09 October 2008

On Class Warfare.

On Class Warfare.
by Isonomist
10/09/2008, 8:35 AM #

Recently a friend sent me an email called "questions," asking things like: What if things were switched around, What if the Obamas had paraded five children across the stage, following the debate,including a three month-old infant and an unwed, pregnant teenage daughter?

What if John McCain was a former president of the Harvard Law Review? What if Barack Obama finished fifth from the bottom of his college graduating class? What if McCain had only married once, and Obama was divorced? What if Obama had met his second wife in a bar and had a long affair while he was still married? What if Michelle Obama was the wife who not only became addicted to pain killers but also acquired them illegally through her charitable organization?

The email goes on to ascribe the narrow gap between the two candidates to racism. But this is not just about racism, this is and has for a long time been a class war deliberately incited by the Republicans since the days of Reagan. , Joe Patterson, the founder of the NY Daily News, once wrote that “class feeling is always antagonistic to the interest of the whole people.” You would think that was a principle on which the United States was founded. We like to believe there are not such differences here, we're all supposed to be equal.

But what we see, and what is clear from the last 3 elections, if not the last 30 years of politics, is certain Republicans deliberately and strategically manipulating public opinion against the educated, against the "elites" who have been successful in life while holding liberal values, who are willing to do the right thing and pay more taxes to help their fellow Americans, against those who think the government should be responsible to the needs of its electorate. It's not something you see in real conservatives. This is the strategy of a certain type of Republican. That strategy has won elections, but has caused a rift in this country that we can’t shake, that’s tearing us apart, weakening our military, and killing our economy.

Pitting race against race among the lower classes is an old story, a convenient way for the upper classes in the South to keep both groups divided and conquered after the Civil War. Pitting North against South has ruled national politics as long as some of us can remember. Pitting the working class against the “elites” and (I love this term) “limousine liberals” and all the other epithets they use to distance their opponents from “real” Americans has worked very well for these particular Republicans, and we are paying the price for it every day. Unfortunately, it’s exactly those working class folks who buy into this divisive mentality who are paying the most for it. And how many Democrats buy into this themselves, disparaging the working class and the South for “not getting it,” then seeming surprised when that plays right into the hands of those Republicans machinating a deeper, wider gap among the people they seek to rule. Many learned and wise conservatives have distanced themselves from the Republican political machine for this reason: they see what it's doing to America, and they don't like it either.

I don’t have a solution for it, except to call it what it is, to speak up against it, and to stop letting the post-Reagan Republicans frame these arguments, like the tactic of accusing Democrats of inciting a class war just because Obama wants to roll back taxes for the very rich, back to Reagan-era levels. That's not class war. But Sarah Palin's smear strategy is. Hearing people call out "kill him" and "terrorist" and "treason" during her speeches, bragging about her ignorance and lack of education; putting down those who have attended good schools (on a scholarship for godsakes), painting Obama as an elite, and now a Mystery Man, glorifying her isolationism; it's as if she has never thought out the consequences of what she says. Even if the shouters are Republican plants, this is blatant incitement to crime. It's no wonder McCain won't say these things to Obama's face.

Knowing now that the RNC speech she gave was written by a Bush speechwriter before anyone even knew she'd be picked, and then tailored to match her background, crafted to build class warfare in the service of Republican politics, you have to ask yourself: who is the real Sarah Palin?

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