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Worshipping the White Working Class

2016 is the year during which we rediscovered the white working class.


I will not genuflect at the altar of the white working class. I will not pray to this new god.

For I am the daughter of a woman who at age 14 strapped on high heels and slapped on lipstick so she could appear older and find work in New York City. I am the daughter of a man who bought the bulldog edition of the newspaper at 11 p.m. so he could get a jumpstart on the next day’s employment classifieds. So he could work in a box factory and other lines of thrilling work. Day after day.

People like me know what it’s like to be laid off. We keep going. It’s not just about the white working class. Ain’t we deserving, too? Had the drug and employment crises hit black and Latino communities hardest, would the response be the same?

Oh wait, these problems usually hit us hardest. “Get back on your feet” and “Pull yourselves up” are the common responses.

Get Back

Each time someone utters this new mantra about the white working class I hear,  “Get to the back of the bus.” Or, “Get back to where you once belonged.” Or, “We’ve been paying too much attention to you.” Or, “It’s time to move on.”

Do you hear what I hear?

That’s a lie. A big, boldfaced lie. Let LL Cool J tell it:

I’m sick and tired of the stories that you always tell
Shakespeare couldn’t tell a story that well
See, you’re the largest liar that was ever created 
You and Pinocchio are brotherly related
Full of criss-crossed fits, you lie all the time
Your tongue should be embarrassed, you’re a threat to mankind
That’s a lie

I cannot help construct this new altar for the coalition of the know-nothings who think they can explain it all after the fact, except they cannot because they still know nada. They suffer from a poverty of ideas and cannot contain the thought of you and me in their heads at the same time.

The Poorest Counties

Empathy has its rightful place in a society of thinking and feeling people. Where’s everybody been? It’s not like the white working class lacks political capital or representation at local, state and federal levels.

The poorest counties in the United States in median household income are nearly all in the ascendant South, growing in population and Republicans. Surely, there is power in that.

They are counties like Wilcox County, Ala., population 11,000, 72 percent is black. Half the population reports household income either above or below $23,750, according to the census. It has 0 percent foreign born. Republicans Jeff Sessions (nominated to be attorney general) and Richard Shelby represent Wilcox in the Senate. In the House, that responsibility falls to Democrat Terri Sewell. Where have they been?

Kentucky, in particular, dominates the list of poor counties, claiming three of the top five. Owsley County is the third poorest in the nation. Population 4,460. Median household income $20,985. It’s 98 percent non Hispanic white, foreign born 0.3 percent. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul, both Republicans, represent Owsley in the Senate. Its Congressman Hal Rogers is the “longest serving Kentucky Republican ever elected” – currently in his 18th term. What’s he been doing all?

In the 2016 elections, Kentucky “became a Republican trifecta” or single-party government, much like Florida, according to Ballotpedia.


Closer to home, Putnam appears to be the poorest county in Florida – over 72,000 people, 77 percent non Hispanic white, 4 percent foreign born. Median income: $31,700. Senators Bill Nelson (D) and Marco Rubio (R) represent  Putnam, while Ron DeSantis, a Republican who was just re-elected by 63 percent of the vote, speaks for Putnam in Congress.

Why haven’t elected officials advocated for their voters? They are not blind but they may be blinded by politics and cultural wars that place only scraps on the table. They have been busy raising money so they can win re-election or run for another elected office.

Help for the White Working Class

Now we hear,  “Oh, snap! We have to help the white working class.”

If I hear that from the lips of a person I helped elect, I will never vote for that person again.

And to you whom I hardly know – and who hardly knows me: Go ahead. Build your altar.

I am going to save the wear and tear my knees.

˜˜Maria T. Padilla, Editor

Grayson, Jolly Debate Politely over Senate Seat

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Congressmen Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, and (right) David Jolly, R-Seminole during the Florida Open Debate for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Marco Rubio. /photo Maria Padilla

It was a mostly civil affair between Congressmen Alan Grayson (D-Osceola and parts of Orange and Polk counties) and David Jolly (R-Pinellas County) during this week’s U.S. Senate campaign debate in Orlando hosted by the Open Debate Coalition and live streamed on the Web.

None of the bare knuckles brawl seen in the presidential campaign. The two congressmen discussed policy differences without finger-pointing or raised voices. Grayson, known for his sharp tongue, was on his best behavior, minus a few turns of phrases, such as “We have a name for killing a person … but no name for killing a planet”  and “African Americans were once considered three-fifths of a human being. The first African American president gets only seven-eighths of a term.”

Jolly, best known for calling on Congress members to stop personally soliciting campaign donations, stated that jihad and Iran were a greater threat to the U.S. in response to a question about climate change. Grayson appeared to stare in disbelief as Jolly changed the subject. Jolly also gave an “incorrect” reply on a question about U.S. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, stating Garland should get an up or down vote (but he would vote against). Lt. Gov. Carlos López Cantera, also vying for the Senate seat, later criticized Jolly, saying it demonstrated Jolly’s unwillingness to stand up to President Barack Obama.

The debate was missing a few key players, notably Patrick Murphy (D-South Florida), Grayson’s rival for the Democratic nomination, and López Cantera. Had all four been on the debate stage, the dynamic might have been scrappier.

The 75-minute debate, moderated by Cenk Uyghur of the progressive The Young Turks and Benny Johnson of the conservative Independent Journal Review, was held at the WMFE-TV studios at the University of Central Florida. Florida Open Debate fielded 900 questions from the public posted a week or two earlier on its Website which readers then scored in order of importance. Over 410,000 people voted and the top 30 questions were chosen for the debate, although time didn’t allow for all 30.

(Full disclosure: I was invited to “ask” a reader’s question during the debate. The question came from Samantha Moran of Pembroke, Mass., who asked “Do you support defunding or defending Planned Parenthood? The question was ranked 28 in Florida and 30 nationally.)

The “open debate” format  proved that debates do not have to be controlled by political parties or print and broadcast media. In addition, the public can be trusted to generate substantive questions. In addition to the Supreme Court nomination and climate change questions, readers also asked about campaign financing, the banking system, abortion, Planned Parenthood, Social Security and minimum wage, among others.

But noticeably absent were Florida-related questions and, specifically Latino issues in a state where one of every four people is Hispanic. No questions on the thawing of U.S.-Cuba relations or the debt crisis in Puerto Rico – the two feeders of Florida’s largest Hispanic groups, which likely will have a big impact on the 2016 elections.

Asked later about their views on the Puerto Rico crisis – the island may default on over $400 million in debt next week. It is carrying a total of $72 billion in debt –Jolly replied that federal bankruptcy laws ought to be extended to the island as they “apply to other states,” adding that he didn’t want the largest  bondholders to be bailed out because “they knew [buying the debt] was a risk.” He added that Republicans and Democrats in Congress were far apart on a potential compromise.

As a Central Florida congressman, Grayson’s stance on Puerto Rico is more well known: Extend Medicaid to Puerto Rico; eliminate the Jones Act that governs shipping between the U.S. and Puerto Rico and makes the island uncompetitive; and end the bankruptcy law discrimination.

Congress removed Puerto Rico from federal bankruptcy laws in the 1980s.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor