February 25, 2012

"The vocabulary of class warfare may have begun on the left—a very socialist left..."

"... but in mainstream American politics it didn’t gain much traction until the Republicans took it up."
Framing the struggle as cultural and tribal rather than as economic, they proved to be more effective class warriors than the Democrats. Richard Nixon won over the “silent majority” by casting intellectuals, student radicals, and the media as enemies of those he awkwardly termed “the so-called unimportant people.” Ronald Reagan called out “welfare queens” for bilking the government. The Bushes brought down their opponents by igniting incipient racial and cultural resentments. Michael Dukakis fell to the vicious Willie Horton ad. The infamous Swift Boat attacks on John Kerry impugned his war heroism; an ad showing him windsurfing off Nantucket became an emblem of unseemly privilege.
 So what's Obama supposed to do?

42 comments:

Ron said...

Declare victory and withdraw! [hand over heart] It's what Dick Nixon would do!

Firehand said...

Didn't the Willie Horton stuff start with a Democrat?

Let's see, Rather & Co. put out a 'fake but accurate' story accusing Bush of dodging going to Vietnam, and that's ok; Kerry threw up his service record every chance he got, the SBV said "Wait a minute", and that's 'class warfare' and unfair?

And, as I recall, Kerry talked in an interview about 'LOTS of working people I know' taking off for a weekend of skiing or windsurfing, "It only costs 'X' to fly and so forth", etc; he pulled the 'easy to talk about a few hundred for a weekend when you're a millionaire' stuff down on himself.

Tim said...

"The vocabulary of class warfare may have begun on the left—a very socialist left—but in mainstream American politics it didn’t gain much traction until the Republicans took it up."

This is, of course, bullshit.

Dorothy Wickenden is either completely ignorant of the things Franklin D. Roosevelt said, or better yet, what Huey P. Long said, to get elected and then enact their agendas, or she's just lying.

Given who she is carrying water for in this essay, I'm betting on lying.

As for Obama, fuck him.

Phil 3:14 said...

his answer, detailed and a little wonky, ended with a gift for John McCain: “When you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”

That's BO in a nutshell, dressed up in fine policy ideas, but in the end bare-naked liberalism.

As for the article itself:
- so "they started first" is the nuanced answer?
- the New Yorker!?, seriously?

Tim said...

"...and he has forcefully criticized the deceitful banking practices that nearly destroyed the economy and pushed the homes of more than eleven million people underwater."

Riiiight.

Because it wasn't the Clinton Administration threatening banks with enforcing an unwritten, expansive reading of the CRA at the behest of the Greenlining Institute to make subprime loans to unqualified borrowers, that would then be guaranteed and, in too many cases, bundled and bought by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And, of course, everyone knows that Rep. Barney Frank didn't valiantly defend the GSE's and their practice of guaranteeing and buying bundled subprime loans from Republican reform efforts.

Fuck Dorothy Wickenden too.

Tim said...

"He has been careful not to demonize the rich, but he intends to allow their Bush tax cuts to expire on schedule this year, which should go a long way toward reducing the deficit and at least a little way toward mitigating the rush toward a society of plutocrats and paupers."

My god. I can't read anymore. I expect I'll come upon pictures of the author giving the Obama Administration a blow job, and then sending flowers after the fact.

The New Yorker needs to hire an editor for tendentiousness.

Who knows? Maybe they tried, but no one in the journalism class could pass the test.

Fuck The New Yorker too.

Phil 3:14 said...

Didn't "Class Warfare" in elections start in 1800? Blame Jefferson and Hamilton

vet66 said...

I still manage a laugh at Kerry for docking his made-in-New Zealand yacht in a neighboring state to avoid the high tax in Mass. where he resided. Then there is "Silky pony" John Edwards with his $400 haircuts and soon to be destroyed sex tape that cost him much money from his ambulance chasing days and junk medical science.

Then there are the other millionaire/billionaire folks in both houses who claim to represent the regular guys and gals while engorging themselves at the public trough. Pelosi is in a class all by herself!

SGT Ted said...

The Willy Horton ad was Al Gores idea used in the primaries.

The Swift Boat Veterans was founded by a Democrat who voted for Al Gore in 2000.

So, fail on the author trying to blame Republicans for what Democrats do, which is typical of the apparatchiks who fancy themselves as 'journalists'.

chuckR said...

Michael Dukakis fell to the vicious Willie Horton ad.

It was noted Republican Al Gore whofirst brought up Willie Horton. Something for the Republicans to remember in their own internecine warfare.

chuckR said...

Dang. Sgt Ted got there first.

Irene said...

What's Obama supposed to do?

Frame Romney as a cultural and tribal abberation.

Work through a web of Tweets like Blow's. Ring the "weird religion" bell. Every lawyer knows a good bell can't be unrung.

