Santorum (and other Republicans) to stop using the term “middle class”?

Here is an interesting observation: Rick Santorum and possibly other Republicans don’t like using the term “middle class.”

In American politics, praising the middle class is generally uncontroversial. But over the weekend Rick Santorum chided his GOP primary competitors, and Mitt Romney specifically, for using the formulation. Here’s his complaint:

I don’t think Governor Romney’s plan is particularly bold, it — or is particularly focused on where the problems are in this country. And the governor used a term earlier that I shrink from. It’s one that I don’t think we should be using as Republicans, “middle class.” There are no classes in America. We are a country that don’t allow for titles. We don’t put people in classes. There may be middle-income people, but the idea that somehow or another we’re going to buy into the class-warfare arguments of Barack Obama is something that should not be part of the Republican lexicon. That’s their job — divide, separate, put one group against another. That’s not the language that I’ll use as president. I’ll use the language of bringing people together.

He has previously attacked President Obama with the same talking point. “You’ll never hear the word ‘class’ come out of my mouth,” he said. “Classes? We specifically rejected that. Look in the Constitution.”

The Constitution talks about social class?

On one hand, this is not terribly surprising: Republicans have argued that even talking about class is “class warfare,” trying to pit the interests of one class against another. Talk about class invokes conversation about people like Karl Marx, who is generally anathema to conservatives. On the other hand, to act like the category “middle class” doesn’t exist is silly. This is not simply a term made up by academics; there is plenty of research to show that Americans have certain perceptions about class and that your class standing (made up by things like income and education levels) does influence individual lives (see a recent example from elementary school classrooms here). It would be interesting to hear Santorum talk about the differences between “middle-income people” and “middle-class people” if he does indeed prefer the first term.

This reminds me of something I have thought for several years: Republicans have to find better ways to engage with ideas like social class and race instead of simply acting like the issues or terms don’t matter. Even if Republicans don’t think they matter, enough voters do and they need to find ways to connect with those voters.

One thought on “Santorum (and other Republicans) to stop using the term “middle class”?

  1. Pingback: Biden and Ryan redefine working class for their own purposes | Legally Sociable

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