If it quacks like Class Warfare...

Jeff Golden

I have a question for anyone who resonated with the thrust of my earlier post on the shouts of "class warfare" from 66/67 opponents -- that it's a cynical tactical phrase mostly designed to shame into silence anyone who wants more progressive taxation:

What's up with this?

At the risk of sounding like Jimmy Stewart, or clueless about the crackle and simplicity a TV spot needs to be effective, I'm thinking the "class warfare" shouters have a better case than I gave them credit for. And that's after comfortably voting yes on both measures.

Look. It's true that Wall Street took millions in bailouts — billions, actually — given to them by politicians they finance at election time. And yes, the money went to big bonuses and mergers and restoration of the same house-of-cards schemes that caused the crash, not to easing credit and relieving mortgages like we were promised. It's also true that some of those same firms have walloped some of the same taxpayers who provided those bail-out dollars.

But why are we hearing about all that now whenever we flip on the TV, especially when most who would pay more under these measures have nothing to do with credit cards and banking? To help us thoughtfully weigh these tax and revenue questions, or to uncork our rage at what’s happened to this country?

Some will probably say “the rich” have been rolling us so relentlessly that I’m making too fine a point; let’s take any chance to stick it back to them, and never mind the details. But here’s the thing. We’ve been complaining bitterly that the manipulation of resentment and fear has become the primary tool of American politics, giving us endless pre-emptive wars in the name of 9/11 and the gutting of basic constitutional rights to fight the terrorists under our beds. We want these guys to stop it. But if we play the same game when given the chance, different in magnitude but similar in integrity, why should they?


This isn't about playing nice. It’s about breaking a disastrous cycle of peddling fear and resentment. There’s evidence that stoking our passions about terrorists or mega-rich Wall Streeters wins battles. But all of us are losing the war.

Comments

  • (Show?)

    I agree, Jeff.

    Some wise person once observed that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. That's true as far as it goes. But a more wholistic observation would have to include fearmongers too.

  • (Show?)

    especially when most who would pay more under these measures have nothing to do with credit cards and banking?

    I don't know about "most" - but big out-of-state banks will certainly be paying a healthy chunk of the M67 taxes.

  • (Show?)

    In any case, I don't have a problem with class warfare. It's about time the middle class and the working class finally joined the fight -- they've been having war waged on them for decades.

  • (Show?)

    Nice atttempt to find common ground and less partisanship. I'll believe it in February when the business lobby comes in with an actual attempt to fix the kicker for the Rainy Day Fund.

  • Bob Soper (unverified)
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    I'm not a big fan of the VoteYes ads; they seem to insult the intelligence of the typical Oregon voter. Of course, the VoteNo ads do so to a much greater degree; and I suppose that is what the consultants believe win elections. After all, if we had an intelligent electorate, these measures wouldn't have been able to get on the ballot in the first place.

  • fattest man (unverified)
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    Interesting post and I agree with you. I will be very interested to see where all this goes in the next few years.

  • dartagnan (unverified)
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    "This isn't about playing nice. It’s about breaking a disastrous cycle of peddling fear and resentment."

    It's like disarmament. The progressives have practiced unilateral disarmament for far too long and have gotten their butts kicked six ways from Sunday.

    The unpleasant fact is that most people are not persuaded by complex intellectual arguments; they are persuaded by simple messages that resonate emotionally. If we are going to have any success in this battle we have to use the weapons that work.

  • Cheesus Cripes (unverified)
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    This is why liberals almost never win: There are real live villains here on the other side--large corporations (including banks) who are outright lying and putting a bulls eye on state employees. They are lying through their teeth and running a horribly damaging campaign.

    So what do us stupid liberals, like Mr. Golden here, do when confronted with such attacks? We turn our guns on each other.

    Grow a spine, Golden, and figure out that when you're in a fight, you should try throwing a punch at the bad guys.

  • (Show?)

    To quote the eminent political philosopher John McEnroe, YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS! "All of us are losing this war." Are you actually saying that effects of the "civility" war you see us losing outweigh the effects of the very real "class war" that all but the very well-to-do have been victims of?

    You say "It's true that Wall Street took millions in bailouts — billions, actually — given to them by politicians they finance at election time." Actually, it's not true: you're off by a factor of around 1,000.

    "Millions" and "billions" might be right if you were talking about the size of Wall Street bonuses. "Hundreds of millions" would get you into the league of what the financial industry is spending on lobbying to gut the reform legislation now in Congress ($344 million just for the first 3 quarters of 2009).

