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Class War: Yes Please

[ 168 ] July 17, 2014 |

I mostly agree with Harold Meyerson’s essay on the Democrats reaping a huge political opportunity by refocusing itself on class-based issues. While I might quibble with a couple of points (not sure FDR’s speechmaking is relevant plus it plays into green laternism), there’s a lot to suggest real political opportunities. Polls and demographics are a big part of this.

This spring, a prominent Democratic pollster sent a memo to party leaders and Democratic elected officials advising them to speak and think differently. The nation’s economy had deteriorated so drastically, he cautioned, that they needed to abandon their references to the “middle class,” substituting for those hallowed words the phrase “working people.” “In today’s harsh economic reality,” he wrote, “many voters no longer identify as middle class.”

How many voters? In 2008, a Pew poll asked Americans to identify themselves by class. Fifty-three percent said they were middle-class; 25 percent said lower-class. When Pew asked the same question this January, it found that the number who’d called themselves middle-class had shrunk to 44 percent, while those who said they were of the lower class had grown from 25 percent to 40 percent.

This is a big deal. It’s not often that Americans don’t identify as middle class. They will again at the first opportunity, with the political conservatism that comes with it. Taking advantage of this moment to build upon class discontent with real policy ideas is a good idea. Even if they can’t pass at the national level, they can in states and cities, and of course we are already seeing this with higher minimum wage legislation.

Then of course there is this:

The new base of the Democratic Party appears primed for such a change. The share of liberals in party ranks has swelled. In 2000, Gallup reports, 44 percent of Democrats identified as moderates, and 29 percent as liberals. Today, the share of moderates has dropped to 36 percent, while that of liberals has increased to 43 percent.

And this:

As with Latinos, so with millennials. A Pew survey of those young Americans from March of this year found them to be the only age group in which the number identifying as liberals (31 percent) exceeded the number calling themselves conservative (26 percent). Fifty-three percent of millennials preferred the bigger-government-with-more-services option, and just 38 percent the smaller.

One reason millennials lean left, of course, is that each successively younger cohort of Americans contains a larger share of Latinos (not to mention Asians and secularists). White millennials preferred the smaller government option by 52 percent to 39 percent, but millennials of color supported the bigger-government alternative by a hefty 71 percent to 21 percent margin.

But millennials’ left-leaning politics is also the result of their having borne the brunt of the economy’s dysfunctions. It’s disproportionately the young who have been saddled with a trillion dollars in student-loan debt. It’s millennials who have experienced the highest levels of unemployment. Nor is their employment anything to boast about: In 2012, 44 percent of young college graduates were employed in jobs that didn’t require a college degree.

Of course the Republican minority is doing whatever it can to stop any of this from turning into progressive political change, using gerrymandering, filibustering, and judicial extremism to push their reactionary agenda, all of which leads to the war on organized labor, the most class-based institution in American history. That this is an intentional program for them is obvious, as is the disfranchising of voters of color and the anti-immigrant politics. A plutocratic white supremacist nation is what Republicans want. Democrats need to recognize this for what it is and aggressively organize the vast majority left out of Republicans’ vision. Starting by supporting policies that would take riches from the wealthy, create job programs, and expand the welfare state would move us on that road. Unfortunately, President Obama is a big believer is the centrist economic policies of the late 20th century Democratic Party. Blowing up the Trans-Pacific Partnership is necessary here. Luckily, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi get this, if Obama doesn’t.

Comments (168)

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  1. Megalon says:

    Bah! How uncivil! How…PARTISAN! You should know by now that the best strategy for the Democrats is always to be more like Republicans!

    • DrDick says:

      Needs more guillotines and heads on sticks.

      • cpinva says:

        don’t forget the tumbrils. lots and lots of tumbrils.

        OT: how come these past few threads just now popped up on my screen? I refresh this site fairly frequently, up to and including late at night. is there something I’m not doing right, or something I’m doing decidedly wrong?

        • Rudolph Schnaubelt says:

          Torches and pitchforks are always good for oligarchs. The world needs an international labour movement (like IWW but effective). From textile workers in Bangladesh to meat packers in Omaha.

          The oligarchs defecate on all workers from a great height. Then they laugh as we fight each other.

          …nothing to lose but your chains.

  2. Kurzleg says:

    I don’t disagree with the political expediency of campaigning in terms of class warfare, but I’m not holding my breath waiting for substantive legislation that’ll start pushing back against the New Gilded Age developments of the past several decades. Primary among the legislation I’d like to see is a significant increase in the top marginal tax bracket and capital gains tax rate. However, the Democratic Party high-dollar funders aren’t at all interested in these becoming political reality. Just seems like the forces within the party are too strong to allow anything resembling progress on this front.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      I do think that you are correct right now and that’s why much of this has to start on the local and state level. I don’t think it has to be true however and I am real curious what would happen if, say, Elizabeth Warren campaigned for president on this very platform. Or Bernie Sanders, to be more realistic.