Jon Burack said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jon Burack said...

The New Yorker has a lot of gaul trying to blame class consciousness on Republicans. The New Yorker has been a prime promoter of a style of sophisticated conspicuous consumption that is the badge now of our new upper class, the one people like David Brooks or Charles Murray have been describing -- and before them Christopher Lasch, a man of the left, described in even more insightful ways. The fact that this new "meritocratic" elite speaks the language of equality endlessly is exposed as the total sham it is by the New Yorker just about as well as anything can explose it. Between ads for things only the hoi poloi can buy, we hear about the evil Republicans and those crass rich people who don't know what the New Yorker rich know. This is rich, alright. Apparently The New Yorker's ad space is declining. Too bad. Even the best among us may be losing interest in the tripe found in between the ads.

Chip S. said...

What are things "only the hoi polloi can buy"?

Quayle said...

Ring the "weird religion" bell

The problem is that people can distinguish between the weird religion that is pretty effective in caring for their poor and churning out fairly nice and rather descent and productive fellow citizens and the weird religion that calls upon God to damn America.

Tim said...

"What are things "only the hoi polloi can buy"?

Ha ha.

We've learned recently that contraceptives are certainly among the things the "hoi polloi," esp. those of the female variety, can't afford to buy, according to those who seek to rule the "Demos."

Quayle said...

The fact that this new "meritocratic" elite speaks the language of equality endlessly is exposed as the total sham it is by the New Yorker just about as well as anything can expose it.


The American elite proudly trumpet the 'equality', 'diversity' and 'tolerance' memes to keep the unwashed masses from storming their gates.

And now they've even gone so far as to train from their ranks as decoys, a cadre of Potemkin unwashed masses hoping to lesson the real pressure that is building against them.

And it's a good ploy except their elite Potemkin OWSies look like they couldn't even storm the gate of my grandma's picket fence let alone the gates of our society.

Lem said...

And so begins the restoration/rehabilitation attempts of Barack Hussein Obama.

I'm not the only one.. Bush did it too.

Button your lip baby
Button your coat
Let's go out dancing
Go for the throat
Let's bury the hatchet
Wipe out the past
Make love together
Stay on the path

You're not the only one
With mixed emotions
You're not the only ship
Adrift on this ocean

This coming and going
Is driving me nuts
This to-ing and fro-ing
Is hurting my guts
So get off the fence
It's creasing your butt
Life is a party
Let's get out and strut

You're not the only one
That's feeling lonesome
You're not the only one
With mixed emotions

You're not the only one
You're not the only one
You're not the only one
You're not the only one

Let's grab the world
By the scruff of the neck
And drink it down deeply
Let's love it to death
So button your lip
And button your coat
Let's go out dancing
Let's rock 'n' roll

You're not the only one
With mixed emotions
You're not the only ship
Adrift on this ocean
You're not the only one
That's feeling lonesome
You're not the only one
With mixed emotions

Big Mike said...

Except that ...

"Welfare queens" really did exist (and still do) and absolutely bilk the government. It's not quite as easy after Bill Clinton -- pushed by Newt Gingrich -- forced welfare recipients to periodically go out and get a job. But if the writer of this piece of claptrap actually lived among the welfare recipients for a while, and sent children to "majority minority" schools where over half the children received free or reduced lunches (as I did), then perhaps she'd know better. But it's easy to guess that she lives on the Upper West Side, where the "poor folks" are a mere abstraction.

I don't get what she means by the Bushes "igniting racial and cultural resentments." Is she talking about the fact that the Bushes are fluent in Spanish (and George H. W. has Hispanic grandchildren)?

Oh! They're talking about the Willie Horton ad. You, know Democrats have been claiming for years that the ad was racist, showing Black prisoners (note the plural -- we're going to come back to it in a minute) cycling through Dukakis' revolving door prisons. But if you go to see the actual Willie Horton ad all but one of the prisoners going through the revolving door is white! The issue for Michael Dukakis was that (1) his administration provided weekend furloughs to prisoners who were already serving the maximum possible sentence under Massachusetts law and that (2) one of these prisoners, Willie Horton, used his furlough to escape from Massachusetts, travel to a different state (Maryland), and commit rape and violent assault. The Maryland judge, in sentencing Willie Horton to consecutive life terms, refused to extradite him back to Massachusetts because Massachusetts would not guarantee that Horton would not be re-released on furlough.

It's also true -- and today's limousine liberals don't like to acknowledge it -- but while Dukakis was governor he stifled efforts to clean up Boston Harbor, at that time by far the dirtiest in the United States. The Bush campaign made use of that "inconvenient fact" as well.

And when your political opponents run your own campaign ads, as for example the Dukakis tank ad, then you're probably not going to win.

