Is Class Warfare Running Out of Steam?
By: David Bozeman
Forget the poll numbers — discerning voters can gauge the direction of a campaign just by watching the candidates. Which of the two is steady and focused? Who is defensive, uninspiring and but a shadow of his former, winning self? Nothing here is meant to predict the outcome of November 6 or to endorse one candidate over the other, but with just days to go and panic starting to afflict the Democrats, watch as they revisit the narrative that has garnered them votes in the past but is somehow not working this time around.
In short, you are already hearing with a vengeance that Mitt Romney is rich, and the Pavlovian incantation that Republicans are the party of the rich. To give their class envy some intellectual flourish, Democrats are now as likely to call Romney a plutocrat. A guest editorial in the Fayetteville (NC) Observer lamented the spending power of super PAC’s, specifically Americans for Prosperity. Their donors, the Koch Brothers, are each worth about $31 billion (and, no, the piece did not mention the ultra-liberal and unbelievably wealthy George Soros), and they surely want to pay as little in taxes as possible and want no government regulation.
The writer, a former Sierra Club president, hailed government regulation for protecting air and water, recalling a meat packing plant where he had worked, where blood and other waste was thrown into the river nearby. Government requiring a proper waste disposal system, against industry objections, served the public interest, he wrote.
Of course, no one is arguing against all regulations, and, as for that river, it is actually private ownership that insures LESS pollution. Public land and water that belongs to everyone and no one attracts polluters, dumpers and vandals, unlike private land that holds real dollar value and, thus, stricter legal protection.
But I digress. The writer highlighted Bill Moyers’ recent program that referred to multi-billionaires as the plutocracy. How can it be, the editorial asked, that half of the voters seem ready to elect Mitt Romney running on the agenda of the plutocracy? Yes, how can it be that Americans are too dumb to see that Mitt Romney doesn’t care a whit about them? What does a Democrat have to do to get re-elected, actually fix the economy?
Ultimately, you have to give the people something to vote FOR. Americans are just not class warriors. Although our overall perception of the rich has been somewhat strained, most of us abhor bigotry and snobbery far more than the mere accumulation of wealth. While we long for a level playing field, we instinctively know that some will always start out with greater advantages than their peers. We do, however, demand equality under the law and expect private institutions to at least try and play fair.
Democrats will counter that their only concern is justice, but a recent anti-Romney ad showed a photograph of the governor stepping out of a jet plane. Clearly prominent in the background was another jet, with the name TRUMP boldly visible on the side. Indeed, Donald Trump did, some years ago, own a shuttle service in the northeast. Clearly, the viewer links Mitt Romney to obscene wealth, and numerous other ads continue the chant: “the rich,” “the wealthy,” “the wealthiest Americans,” always mentioned in the most somber tones.
It is Mitt Romeny the man, not Mitt Romney the millionaire, who is connecting with voters. His values, among them capitalism and private charity, resonate with the electorate far more than wordy screeds against the “plutocracy.” Far from a necessary evil, wealth actually builds great nations. In the words of President Calvin Coolidge, “Both men and nations should live in accordance with their means and devote their substance not only to the productive industry but to the creation of the various forms of beauty and the pursuit of culture which give adornments to the art of life.”
That is what matters to people. Daily news reports deluge us with numbers: the debt, unemployment, poll ratings, etc.. But, in this election, at least, examine the two competing messages, and note that the side catering to the lesser, baser aspects of our national character appears headed for national repudiation on Election Day.