Principalities & Powersrnby Samuel FrancisrnThe Life of RileyrnOne good way to ruin your Christmasrnthis year would be to spend the holidaysrnreading a new book entitled Abandoned:rnThe Betrayal of the American MiddlernClass Since World War U, by two lawrnprofessors at the University of SouthrnCarolina, William ]. Quirk and R. RandallrnBridwell. Maybe you don’t want tornruin your Christmas, and that’s understandable,rnbut if you do read the book,rnyou will at least be prepared to understandrnwhat is likely to happen to you andrnto what remains of your country in therncoming years.rnThe reason Abandoned will put ashesrnin your stocking is that it is one of thernfirst (maybe the first) full-length examinationsrnof how virtually every dominantrninstitution in the United States exploits,rndefrauds, lies to, oppresses, and endangersrnthe middle class that constitutes therneconomic and social core of Americanrnlife. The authors take the reader throughrnthe recent history of such financialrnboondoggles as the New York City fiscalrncrisis, the national and Third Worldrndebts, the Social Security and Savingsrnand Loan scams, and similar episodesrnto show how middle-income Americansrnwind up paying for the irresponsibilitiesrnand outright criminality of politiciansrnand business leaders. They move on tornthe subject of the impenetrability of thernpolitical Establishment and reveal howrnboth political parties are systematicallyrnstructured to ignore the interests andrnwishes of their middle-class constituentsrnand to respond only to well-organizedrnand well-financed lobbies. They examinernin depth the emergence in thern1960’s of a legal and judicial system thatrnappears to seek out devices by which thernvalues, interests, freedom, and personalrnsecurity of middle-class Americans canrnbe wrecked. They conclude with a sectionrnon the universities of the 1980’s, inrnwhich “multiculturalists” and “politicalrncorrectness” cultists contrive to assaultrnand uproot the last vestiges of traditionalrnmiddle-class culture, ethics, and manners,rneven as underclass students enjoyrnenforced privileges in admissions, promotion,rngrading, and financing, whilernwhite middle-class students and theirrnfamilies are obliged to pay exorbitantlyrnhigher tuitions and endure racial discrimination.rnIt is true that much of the authors’rninformation is not especially new; therernare also large parts of the book that arernnot at all well-written, and most of itrnseems to have been proofread by a chimpanzee.rnNevertheless, I know of nornother recent work that puts the majorrnimmediate economic, political, and culturalrnthreats to Middle America in suchrnan informative and comprehensive perspective,rnand it is precisely that perspectivernthat makes the book and its thesisrnso frightening. What the authors arernchronicling is not merely an irritatingrn”unfairness” and “lower standard of living”rnbut the systematic destruction of arncivilization by the elite that rules it.rnThe theme of “middle-class alienation”rnis not new either, of course, andrnindeed it has been a staple of Americanrnpolitics since the campaigns of GeorgernWallace and Richard Nixon in the latern1960’s. Nixon essentially swiped it fromrnWallace and used it to construct the prototypernof the “Reagan coalition” of traditionalrnRepublicans, white Southernersrnand Westerners, and Northeasternrnurban ethnics. This year, after a fullrngeneration of conceding the white middle-rnclass vote to the Republicans, thernDemocrats finally tumbled to the idearnthat they too could pose as the championsrnof Middle America, and the wholernstrategy of Bill Clinton seems to havernbeen based on assuming that posture.rnThis apparent convergence of the twornparties toward an essentially conservativernMiddle American constituencyrnleads various professional conservativesrnto chirp that the conservative values andrninterests of Middle America are now triumphant.rnTo their great credit, the authorsrnof Abandoned don’t fall for thatrnone.rnOne point they dwell on in theirrnchapter on “Political Abandonment” isrnthat the Republicans long ago figuredrnout how to emit Middle American noisesrnwhile pursuing policies that tramplernon Middle American interests. The Republicansrnas far back as the Nixon administrationrndeveloped what the authorsrncall the “last vote” theory:rnThe conservatives had no place torngo, they had to vote for you. Sorngive them some rhetoric to keeprnthem happy. Push your real policiesrnfor the last vote. Where isrnthe last vote? It is right next tornthe Democratic position on anyrnissue. So you adopt actual policiesrnwhich get as close to thernDemocrats as you possibly can.rnThis seems to have been the strategy reflectedrnin a remark made by AttorneyrnGeneral-designate John Mitchell in 1968rnto an audience of civil rights activists,rn”Watch what we do, not what we say,” arnline that appropriately serves as the epigraphrnof one of the book’s chapters. Indeed,rnit seems to have served as thernmotto of the Republicans themselves everrnsince. As the authors note.rnSince the Republicans have followedrnthe “last vote” theory, thernconservatives get rhetoric on emotionalrnissues: pledge of allegiancern. . . flag burning . . . abortion . . .rnforced busing . . . law and order. .rn. Willie Horton…. The actualrnpolicies, on the other hand, seekrnout the “last vote.” Take, for example,rnthe Civil Rights Act ofrn1991 that President Bush, for 20rnmonths, called a “quota” bill.rnYet the Civil Rights Act that Mr. Bushrneventually signed in late 1991 was onlyrnmarginally different from the one he hadrnbeen denouncing, and in the campaignrnjust concluded the President and Mr.rnQuayle did pretty much the same thingrnwith “family values.” No sooner hadrnthey gorged themselves on this cliche atrntheir convention in Houston than Mr.rnQuayle began to back away from any ofrnthe commitments it implied and tornboast of how the administration had followedrna policy of “nondiscrimination”rntoward homosexuals. The implicationrnof the “conservatives have no other placernto go” strategy, of course, is that evenrncommitted and serious conservatives (allrnten of them) wind up every four yearsrnwhining that they have to support thernlO/CHRONICLESrnrnrn