And that brings us to John (I love American workers but I have my yachts built in New Zealand) Kerry. What were the "infamous swift boat attacks"? John Kerry served in the US Navy on armed vessels, called "Swift Boats," that patrolled rivers in Viet Nam. No argument that this was a brave and honorable thing to do.

But doesn't the US have the right to freedom of speech? Is there any reason why the men who served with John Kerry were supposed to banned from saying that they served with him and didn't hold him in high esteem? That Kerry got three Purple Hearts is a matter of public record. That two of the three came from mishandling his own ordnance is yet another "inconvenient fact" for Democrats. One of those Purple Hearts was due to taking a grenade fragment in the butt from not ducking fast enough when he used that same grenade to destroy a village's supply of rice for the winter -- you don't have to be the reincarnation of John Wayne to know to duck. And his Silver Star? He shot a semi-naked Viet Cong guerrilla in the back while the guy was running away after firing an RPG at Kerry's boat. Kerry had a right -- a duty, in fact -- to shoot the ragged and now unarmed guy in the back, but only a real glory hound would have pulled strings to get a medal for the act.

edutcher said...

The word, plutocrat, ring any bells?

Once again, a lot of drivel aimed at framing GodZero as the candidate of reason.

EDH said...

The vocabulary of class warfare may have begun on the left—a very socialist left—but in mainstream American politics it didn’t gain much traction until the Republicans took it up.

That's like saying the British occupation didn't gain much traction until Paul Revere.

Don't Tread 2012 said...

This piece is filled with oh-so-many bullshit assumptions.

Lets start with the 'well, we may have started it, but now they are doing it, too' meme. Saying this apparently makes the first action, acceptable. I say that envy and jealousy are unproductive and similar to anything that goes on after midnite.

Then we have BO's apparent 'societal concern' about 'inequality'. This opening allows for numerous redistributive 'ideas'.

The banks were at fault for the crisis. No mention of the direction or involvement of the 'wizards of smart' or the ill-advised 'Community Reinvestiment Act'. No, the buck always stops with these people when the results of their meddling can be pinned on those individuals or industries that changed their behavior in response to some very bad legislation. We'll call it 'unintended consequences'.

Then the writer laughably points out how allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire at year's-end will help cut the deficit. What a knee-slapper and not one mention of SPENDING CUTS in sight. Oh, that's right, tax cuts must be 'paid for' in the mind of the leftists, because after all its their money FIRST and not ours.

Poor Joe and Debbie live in a world of problems. If only they would just let a wizard like BO just fix things for them. Tsk tsk.

If we only worried more about what luxuries we could allow our politicians to have. The correct politicians. In the name of saving us!

'An America Built to be Last'.

Joe said...

an ad showing him windsurfing off Nantucket became an emblem of unseemly privilege.

No it didn't; it made Kerry look like a poser.

Luke Lea said...

Thanks for publiishing that.

wyo sis said...

Obama is supposed to be the President of the United States. He's not supposed to sell us out. He's supposed to protect and preserve the law not break it on every hand with the help of Napolitano and Holder. He's supposed to be interested in jobs, not shutting down pipelines and off shore drilling. He's supposed to care about all the citizens of the United States not just the ones he's managed to dupe. I could go on, but you get the drift.

SGT Ted said...

Sounds like the leftists are pissed off that we're using some of their own tactics against them.

Suck it up, buttercup.

YoungHegelian said...

Framing the struggle as cultural and tribal rather than as economic, they proved to be more effective class warriors than the Democrats.

It's not clear to anyone but a good Marxist that culture & tribe/race are proxies for class. Matter of fact, to any other historian other than Marxist historians the answer is a resounding "No!". Is Ms Wickenden a "good Marxist"?

This article is a good example of the muddled thinking common on the post-Marxist Left: they want to use Marxist categories, while simultaneously denying the assumptions that inform those categories.

YoungHegelian said...

Also, if I was on the board of Berkshire-Hathaway, I would start a movement to make Buffet figure out if he wants to be a political sage or a businessman. If the former, resign; the latter, STFU.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Bravo Big Mike. Excellent commentary.

dreams said...

The liberals will always have Nixon to kick around.

Rick67 said...

I almost feel sorry for these social-political leftists. They seem to believe their own nonsense.

"Obama doesn't demonize the rich"?

Stop it! You're killing me?

raf said...

Of course, this article is not meant to persuade any one. It's purpose is to reassure nervous lefties that they are still the good guys. As long as they are stilll the anti-Nixon, they are cool.

Revenant said...

I started typing up a longer response.

But then I thought: why bother? The article is too obviously wrong to convince anyone who wasn't already a hardcore Democrat.

n.n said...

Withdraw in defeat. It is clear that equivalence rules the day and that everything is malleable and nonsensical. These arguments cannot be debated, let alone won, without a common reference.

