OK, Lou Dobbs is out at CNN. Part of the story is “who fucking cares?” But I think we’re capable of thinking clearer than that.
Apparently, CNN was so not into Lou Dobbs’ re-birth as an anti-immigrant xenophobe that they gladdly threw him $8 million to split ASAP rather than pay $12 million to keep him on their team for the next year and a half (the remaining length of his contract), decent ratings or not. And while Dobbs’ late career move to the racist, anti-immigrant right is generally what he’s known for (that and his willingness to use his prime time slot on CNN to give quasi-legitimacy to the ‘birther’ movement) I see a little bit more here, and I find it somewhat fascinating.
Dobbs moved, after all, from being a boisterous cheer-leader for free market capitalism and neo liberalism (with all its WTO, IMF, NAFTA, etc alphebet soup glory) to being decidedly on the side of “middle class America”- lamenting U.S. corporatism and cronyism, as well as the rising pay inequality and umemployment of post-industiral America. In so doing, Dobbs helps expose a dirty little trick of both the mainstream media and mainstream politicians: that the term “middle class” is code for “working white people”. In post modern (post-industrial) society class analysis is far more complicated that Marx’ original observations or simple notions of haves, have-nots, or working class vs ruling class. And it’s not enough, as has often been the case, to merely add in the middle class and call it an acurate breakdown of society. But Dobbs aimed for and nailed a crucial part of the U.S. electorate: the working white folks, who often see immigration and immigrants (largely) as a threat to their own livelihoods or security at best, or a scary, un-trustable, evil unknown at worst.
And perhaps the most important word in that last sentence is “electorate”; not only because it notes that segment of the population’s relative voter turn-out (or, at least, capability of), but- more so- in a more true display of what wields power in capitalist America, because it is that segment of the population most apt to frivolously spend their money on complete and utter bull shit which, whether on the retail, wholesale, distribution, development, or marketing end, is taking the hard-earned money of one person and lining the pockets of someone up the chain.
Dobbs may certainly be best known for his immigration stance, but his surprising switch from corporate, free market stooge to “defender of the middle class” is far more interesting- and telling- than I often see it talked about. “Middle class America” (i.e., working white people) is a substantial block- in terms of votes, but more importantly in terms of spending power. The danger that Dobbs perpetuates is in confusing racial issues into the mix, by making it “us from here” (not literally as in Native Americans of course, but Northern Europeans) versus “those from there”.