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Ian Reifowitz Headshot

Elitism and the Real Face of Conservatism

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Have you heard the latest from Tom Perkins? This is the guy who, last month, had a letter published in the Wall Street Journal that likened the "progressive war on the American one percent," to the Nazi demonization of Jews prior to Kristallnacht. Of course Rush Limbaugh praised him for defending the rich. I hope you're not surprised. Anyway, here's what Mr. Perkins has to say now:

The Tom Perkins system is: You don't get to vote unless you pay a dollar of taxes...But what I really think is, it should be like a corporation. You pay a million dollars in taxes, you get a million votes. How's that?

How's that, Mr. Perkins? I'll tell you how's that. Your system (and, by the way, everyone in this country pays taxes) is nothing other than the logical conclusion of all Republican thinking on wealth, from the 47 percent, to takers vs. makers (note: Paul Ryan said 60 percent of Americans are "takers"), to having "skin in the game," and right on down the line.

The right complains that President Obama won only because people "dependent" on receiving "stuff" from the government vote for Democrats (of course, the "stuff" never includes corporate welfare or bailouts, in their thinking). The clear implication of that Republican thinking is that people who are "dependent on government" shouldn't vote. Tom Perkins is merely the only right-winger brave enough to say it. Just as Ayn Rand is the intellectual foundation of contemporary Republican conservatism (even if Mr. Ryan wants to pretend he doesn't think so), the "Tom Perkins system" exposes the elitism and fundamentally anti-democratic ideas the Right secretly believes but knows, correctly, it ought never utter publicly if it wants to win elections.

You know who else believes the vote should be restricted based on wealth, specifically property ownership? The president of Tea Party Nation, Judson Phillips. When conservatives mean they want to take America back to the glorious spirit of its past, this is clearly a big part of what they mean. Here's what Phillips had to say in 2010:

The Founding Fathers ... put certain restrictions on who gets the right to vote. It wasn't you were just a citizen and you got to vote. ... One of those was you had to be a property owner. And that makes a lot of sense, because if you're a property owner you actually have a vested stake in the community. If you're not a property owner, you know, I'm sorry but property owners have a little bit more of a vested interest in the community than non-property owners.

The Randian beliefs of Tom Perkins are being put into practice by right-wing politicians like Paul Ryan. Their ideology represents the real face of the Republican party. We see it when Ryan talks about the "dignity of work," or how he's worried that if the safety net is too strong it becomes a "hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency, that drains them of their will and their incentive to make the most of their lives." Because, remember, people who receive government assistance are just lazy nappers living high on the hog. People on food stamps have no incentive to work because they've got it so easy. But don't forget that Paul Ryan really does care about poor people. Heck, he'll even wash already clean dishes to show potential Republican voters just how much.

Let's cut to the chase. From Tom Perkins to the Tea Party to Rush Limbaugh to Paul Ryan, the right truly believes that the wealthy are better than everyone else. More worthy than everyone else. There is even a religious component to it, the so-called "prosperity gospel," according to which wealth is the way God rewards his favored, those whom he most loves. The prosperity gospel too is directly connected to Republican politics. Thus, it is only logical that the moral superiority of the extremely wealthy should entitle them to a greater say in government. Never mind that Jesus said in Matthew 19:24: "Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."

The elitism of the right wing -- personified by Tom Perkins and his "system" -- makes me sick. More than that, it makes me angry, and anger is a powerful motivator. We have to understand what progressivism is up against. Our belief in the fundamental equality of all people is not shared by our opponents. Our belief that all Americans should have equal rights and an equal voice in our democracy is not shared by our opponents.

We must make sure that the American people understand just what our opponents believe. We must expose them for what they really are.