Hoosier Daddy said...

This article is good evidence that contemporary liberalism is a mental disorder.

Michael in ArchDen said...

Agree with Big Mike.

In fact, if ever made dictator for a day, one of my foirst acts will make it illegal to refer to the "viscous Willie
Horton ad." without linking to it, so people can judge for themselves its viscous-ness.

Synova said...

"The problem is that people can distinguish between the weird religion that is pretty effective in caring for their poor and churning out fairly nice and rather descent and productive fellow citizens and the weird religion that calls upon God to damn America."

I don't think that anyone doubts that Mormons make good neighbors. Do they?

Too many and you can't get good coffee, but there you go.

Synova said...

"...but only a real glory hound would have pulled strings to get a medal for the act."

I watched the actual interviews of the Swift Boat guys and to a man they refused to say that Kerry lacked courage.

They were angry about Winter Soldier.

They were angry about Paris.

They were angry about the Senate Hearings.

And they were disgusted by the notion that "three purple hearts and you get a free ride home" (something it's unlikely anyone would have failed to sympathize with doing, if you could) had turned three months and three bandaids (and I'm not being hyperbolic about *bandaids*) into full blown war heroism.

Such incredible and inescapable war heroism that dumb veterans and current soldiers would flock to vote for the man with the military experience and not for a moment remember... Winter Soldier... Paris... or the Senate Hearings, war crimes, Ghengis Khan, and tossing his (someone else's) medals over the White House fence and thinking that NOW that he was running for President he got to have them too.

Nathan Alexander said...

The writer of the article is actually conflating two concepts.

Socialist liberal Democrats use class warfare vocabulary.

The conservative GOPers merely point out the hypocrisy of the socialist liberal Democrats who want to redistribute everyone's wealth but their own. There is an anti-elitist, anti-pseudo-intellectual flavor to it, but it isn't class warfare vocabulary at all.

I can't even imagine a conservative using words like "proletariat" and "worker's paradise", etc., without distinct irony.

Bruce Hayden said...

I never quite understood how this was supposed to work. You have multimillionaire politicians, or those who at least hang around such, talking about class warfare, etc., and expecting the masses to follow them to victory.

The Dems problem here is that they attract a lot of rich people to run for office, and who weren't yet rich, want to be, and expect to be as a result of their public "service" (e.g. Clintons and Harry Reid). And, these same rich people try to run as populists, and then wonder why it doesn't work.

Their problem is that at the national level, they just cannot be compelling as claiming to represent or support the middle class or the poor. Well, maybe the really poor, because they want to be taken care of. But, definitely not the middle class, esp. the lower middle class. And, it is those attempts that make it so easy to caricature them. Dukakis in the tank, Kerry in the fu-fu biking or wind-surfing outfits. Obama may be able to overcome this himself, but his wife? Not as likely.

What they seem to end up doing is pitting the very rich allied with the poor against most of the middle class, upper and lower, blue collar and white. For the most part, the middle class looks down at the poor as lazy and dislike the rich because they tend to view themselves as entitled. And, that the rich liberals take trillions of dollars from the middle class to buy votes from the poor for their own political power.

I think that the Obamas might have done better if Michelle had not done the 16 or so tony vacations in elite vacation spots, and the President spent more time working and less time golfing, while his policies pretty much guaranteed that the recovery would be delayed, and his party's policies triggered the recession in the first place. Now, all they have left is to enrage their traditional bases, while trying to shift the debate from the economic to the social.

Bruce Hayden said...

When prosperous liberals vote their values, not their interests, that’s enlightened. When poor conservatives do it, it’s dumb. What’s perhaps most offensive is the empathy this pathology sometimes elicits, infamously expressed by candidate Obama in 2008. “And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” It’s a shame they’re that way, but we understand.

I think that it is more than just populist vocabulary. The problem is also that the elites on the left, starting at the President, and working down, almost openly despise white middle America. Fly-over country, suburbs, NASCAR, tailgate parties, etc. And, that doesn't help getting the same people to trust them.

Wonder why Presidents Reagan and GW Bush visibly cut wood, etc. on their ranches? The middle class mostly doesn't have someone doing their yard work. That is mostly for the elite who have "help". And, of course, they don't think that the poor bother.

Contrast this with Obama, who wears mommy jeans, is never seen doing anything manly, but rather spends his time in elite type recreation. And, whose wife is living life big at our expense.

As I said above, it isn't just the vocabulary. Edwards wasn't successful in his two Americas, partially I think, because he was such a hypocrite about it, with his compound sitting across the street from a trailer park. When the left tries to use populist vocabulary, but live, work, and limit their friends to wealthy liberal elites, they just aren't able to convince that many people any more that they actually understand how middle America lives.