Masses versus classes

Bill Miles

Years ago a wily businessman I knew told me that politics is about the masses versus the classes. He was describing how the perceived “have-nots” belong to the masses while the power structure is categorized in the “class” distinction. I can reflect the reality of watching candidates lure support from the “masses” by projecting an image in which voters identify. In other words they believe the candidate is one of them. My experience convinces me that voters want the candidate to be a “good ole boy or girl”. The winner is expected to become a “super hero” once in office and do everything a constituent desires. Do voters realize what they’ve done? Gene Talmadge of Georgia politics nearly a century ago used to tell the Georgia “Crackers” that they only had three friends, Jesus Christ, Montgomery Ward (the mail order catalog company) and Gene Talmadge. “You can’t afford to lose any one of us,” he’d say. He got elected multiple times and is part of several dynasties in the rural South. Huey P. Long of Louisiana had a different approach in appealing to his “Cajun” supporters. He was eyeing a presidential run against FDR when he was killed by an assassin in Baton Rouge. His theme, “A chicken in every pot.” I read the other day an episode that happened early in his career running for Governor of the Bayou State. He knew he had to have the large Acadian Catholic vote mixed with the protestant evangelical denominations. “Why I’d get up at 6 o’clock on Sunday mornings, hitch the horse to the wagon and haul my Catholic grandparents to seven o’clock Mass,” he alleged. “Then I’d come home, eat breakfast and take my Baptist grandparents to their 11 o’clock services.” A friend asked, “Huey, I didn’t know you had Catholic and Baptist grandparents.” Long retorted, “Don’t be stupid. We didn’t even have a horse.” A friend told me of witnessing an event involving James F. (Big Jim) Folsom in a campaign for governor in Alabama. He was calling on local businesses in Northwest Alabama when he noticed a car pull up to the curb pulling a rubber tired farm wagon. From another vehicle a group of musicians mounted the wagon and started tuning their instruments. A big, tall fellow got out of another car, stretched out of the sidewalk, put a pillow under his head, and covered his eyes with a straw hat. “Wake me up when the crowd gathers,” he told the musicians who started a hoedown. Then in his speech he’d use a ragged mop and tell listeners, “You provide the suds and Ole Jim will use the mop. We’ll clean out Montgomery.” He also is alleged to have asked for his audience to donate one dollar to help his campaign. Then a stooge by previous design would throw a five dollar bill in the bucket passed around. At that point Jim would grab it and start counting our four ones yelling, “Come here. You can’t buy ‘Big Jim’. Get your change.” Jim got elected. Similar gimmicks are recorded in other southern states. The irony is that while these tactics appeal to many voters, the power seekers find ways to stay in control. My contention is that often the faction who believe they have been ‘left out’ pick a candidate and ‘prop’ that person up regardless of the shenanigans. Maybe it’s their way of refusing to admit to being ‘duped’ even though deep in their heart they know they have been fooled. On the other hand a more discerning voter is likely abandon the candidate for which they voted when they recognize the person did not fulfill their expectations and encourage anther. Just wondering? Are voters getting fooled in this election?

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