You may not be familiar with the term “class drag,” but you’ve almost certainly seen it in action. In the film “My Fair Lady,” where a Cockney-accented working girl learns the accent and airs of an aristocrat, she’s putting on and performing class drag. You also see it a lot in politicians. You know how every time election season rolls around, you see politicians, usually wearing suits, put on flannel button-downs and have pictures taken of themselves in a field somewhere, or in a factory? That’s class drag.

Over the decades in America, our concept of who and what is or is not “working class” has been deliberately muddied. I suspect this is because it’s easier for very wealthy people to maintain their wealth and power if they make themselves seem more like working stiffs. There are people who think “class” is about more than raw economics. Someone might think a public school teacher with a master’s degree in education is not working class, while a plumber who owns a plumbing company with a dozen employees is working class.

We need to remember the basic definition of working class. Under our current system of capitalism, which we’re all living in, for better or for worse, if you sell your labor for a wage, you are working class. If you own the business, you are not working class. That does not mean you do not work very hard. A plumber owning a multi-employee business is probably busting his butt every day. He might not always be making a ton of money. But the ownership is what makes the owner, by definition, not working class. That public school teacher, despite the fancy education and degrees, is making his living by working for a salary. That makes the teacher working class.

I was thinking about class drag, and class in general, because of Rep. Jared Golden. After I wrote a column about his out-of-character Twitter student loan forgiveness rant, Golden published a post to the online platform Substack, saying, “Recently, a political opinion writer described me as living in the cocoon of my present work in politics and my past service in the military and, therefore, out of step with the working class. This fragment of my work history ignores the fact that I spent many years working at the business that belongs to my mother, and before her, to her father.”

First of all, I’m not just a political opinion writer. For better or for worse, I have been accurately accused of using this column as my personal diary. Even so, I’m thrilled that someone in power in this country has finally paid attention to me. Normally, federal government officials don’t care what a secretary who makes $19.50 an hour and lives in a trailer thinks.

But more important is Rep. Golden’s second sentence, implying that having worked for his family business puts him more in step with the working class. Here’s the important thing to remember: Working a job does not make you working-class. We’re talking about a multigenerational family business (a golf course, specifically) here. The profit that business generates goes to the family that owns the business. The owners dole out part of those profits to their employees in the form of salaries or wages. Those employees who do the labor are the working class. Not the owners.


It is the ownership structure surrounding that job that makes you part of the working class or owning class. If you own a business with employees, you may work very hard to make that business successful, but as the owner you are ultimately the one who stands to profit from the business. An employee is only compensated with the wages for their labor.

I stand by my original thesis that Rep. Golden is out of step with the working class; I don’t think he has ever been part of the working class. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t work very hard, and I’m sure he’s worked very hard at most times in his life. And the fact that he chose to join the Marines and be deployed, multiple times, to active-duty war zones, even though he came from privilege, speaks highly of his character. But being a member of the working class is about more than driving a pickup truck and having visible tattoos.

Golden says in his statement that “class structure in society is under constant realignment and formation.” That’s convenient for him to say.

I don’t think you necessarily need to be a member of the working class, now or at any point, in order to successfully represent people in Congress. I do think many of the policies Rep. Golden supports tend to benefit the owning class more than the working class. And there are a lot more workers than owners in the 2nd Congressional District.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
Twitter: @mainemillennial

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