LIBERALS MUST CONFRONT THE DIRTY WORDS:
When's the last time you heard a Democratic political leader charge Republicans with waging "class warfare"? Maybe I've been living in a cave, but I can't recall a single time in the last twenty years. As unbelievably hypocritical as they seem, it's REPUBLICANS who keep bringing it up.
Republicans learned long ago that a good offense was the best defense, and Democrats still haven't figured out how they've been had. Republicans always deflect criticism from themselves by beating others to the punch. They accuse others of doing what they've been doing for years. In propaganda terms, it's called "inoculation."
All they have to do is shout "class warfare" and "politics of envy," and, in response, Democrats do everything they can to avoid the subject. It's like there is a perverted political version of the Marquis of Queensbury rules: whoever first makes a nasty, but very effective, charge gets to own it. The fact that the charge is totally baseless, and even 180 degrees out of phase, is irrelevant.
"Class warfare" and "politics of envy" suggest sniveley wimps who want to get something for nothing, and Americans are obviously turned off by the party that gets pinned with the labels. Instead of trying to sound more like Republicans (supporting capital gains tax benefits for the wealthy, anti-union legislation, exporting jobs overseas, and so on), Democrats must effectively counterattack and place the correct labels where they belong. Republicans are conducting class warfare against America's working classes and engaging in the politics of greed.
This will be easy to demonstrate, simply because the facts are all on the side of liberals. For some lessons on how to do it, just look at how the far right conservatives have done it.
Michael Novak, of the American Enterprise Institute and columnist for Forbes, did a hatchet job on Kevin Phillips. Phillips, a qualified Republican political expert proved in his book, Politics of Rich and Poor, that it is the Republicans who are waging class warfare. Novak used the same tired clichés of the American right wing (Forbes, May 28, 1990, 151) to discredit him:
Kevin Phillips, a self-described conservative, has delighted the "class warfare" left with a nasty attack on Reagan in a new book, The Politics of Rich and Poor. The left loves conservatives who hate.
Novak's demagoguery is instructive for two reasons. First, all he had to do was to ignore the facts and make the charges. Second, he reversed the roles of the predators and the victims. He made the real class warfarer's (wealthy conservatives) sound like the victims. He made those who want to address the problem of income disparity sound like the predators.
What's sad is that the charges alone were enough to convince many people that they were true, and his article—as with similar articles and public statements—was probably very effective, especially when not responded to.
In Hamlet, Queen Gertrude observed the devious behavior of another and voiced one of Shakespeare's most famous lines: "The lady doth protest too much, methinks." The corollary here is: "for innocent bystanders, the Republicans doth pro test a hell of a lot, methinks."
The Republicans are at the forefront in class warfare and they've been winning since the beginning of decade of the 80s, at least. Now they're getting self-conscious, and they feel they must prevent a counterattack by scaring Democrats out of it. They've been extremely effective at keeping their class warfare under wraps, and they're doing their damnedest to keep others from mentioning the dirty words that describe what they're doing.
Consider some of the obvious issues. A study of the results of tax legislation of the '80s, released by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (February, 1990), clearly indicated that the rich are paying less in federal taxes and workers are paying more.
Commenting on the study, House Democrat William Gray said, "The statistics show that the rich are getting richer and the working- and middle-class Americans are being raped under the tax policy of the Republicans."
The classic response came from a senior Bush administration official, who, naturally, asked not to be identified. He said: "...the administration would welcome "class war" by the Democrats." "They tried it last year and it didn't work," referring to House Democrats' failure to block a cut in the tax rate on capital gains.
The shadowy White House spokesman was bluffing, and the bluff probably worked. At least, the Republicans think the strategy works. Our new vice presidential candidate, Jack Kemp, outdid himself, saying (Wall Street Journal, Nov. 23, 1990, A8):
Today we hear much in our politics about division. Of rich against poor, black vs. white, indeed almost of class warfare, disguised as one word—"fairness." ... We in America are being asked to choose between two opposing ideas—the politics of class warfare or Lincoln's all-embracing vision of boundless democratic opportunity."
I'm in debt to Jack. I didn't realize Lincoln was against fairness. In fact, I always thought he had something to do with an actual, real war to improve fairness for blacks.
Be that as it may, Republicans obviously feel they have discovered the "speech for all occasions." They can squeeze it in anywhere and relate it to anything or anybody, as long as it'll keep people from thinking.
Whenever anyone asks for fairness, say, in the income tax system, or education, or a better break for workers—Republicans don't try to defend their abysmal record, they just charge their critics with "class warfare," talk about the "politics of envy," and give everyone another tax break.
Time To Describe It The Way It Is
Reluctantly, we must confront reality. As contrary as it is to our values, affluent conservatives are blatantly conducting class warfare. It is affecting every element of our society, and the middle and lower classes are losing. During the 80s, rich nonworkers have won bigger, and workers have lost even bigger, than at any time since the depression. (For a definition of "nonworker" see the file on what work is.)
Our disgust with the rich and powerful is outrage, not envy. The only "envy" involved is purely the invention of conservatives. They have effectively deflected the public's anger from themselves by labeling it "envy," an unbecoming vice, and directing it at liberals and Democrats.
To try to argue against these charges of "class warfare" and "politics of envy" without mentioning them is demoralizing for ourselves and a wimp-out. It also creates the impression that the charges are correct—or that liberal values are truly unfair.
Because of the negative connotations of these terms to most Americans, we need to pin them on the party that deserves them (changing "politics of envy" to "politics of greed"). It should be incredibly easy to do.