    But the actual size of the bailout? Try more like $14 trillion.

    I get that you'd like policy discussions to be more civil. But you've picked a helluva time to ask us to back off. Did you hear Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan this week disclaiming responsibility for the meltdown by saying, in so many words, "shit happens?" Even the President is finally getting angry!

    So, no, Jeff - we've got every right to be angry at the way the middle class has been stuck holding the bag over the last decade and longer. And if we on the left don't channel that anger and use it to move progressive change, then we leave that turf open to the Tea Party crowd, the Sarah Palins and the Ron Pauls to lead the charge. But make no mistake: the anger is genuine, generated by the reality of the Great Recession, not by TV spots.

  • Edward I. O'Hannity (unverified)
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    I'm not a big fan of the VoteYes ads; they seem to insult the intelligence of the typical Oregon voter...

    ALL campaign materials, be they TV spots or lawn & field signs are inherently insulting, as they imply that the voters are more influenced by fancy visuals than the substance of the issues or candidates they trumpet. Sad to say, this is true for many, but not for all.

    This is why we at The MacDonald Group have embraced our own approach to Rich-Tweaking!

    Vote YES on Rich-Tweaking Taxes!

    ~EIO

    "Join and Help Us Buy Back Our Country" - Richie Rich

  • dreadlocks (unverified)
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    "Look. It's true that Wall Street took millions in bailouts — billions, actually — given to them by politicians they finance at election time."

    Funny. I thought the Obama presidency was all about "change" and not letting this kind of thing happen? Why are we still in a recession after the last "bailout"?

    This Obama/socialist-democratic economy is a house of cards. Enjoy your super-majority while it lasts.

  • Ted (unverified)
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    Democrats are not only masters of classware, but scare tactics in general.

    Years ago, I remember my great-grand mother being in a nursing home. Around election time Democrats like Ron Wyden would tour through the nursing homes making sure all the old folks voted Democrat or there wouldn't be enough money for food, and they'd all be eating dog food. That's about as low as gets for me and I've never voted for a Democrat since.

    The criminal tactics used to get elected - From scare tactics against the elderly, to union thug tactics, ACORN corruption, and Class Warfare - are just part of the Democrat playbook.

  • (Show?)

    Nice, Edward; and a very welcome antidote to Phil Knight's nauseating op-ed that's now online, set to appear in tomorrow's special No on 66/67 wrap-around edition of the Oregonian.

  • LT (unverified)
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    "I get that you'd like policy discussions to be more civil. But you've picked a helluva time to ask us to back off."

    It is not true that being verbally nasty always wins a battle.

    Because there are people here who might be uncivil if I gave some recent examples, I will just point out that

    a) Many of us have been in polarized situations, behaved as courteously as we knew how (it IS possible to say strong things in a soft voice--the proverbial scalpel not a chainsaw), and there are times when polarization may or may not win the day regarding election/legislative results, but is it worth someone being alienated for years afterwards? Don't kid yourself--that happens.

    And "I was going to support your side until ____ insulting thing happened and now I will vote the other way" could very possibly turn votes in the 66 & 67 election, such as that stupid bakery ad or the dairy letter.

    b) In the JFK Inaugural Address there is a line "Civility is not a sign of weakness, but sincerity is always subject to proof".

    And then there is the assumption that all people think the same way.

    "But why are we hearing about all that now whenever we flip on the TV, especially when most who would pay more under these measures have nothing to do with credit cards and banking? To help us thoughtfully weigh these tax and revenue questions, or to uncork our rage at what’s happened to this country? "

    How many people are too busy to watch TV? Working parents of small children? People working multiple jobs or working students? It takes great skill to have a 30 second spot which prevents people from hitting the mute button (I can think of one from 1990, maybe some Clinton and Obama ads, but little else). Jeff, are you saying that everyone reacts the same way when they "flip on the TV"?

    Stereotyping is what that paragraph sounds like---that all people who turn on the TV and see the ads in question react exactly the same way. Jeff, if you felt that way it does not mean that everyone who does see an ad reacts the same way.

    Anyone who truly believes people are acted upon by ads ---and not mature thinking adults reacting to them by either ignoring them, hitting the mute button or perhaps engaging in conversation with others about the ads (at the time of the ad, next day at work, etc.) needs to realize that we should all learn to spot the tactics of propoganda.

    Personally, I like the Yes on 66 & 67 ads and believe they are persuasive, while the No ads deserve to be mocked. I just think the people who made the Yes ads and the Mark, Pat et al who made the No ads deserve to be mocked. I am talking about the quality of the ads.

