First-Class Demagogues: Populist Left shifts allegiances
By: Daniel Clark
Once in a while, a political ad will inadvertently tell you something important about the candidate or party that ran it. Such is the case with a series of Barack Obama campaign spots, which end with the tagline, “Middle Class First.”
The truth here is not in that the Democrats and their nominee are actually devoted to whatever segment of the population they think comprises the “middle class”; it is in their employment of this phrase as an obvious rebuttal to John McCain’s “Country First” slogan. The contrast depicts the Democrats more vividly than any McCain attack ad ever could. They look at the same America he does, but whereas he sees his country, they see only a collage of interest groups, to be turned against each other and exploited.
To put it mildly, Barack Obama’s affinity for the so-called “middle class” is a recent development. The Trinity United Church of Christ, to which he belonged for 20 years, adheres to a “Black Value System” which it has posted on its website. Among these values is “Disavowal of the Pursuit of ‘Middleclassness.’” Obama’s wife, Michelle, delivers stump speeches in which she boasts about her “working class” upbringing, and warns, “Don’t go into corporate America.” Considering this, along with the fact that Obama has spent so much of his life chumming around with hard-core Marxists, it would not be entirely unreasonable to interpret his slogan, “Middle Class First,” as some sort of a threat.
In any case, the promise to put a particular subcategory of the nation “first” is the rhetoric of banana republic revolutionaries, not American statesmen. Sen. Obama is supposed to be running to become president of an entire nation, not to champion one faction of it, to the detriment of others.
It used to be that populist demagogues would profess their loyalty to the poor. That tactic has been complicated, however, by the simple fact that their argument — that capitalism makes the rich richer and the poor poorer — has never been true. Americans have become so prosperous that an appeal to the poor simply doesn’t produce the groundswell of support that it did back in the Democrat glory days of the Great Depression.
American Marxists can no longer succeed by rallying the “proletariat,” so they have to make at least a superficial appeal to the same “bourgeoisie” for which they’ve professed so much contempt over the years. Bill Clinton has already succeeded at this to a degree, by promising — but not seriously trying to deliver — a “middle class tax cut” like the one Obama is pitching today. This pandering did not come at the exclusion of others, though. A master at appearing to be all things to all people, Clinton never stopped cultivating the legend of himself as a champion of the downtrodden. That’s because he understood his supporters in a way that today’s leading Democrats seem not to.
It’s a common misperception that liberals love to be victims. In reality, they only love to be perceived as victims. Actual victimization, they’ll gladly do without. When Clinton told them that they were one paycheck away from living on the street, for instance, they applauded him for his compassion, while knowing perfectly well that it wasn’t true.
For the same reason, those who think in terms of Marxist class divisions tend to categorize themselves as “working class,” regardless of how high their standard of living actually is. In order to consider themselves victims, all they need to do is text each other about the plight of “the little guy,” while watching the Comrade Keith Show on their 52-inch plasma TVs.
To tell the “working class” poseurs to embrace “middleclassness” is like pulling the mask off the Lone Ranger. The disguise wouldn’t fool anyone who knew him anyway, but he’ll still become plenty angry if he’s exposed. It’s one thing, then, for the Ranger’s enemies to try to unmask him, but for Tonto to do so would be pointlessly antagonistic. Likewise, the Democrats’ “Middle Class First” campaign is an example of infighting without provocation. They could just as easily have appealed to the so-called “middle class” without telling those who identify themselves with lower economic classes that they’ll have to take a number.
At least when Sen. McCain says “Country First,” all Americans can be assured that they’re part of the same country he’s talking about. They can’t be so sure that they’ll belong to whatever societal subdivision the Democrats decide to suck up to next.
Daniel Clark is a Staff Writer for the New Media Alliance. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.
Daniel Clark is a writer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is the author and editor of a web publication called The Shinbone: The Frontier of the Free Press, where he also publishes a seasonal sports digest as The College Football Czar.