by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
May 6, 2005
NOT CULTURE WAR, BUT CLASS WAR
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- A popular political theory over the past few months is that the ongoing fight over the future of Social Security is just a diversion to allow the Republicans to get away with all sorts of repugnant policies.
In the wake of repealing the estate tax (so the rich stay that way), changing the bankruptcy laws (so millions of Americans will get poorer) and giving the authorization to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (so we can trash the last significant wilderness area in America for a couple of months worth of oil), one would say the theory has some validity.
Sure, President Bush's approval rating is at an all-time low for a second-term president. Certainly, the President and the GOP overreached in the Terri Schiavo case. Absolutely, the threats by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to employ "the nuclear option" and end filibusters on judicial nominees may bring Congress to a standstill if the Democrats retaliate.
And none of this matters.
The bottomless well of evil that Karl Rove and company draw from ensures that there will always be something worse. And once again, liberals will have to play defense rather than go on the attack. The press will play along, since its straitjacket of objectivity and its subservience to power means it will only challenge the Bush White House at the margins.
Morality is supposedly the great divide in American politics. I say it is still economics and class. I believe that worrying about whether evolution is being taught in public schools or whether the Ten Commandments can be displayed at a courthouse always gets trumped by whether you have enough money to pay the rent, buy groceries, pay the electric bill and fill up the car with gas.
If you are unemployed because the company you worked for decided to send your job to China or India, you're not going to care about Terry Schiavo's fate. If you are sick and have no health insurance, you're not going to be complaining about judicial activism.
But time and time again, the Republicans successfully woo the working class with silly morality plays while robbing them blind to give more to the rich.
It's not the culture war we should worry about. It's the class war. The Republicans have absolutely no qualms about transforming our country into a winner-take-all society where, if you aren't lucky enough to be wealthy, you're damned to an existence of working more and more for less and less.
To me, it's mind-boggling that 73 Democratic members of the House voted for the bankruptcy bill. Or that 18 Democratic members of the Senate - including Minority Leader Harry Reid - voted for it. I'm sure these folks are going to campaign on this issue in their next election - "Vote for me, I gave the banks and credit card companies the right to bleed you dry if you get into financial trouble."
This is the price Democrats paid for turning away from economic liberalism. Because the Democratic Party is now beholden to nearly all the same big-money interests as the GOP, it won't speak on behalf of the non-monied class. Even worse, it will side with the GOP on economic issues.
There's a reason why Franklin D. Roosevelt remains a revered figure to many Americans. That's because he created the idea that government could be a positive force in people's lives and that government has a responsibility to operate for the general welfare of all Americans.
Has there been any moment in the last four years where Ptesident George W. Bush has acted with a sense of responsibility for the general welfare of all Americans? No. Virtually every thing the Bush administration has done has been with its wealthy supporters in mind.
Many Democrats voted for tax cuts for the wealthy. Almost all of them voted for the Patriot Act. Nearly all of them voted to invade Iraq. All but a handful of President Bush's judicial appointees and every one of his cabinet appointees have been approved.
All this from the alleged opposition party.
The first thing that Democrats in Congress should do is to stop voting for Republican bills. Forget all that nonsense about bipartisanship and trying to appeal to the middle. The GOP certainly isn't doing it. They have a plan - make the rich richer and to hell with everyone else. They're not compromising on their grand goal. Why should the Democrats?
The second thing is to remind people who created Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. It wasn't the GOP. Who gave workers the 40-hour-week, overtime pay and the right to join a union? It wasn't the GOP. Who enacted laws to protect our air and water? It wasn't the GOP. Who gave all Americans the right to vote? It wasn't the GOP.
The list goes on and on. Everything we associate with the strength and prosperity of America came from the Democratic Party. And every bit of liberal legislation that has been enacted over the past 70 years has been done so over the vigorous opposition of the GOP.
Government of, by and for the wealthy elites is what the Republican Party stands for. It demands personal responsibility and accountability, except for those in power and the friends who keep them there. It recognizes no obligation to serve the general welfare.
Every day that Democrats avoid saying this is another day that the GOP can continue to destroy the economic foundations of our society and get away with it.
It seems futile to say it, but the Democrats must return to the ideal that this country works best when everyone shares in prosperity. Transferring wealth to the already-wealthy creates nothing.
The fight over Social Security's future has everything to do with the ideal of shared responsibility and promoting the general welfare. But that is only the beginning, There is still much more to do and Democrats have to stake out the high ground and fight for it.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 20 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.