Class Warfare's Losing Record

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    Jun 07, 2012 2:58 AM GMT
    The Occupy folks think they are new or that things are different this time around. We even have one extremist who believes there will be a violent revolt. They're wrong.

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2012/06/03/class_warfares_losing_record_114364.html

    Appeals to economic populism – pitting people against so-called “interests” – are as old as the Democratic Party; Andrew Jackson successfully used them in the presidential election of 1828.

    Jacksonian Democrats never opposed capitalism, however, and most certainly did not support a stronger central government.

    “It wasn't until decades after Karl Marx really got the idea going that American politics witnessed the first mainstream appeals to class warfare made by Bryan,” said Nichols.

    Since Bryan remains the only major-party candidate to lose three elections, you have to wonder how well class warfare works with Americans.

    This is why Newark Mayor Cory Booker and former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell both dismissed the argument as wrong.

    What the Obama campaign misses is that the working class – white, middle-income, blue-collar Democrats – deeply resents the dependency class and will not respond positively to such rhetoric.

    Successful populists such as Republican Teddy Roosevelt and Democrat Franklin Roosevelt did not allow their championing of “the little guy” to devolve into class warfare.

    They realized that Americans tend to view the United States as a land of opportunity and do not begrudge anyone for becoming wealthy.

    The line between these two attitudes is sometimes fine. Yet class warfare has never won an election, while appeals to economic populism sometimes have succeeded.
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    Jun 07, 2012 4:08 AM GMT
    It's only "class warfare" when the poor refuse the scraps dropped by the rich.

    And there's already violence in many cities in Europe and increasingly in the US. Just because police are suppressing dissent and the media isn't covering it, doesn't mean it's not happening.

    50,000 protested NATO in Chicago.
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    Jun 07, 2012 3:29 PM GMT
    Liberals often talk a good game about helping the poor, helping those in need but when it comes to the spending, it's more about helping unions, their members and themselves.

    http://reason.com/archives/2012/06/06/get-serious-about-governing-democrats

    Matt Welch: It's time for Democrats to get serious about governing

    It is a fact that the majority of state budgets are in the red, that overall state spending increased by 81 percent from 2002-2007, and that rare-in-the-private-sector defined benefit pensions for government workers (along with post-retirement medical benefits) are a large and growing portion of state and local budgets, even while being chronically underfunded. The situation is terrible now, and will be much worse in the near future. So, progressives: Tell us concretely what you plan to do about this.

    The state of California's public-sector pension contributions have increased 304 percent in a decade, up to $2.2 billion of a $91 billion budget, and growing faster by the minute. Pension contributions account for 20 percent and 27 percent, respectively, of the city budgets of San Diego and San Jose, whose citizens have responded by passing initiatives asking government workers to contribute more to their own pension and health care. Cities from California to Rhode Island have initiated bankruptcy over pension costs.

    So, progressives: What is the right percentage of a government budget to be spent on public sector pensions? If this requires that cities and states simply need to come up with bigger budgets (through increased taxes) precisely how much bigger would be appropriate? If you don't want to increase overall budgets, what other government services are you willing to cut?

    If the past four years of public debate are any indicator, we won't soon see concrete answers to any questions like these. Progressives almost never tell us how big they think the government should be. It is easier to make grand and vague gestures on behalf of working Americans than it is to justify the math of public sector unions negotiating with union-backed politicians to spend the money of non-union taxpayers, which may help explain why Americans are solidly in favor of public employees paying more of their own freight. And in all the hot air spewed about the Wisconsin recall, where were the positive arguments for all the citizen benefits received in the prior run-ups in Badger State spending?

    As long as Democrats keep dodging these questions, no amount of plutocrat-baiting will reverse their political fortunes. Governments at all levels are out of money. Progressives are going to have to come up with a better response to that than saying "we were robbed."
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    Jun 07, 2012 3:38 PM GMT
    Some liberals would have you believe that this time it's different or worse, the reality is somewhat different. Plus ca change,...

    http://finance.fortune.cnn.com/2012/06/07/rich-poor-wealth-gap/

    Historically Americans haven't shown much appetite for class strife. As professors Benjamin Page and Lawrence Jacobs noted in their 2009 book Class War?: "While Americans are alert to inequality and support measures to reduce it ... they remain conservative by instinct ... Responsibility for an individual's economic position and life conditions rests chiefly with him- or herself." So why all the talk of revolution? "Us-vs.-them-ism" is an especially tempting theme for a media desperately looking for ways to grab our short attention spans. Therefore, much was made of a recent Pew Research poll purporting to show a sharp rise in conflicts between rich and poor.

    In fact, the poll showed that public attitudes toward the wealthy remain largely unchanged -- with a near-even split between those who think the rich were born into money or connections and those who think people are rich "mainly because of their own hard work, ambition, or education." There hasn't been an increase in people's own grievances against the rich; rather, there was a 19-point increase in people saying they believe there are very strong or strong conflicts between rich and poor -- not a surprise given all the media attention to the OWS protests.

    Indeed, the headline Pew produced for its research reads "For the Public, It's Not About Class Warfare, but Fairness." Pew's conclusion? While Americans are hearing more about class conflict, "there is no sense that the American people are on the verge of class conflict; they just want a better chance of achieving success themselves."

