for better opportunities.

This is “replacement” by deprivation.

 Americans largely blame themselves, rather than the structure of our economic model. Moreover, the oligarchic hucksters manipulate and re-direct that self-blame to the familiar scapegoats of those who would ostensibly “replace’ them. Americans cannot find contentment if they are being “replaced.”

“Replacement” Irrelevant

A country whose working people have access to viable employment opportunities, effective, affordable healthcare, comprehensive, educational opportunities, comfortable, secure housing opportunities, wholesome nutrition, safe, reliable  transportation, environmentally clean water, air and land have little reason to fear they are being “replaced.”

Bruce Boccardy is the economics/labor advisor for the Small Planet Institute and former president, Massachusetts Service Employees International Local 888.

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