A classic blues lyric is, "Before you accuse me, take a look at yourself."
Whenever Democrats argue that Bush Administration policies favor the rich at the expense of the poor, Republicans accuse Dems of waging class warfare . It's a classic defensive ploy -- accuse when you're the guilty party.
President Bush attributes the growth of the U.S. economy to his economic policies. As a consequence, he's asking for a new round of tax cuts for the rich. The Republican-controlled Congress is ready to pass these, and reduce benefits for the poor, when the House and Senate reconvene. It's GOP class warfare.
An enduring image of 2005 was that of the stranded residents of New Orleans, mostly poor and black, who were desperately asking for help -- left behind in the evacuation of their city. This past year, millions of Americans were also left behind due to the policies of the Bush Administration.
While the economy is growing, Economist Paul Krugman observed, in his December 5th New York Times Column, that real median household income fell for the fifth year in a row . Journalist Joshua Holland reports , "there are 5 million more Americans living in poverty today than there were four years ago."
Average Americans understand that while Bush claims the economy is improving, it's not affecting them. A recent Gallup Poll found that 61 percent of respondents felt that the economy was "fair" or "poor;" 56 percent felt that it was getting worse. According to polls, the economy is typically citizens' biggest concern. Nonetheless, when Democrats, such as John Edwards, try to talk about the growing economic divide -- Two Americas -- Republicans accuse them of waging class warfare.
The problem, of course, is that it's Republicans, not Democrats, who are waging class warfare. By not going on the offensive, not talking about the growing divide between the rich and everyone else, Dems are taking an important issue off the table. They are denying the reality that their constituents deal with every day. By doing this, they are robbing the progressive movement of the energy that comes from defending a basic liberal value -- fairness. Equal opportunity for all citizens.
There are three reasons why it is vital for Democrats to talk about the class warfare being waged by Republicans. The first is that it is profoundly undemocratic. At the heart of the American ethos is the notion that all citizens deserve a basic standard of living that will enable them to rise above the vicissitudes of daily existence and participate in the democratic process. This is the origin of our ideal of fairness -- the idea that by guaranteeing basic human rights we will also ensure government "by the people, of the people, and for the people." The U.S. can't be an effective democracy if a huge number of citizens are forced to spend most of their time struggling to keep their heads above water.
The second problem with the Bush class-warfare policies is that they hurt our economy. The perverse reality is that the Bush Administration is bad for business. Their policies are breeding monopoly capitalism, fostering the creation of cartels, sole-source contracts, and other anti-competitive devices. They are destroying small businesses along with the idea of the "level-playing field," which is a key element of the American myth of meritocracy -- an important spur to innovation. And, the Bush Administration is starving the American infrastructure; failing to provide for health-care, education, transportation and the other services that a vital economy needs.
The third problem with the Bush attack on the middle and lower classes is that it is immoral. It flies in the face of Christian ethics. This is a crucial point because George Bush is a self-defined "Christian" President in a country where 85 percent of the electorate identifies as Christians. Nonetheless, Bush Administration policies disregard Jesus' teachings that we are to care for one another -- "I am my brother's keeper and my sister's keeper." They break the "golden rule."
For all these reasons, in 2006 Democrats must go on the offensive and play the class warfare card. They should characterize the Republicans as demeaning the very traditional values they claim to defend. As advocating programs and policies that are un-democratic, that separates Americans rather than bringing us together. That leaves more and more citizens behind.
In this new initiative, Dems should do two things. First, they must not be afraid to use class warfare. They must seize this phrase from the Rove propaganda machine and throw it in the face of the GOP. Every Democratic Congressman and Senator should charge that the Administration's elitist programs are destroying the foundations of democracy.
Second, the Democrats should designate John Edwards as the spokesperson for their offensive against the Bush policies. The 2004 Vice-Presidential candidate understands the class-warfare issue and his "two Americas" theme resonated with voters.
A hallmark of the Orwellian mind control practiced by the Bush Administration is to repeat a lie over and over until the public accepts it as the truth. The Bush propaganda machine has usurped the phrase "class warfare." Democrats must take it back and begin telling the truth about the treachery of this Presidency.