    That's worth remembering as the media and politicians fuel divisions along the income scale this election year. In the 1800s, French political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville was famously impressed by Americans' dedication to the idea of equality. But he was also struck by another character trait: "The love of wealth ... is at the bottom of all Americans do." On that score, times haven't changed all that much.
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    Jun 07, 2012 4:13 PM GMT
    riddler78 saidLiberals often talk a good game about helping the poor, helping those in need but when it comes to the spending, it's more about helping unions, their members and themselves.

    It's not even about helping the union members but the union bosses who can funnel money to the Democrats. Case in point - when the govt bailed out Chrysler, they gave the company to the UAW, screwing the pension fund of the Indiana Public Employees Union. Their union wasn't as powerful as the UAW, so the retired teachers, police, and firemen did not matter too much. What we see is institutionalized liars and hypocrites.
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    Jun 07, 2012 4:21 PM GMT
    socalfitness said
    riddler78 saidLiberals often talk a good game about helping the poor, helping those in need but when it comes to the spending, it's more about helping unions, their members and themselves.

    It's not even about helping the union members but the union bosses who can funnel money to the Democrats. Case in point - when the govt bailed out Chrysler, they gave the company to the UAW, screwing the pension fund of the Indiana Public Employees Union. Their union wasn't as powerful as the UAW, so the retired teachers, police, and firemen did not matter too much. What we see is institutionalized liars and hypocrites.


    Good point... the other irony is that the policies/regulations they push for tend to entrench existing players and also hurt the very people they claim they advocate on behalf of.
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    Jun 07, 2012 5:06 PM GMT
    Class warfare is another way to differentiate your garden variety liberal from a socialist. The popular, though technically incorrect definition of a liberal is someone mostly focused on helping the little guy, although that is not the current focus of the Democratic Party. The Socialist is mostly concerned about using government to reduce and ultimately eliminate class strata, except for the their politically elite stratum.

    * A friend advised me that my loose use of the term liberal is not factually correct. The intent of the comment, though, is to differentiate Obama from other politicians in the "progressive wing" of the Democratic Party.
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    Jun 07, 2012 6:20 PM GMT
    socalfitness saidClass warfare is another way to differentiate your garden variety liberal from a socialist. The liberal is mostly focused on helping the little guy, although that is not the current focus of the Democratic Party. The Socialist is mostly concerned about using government to reduce and ultimately eliminate class strata, except for the their politically elite stratum.


    It's been quite some time that liberals have actually helped the little guy. Taking Walmart as one example, they support increases to minimum wage as it hurts their competitors. Further, things like minimum wage result in greater unemployment and prevent those who need experience most from getting it (also the reason why liberals have difficulty explaining why 95% of jobs pay higher than minimum wage as it really isn't a race to the bottom).

    That said, this differentiation between liberals and socialists I think has been eroded to the point of nonexistence...
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    Jun 07, 2012 7:02 PM GMT
    riddler78 said
    socalfitness saidClass warfare is another way to differentiate your garden variety liberal from a socialist. The liberal is mostly focused on helping the little guy, although that is not the current focus of the Democratic Party. The Socialist is mostly concerned about using government to reduce and ultimately eliminate class strata, except for the their politically elite stratum.


    It's been quite some time that liberals have actually helped the little guy. Taking Walmart as one example, they support increases to minimum wage as it hurts their competitors. Further, things like minimum wage result in greater unemployment and prevent those who need experience most from getting it (also the reason why liberals have difficulty explaining why 95% of jobs pay higher than minimum wage as it really isn't a race to the bottom).

    That said, this differentiation between liberals and socialists I think has been eroded to the point of nonexistence...

    Yes, as was also pointed out be another, my loose comparison has some issues. The point I was trying to make is there is justification to label Obama a Socialist, and I used the comparison of his fundamental positions with that of a typical modern European Socialist, Hollande. I don't think it would necessarily be appropriate to label most Democrats as Socialists, however.
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    Jun 09, 2012 6:13 AM GMT
    socalfitness said
    riddler78 said
    socalfitness saidClass warfare is another way to differentiate your garden variety liberal from a socialist. The liberal is mostly focused on helping the little guy, although that is not the current focus of the Democratic Party. The Socialist is mostly concerned about using government to reduce and ultimately eliminate class strata, except for the their politically elite stratum.


    It's been quite some time that liberals have actually helped the little guy. Taking Walmart as one example, they support increases to minimum wage as it hurts their competitors. Further, things like minimum wage result in greater unemployment and prevent those who need experience most from getting it (also the reason why liberals have difficulty explaining why 95% of jobs pay higher than minimum wage as it really isn't a race to the bottom).

    That said, this differentiation between liberals and socialists I think has been eroded to the point of nonexistence...

    Yes, as was also pointed out be another, my loose comparison has some issues. The point I was trying to make is there is justification to label Obama a Socialist, and I used the comparison of his fundamental positions with that of a typical modern European Socialist, Hollande. I don't think it would necessarily be appropriate to label most Democrats as Socialists, however.


    I think what unites Democrats today is generally fairly socially liberal views but also economic views that places a heavy emphasis on government, we'll charitably call it "leadership". If the trends hold, Republicans too will become increasingly socially liberal (most young Republicans are overwhelmingly supportive, for instance, of gay marriage - not gay unions, gay marriage) - but I just don't see Democrats being particularly restrained in their views on the role of government. (I also take your point though that what it means to be a socialist in the US versus say Europe is worlds apart),