    I would suggest looking at this web page for more information on propoganda techniques.

    http://library.thinkquest.org/C0111500/proptech.htm

  • Michael M. (unverified)
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    I'll say at the outset that I loathe citizen referenda, and generally don't vote on them, especially when they are the only thing on the ballot. Tremendous waste of money and resources. I'm with the founders -- I believe in representative democracy, not direct democracy.

    That said, I was going to suck it up and vote "yes" on these measures, because they are important. Then I started seeing more & more of the yes campaign, and got increasingly turned off. Mind you, the no campaign is even more of a turn-off (I received the infamous dairy letter -- what a pathetic joke), but I expect that. I didn't expect the yes people to strike such overwhelmingly populist, classist tone. So I'm disappointed. I was especially disappointed by Steve Novick's performance at the City Club, though I generally like Novick. Especially about the health-care issue and how much Oregon's state employees are costing us.

    Still I was (probably) going to suck it up and vote yes. Then, I realized that my usual ballot drop-off place, the Hollywood Library, has been moved west to the local McDonalds. It's a drive-up drop-off, and I don't drive. That cuts it. I'm not voting. Sorry.

  • andy (unverified)
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    I voted no and a major part of the reason was because I saw that the yes campaign was mostly lies. Stick it to the rich isn't a good public policy but that seemed to be the core of the yes campaign. On top of that bad idea the yes campaign chose to make very distorted claims about business taxes. The ads focused heavily on the $10 minimum which is a complete red herring. The only firms that pay the minimum are the ones that aren't earning a profit. I never had a real high opinion of liberals anyway but this campaign has shown me just how stupid most of them are. There are legitimate reasons to increase some taxes but I'm voting no as long as morons run the campaigns.

  • Matilda De Kieken (unverified)
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    Re: "And if we on the left don't channel that anger and use it to move progressive change, then we leave that turf open to the Tea Party crowd, the Sarah Palins and the Ron Pauls to lead the charge."

    Sara Palin aside, the Tea Partiers and Ron Paul more and more represent the point of view of progressives on bail-outs for the rich as well as on imperial militarism. (Don't complain about their views on other issues - that's not what I'm talking about.)

    If Democrats are really against wars of empire and their massive, hugely expensive infrastructure, then they have to build bridges to those whose lives have become a living hell under the neoliberal policies of Obamabush. And if they really want Medicare for All, universal health care, they have to join with those to their right to oppose the disgustingly anti-democratic sellout insurance corporation bailouts.

  • Joshua Welch (unverified)
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    "In any case, I don't have a problem with class warfare. It's about time the middle class and the working class finally joined the fight -- they've been having war waged on them for decades."

    That's what I'm talkin about!

  • Patrick Story (unverified)
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    It's hard to understand how J.G. could be so confused about the impact of class warfare from the Right. For example, even though our "yes" ballots were already in the mail, I received another letter from that vacant storefront address in Salem, this time signed "Wendy." Wendy threatens me that

    "jobs that support our families . . . will definitely be cut if voters say 'yes'."

    "Definitely." Years ago threats were openly posted on workplace walls that employees need not show up for work after election day if the Republicans lost. This is a direct-mail version of that same democracy-killing intimidation. (And maybe it's also going on right in Oregon workplaces.)

    Ya can't eliminate class warfare by pretending it's not actively being used against working people.

  • (Show?)

    the Tea Partiers and Ron Paul more and more represent the point of view of progressives on bail-outs

    No, they really don't. They may be angry at some of the same institutions (Wall St., the Federal Reserve) - but their "solutions" are a kind of free market fundamentalism that would weaken or dismantle any kind of accountability for the big banks.

    They opposed the bailouts because they oppose any government action in the economy. While Ron Paul may rant and rail, he joined every other Republican and the Blue Dogs in voting against legislation to rein in the banks. Don't be fooled.

  • TroyB (unverified)
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    I think this post is ridiculous and I agree with Kari's comment that its about time working people joined the fight... the bad guys have been waging war on working families for decades.

  • Dietp (unverified)
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    professional article, made . keep up the good work!

  • (Show?)

    Golden had his guest column published in the Medford Mail Tribune today. His "can't we all just get along" plea is a set back for Yes on 66/67. Gobbly++++++++++gook.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    OK, for those who have no problem with some of these "YES" ads; please tell us how including FEDERAL bailout of bamks and insurance companies aids the cause of 66 & 67? Why didn't they include Government Motors ala GM and Chrysler?

    I am no fan of the huge corporate banks, but at least many of them have paid back the federal funds with interest. The moeny sent to the auto companies is most likely gone for a very long time.

  • Billy Busdriver (unverified)
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    So why are you paying for the "yes" side, Kurt?

    Kari recently posted on the Merc blog that this is "a volunteer-run blog". You can see what the ads. are worth. Where to you think that money goes? Typepad is dirt cheap. The balance? Straight to Dem coffers.

    The question is, is Blue Oregon an unregistered PAC?

  • Robert Harris (unverified)
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    Like it or not, winning referendums, particularly on tax measures, is political professional wrestling.

    When one side is determined to play dirty hardball, you can't hold out your hand to that opponent. He'll just grab it, spin you around and give you "the claw" or the sleeper hold. He'll whack you upside the head with a folding chair when you're not looking. Its outside the rules, dirty, refs are oblivious, and no one gets disqualified. The good guy usually wins only when he resorts to similar tactics.

    Think of Pat McCormick as the Undertaker. (in his bad guy days at least). It makes it easier.

  • (Show?)

    Yup. In the Class War (which has been going on for around 5000 years now) civility and reason are a couple of the many tools to be accessed.

    They should only be deployed when they are most effective and the decision should not be predicated on any sort moral rectitude.

    That said, I still agree with those who argue against outright deceit as enough people usually catch on to that and it becomes a net negative for our side.

  • Matilda De Kieken (unverified)
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    Re: "While Ron Paul may rant and rail, he joined every other Republican and the Blue Dogs in voting against legislation to rein in the banks. Don't be fooled."

    First of all, you truncated my comment from "...on bail-outs for the rich as well as on imperial militarism". Apparently, wars of empire are as acceptable for you as they are for Obama and the other DP elites (but not for Paul or his allies).

    As for bailouts for the rich: Paul's analysis is virtually identical to that of many real progressives (read notDemocrats): the Obamabush bailouts for the rich are welfare for the rich, and socialized costs and risks for the rest of us.

    If progressives had joined with those to their right in vehemently opposing these anti-democratic measures (and I include the robust privatized health insurance option), we would be in far better shape as a democratic society than we are now. The failure of faux progressives to do this and to instead support Obamabush policies has reduced the possibilities of movement to the left (which reduction is what the DP is really all about).

    The hatred of those to the right of you and the even greater hatred of those to your left is what makes the DP a zombie party.

  • (Show?)

    Building a broad "popular front" to oppose the wars and rein in Wall Street is one thing; doing so under the leadership of those whose longer term agenda is reactionary is self-defeating and dangerous.

    Pat Buchanan is also a strong isolationist, as are many "paleocons" and white nationalists. That doesn't mean we share either the same analysis or objectives, even if he does oppose the escalation of the war in Afghanistan. Steering people into the arms of right wing demagogues just because they sound progressive will not strengthen democracy.

  • Mr. Mike (unverified)
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    For those who pay attention, like Warren Buffett, there is clearly a class war going on in the U.S., and one of the most effective techniques the "right" employs is convincing those who are losing that war--badly--that we're really "all in this together." That the interests of a $20K single mom are the same as Phil Knight's.

    This is nonsense, of course. The pie is finite, and politics is all about how it gets divided up. Virtually all of the increased productivity in the U.S., since the 70s, has gone to the richest 5%. They like it that way, they know there's a class war, they fight it to win.

    And we try to get along. Sheesh.

    Oh, and Earth to Ted. Old people did used to eat dog food. Prior to Democrats passing Medicare, over the fight-to-the-death opposition of Corporate Republicans, seniors were the poorest segment of the population. Ron Wyden made his political bones with the Grey Panthers in Oregon, and has served them well. Now that I'm Social Security age--served us well.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    Ted, maybe do some genealogy and get into a day in the life of your 19th/early 20th century grandparents. Before the New Deal, life was pitilessly hard. A much greater proportion of the population was rural and farmed. Just think about doing farm chores, on a cold raining morning, when you're in your sixties or seventies, knowing that if you miss one day the whole operation could go to hell in a handbasket.

    Another measure of what life without a security net is like, comes from my observation, at least in my family, that the best deal around, in the 19th century, was a miner's or railroad pension. When a coal miner looks to be living a progressive life, that tells you what everyone else was struggling with!

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    BTW, has evolution stopped? Why always "class war"? Why can't a lot of this be the effects of speciation? You see that more in places like Texas, dealing daily with Australopithecus Texana, but the rest of the population isn't that much different.

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