      • Brien Jackson says:

        The more I think about it, the more I think that Warren’s odds of becoming President are no worse than 50-50 if she decides to run. Also that she definitely needs to make a pro forma run, if for no other reason to to articulate this as the party’s stance in ways that Hillary Clinton can’t.

        • Erik Loomis says:

          I’m fine with Bernie Sanders doing this if he’s serious. Someone needs to anyway.

          • Brien Jackson says:

            Sanders wouldn’t have the chance of winning that Warren would have. To be blunt, there’s more or less zero chance that a white man takes the nomination from Clinton.

            • Aimai says:

              I think thats not true–but there is no chance that Sanders is that white man. A younger, dynamic, white man with an interesting story and great backing could easily take it away from HRC. But not Sanders who, much as I love him personally, simply doesn’t have the charisma and the glamor to stage the kind of insurgent campaign that would be needed to activate enough voters to take the primary.

              • Brien Jackson says:

                Well there’s no plausible white guy candidate who fits that criteria.

                • Autonomous Coward says:

                  So I’ve been meaning to ask this, is Marvin O’Malley actually “not Tommy Carcetti” or is he more of a “not-Tommy Carcetti”?

                • Aimai says:

                  Right but I thought you were speaking hypothetically. i absolutely think that there is a plausiable younger white guy out there–but he might not arise in time–because I think there is a tremendous amount of ageism and sexism and just plain Clinton fatigue which would kick in if there were a plausible younger male running against her. But he’d have to be damned good and damned plausible. I don’t think its going to be O’Malley because I don’t think he has the chops to take her and her team down.

                • Brien Jackson says:

                  Well it won’t be O’Malley because he needs the back of Clinton’s people to have a chance. He can be a plausible candidate if she doesn’t run, but he’s pretty much dead in the water against her.

                  And it’s already too late in the game for someone who’s not already on the radar to mount a viable run.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  You know what’s interesting about this discussion – the one here, and all of the others taking place about the Democratic primary?

                  No one is talking about Southern white guys. I can’t name one who is in the conversation.

                • Brien Jackson says:

                  There isn’t one.

                • Murc says:

                  The southern Democratic party has been thoroughly eviscerated for the past twenty years. It would be deeply surprising if they had someone on the radar as a possible Presidential contender, man or woman, white or black.

                  I mean really… who is still big down there? Mary Landrieu is pretty fatally flawed on the national level. Jay Nixon? I can’t recall hearing anything bad about him but I can’t recall hearing much amazing either.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  But that’s exactly my point, Murc.

                  Ten or twenty years ago, the same set of nobodies and mediocrities making up the Democrats’ Southern bench would have been hailed as the Great White Hope. They’re so moderate, they can connect to Real Americans in the Heartland, oh my goodness listen to that folksy lilt!

                • UserGoogol says:

                  Joe from Lowell: Brian Schweitzer sometimes gets that sort of reaction, although the fact that people have moved from the South to the relatively purple parts of the West (and he isn’t really all that popular anyway) is a sign of something all the same.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  I agree, UserG: there is the same starry-eyed fawning over down-homey personas (let’s not pretend it’s only Republicans like David Brooks who do this), but the South’s brand is in the sewer.

                • AB says:

                  Sherrod Brown.

                • Brien Jackson says:

                  LOL.

            • Cheap Wino says:

              Agreed that Sanders’ chance of winning isn’t high. And I’m not plugged in enough to weigh in on whether Warren would actually stand a chance at stealing the nomination from Clinton. But either one of Sanders or Warren running would serve to push the conversation leftward a la the 2012 GOP putzfest forcing Mitt right. That’s a good thing.

              • Brien Jackson says:

                Yeah, just like Dennis Kucinich did in 2004, amirite?

                You need to have a plausible chance of winning to be able to do that. Sanders has none, so at best he winds up as something of a cross between Mike Gravel and Chris Dodd.

                • Ben Murphy says:

                  What if Sanders throws a rock in a lake?

                • Cheap Wino says:

                  To be fair, Kucinich always had that ‘bit of a kook’ tag that made him unelectable from the start, while Sanders has some real gravitas (unelectable for different reasons). But your point is right, that it has to come from somebody who at least polls well so Clinton would have to engage in the conversation.

                • Brien Jackson says:

                  Yeah, I think the right way to look at a potential Sanders candidcacy would be as a sort of progressive version of Dodd 08. He’s certainly a “respectable” candidate who has the pro forma credentials to be treated seriously, but he’d have no plausible chance of winning or even seeming to be a viable contender, so he’d have no real chance to impact the narrative at all, beyond perhaps delivering some very sharp rejoinders to Republican positions at the debates.

                • Aimai says:

                  A cross between Mike Gravel and Chris Dodd is 100 percent right.

                • BigHank53 says:

                  Put Sanders on the ticket as VP.

                  “Go ahead and impeach President Clinton. No, really. Do it. We dare you.”

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  This isn’t 2004. Nobody gave a crap about income inequality and the other issues in that orbit in 2004.

                • politicalfootball says:

                  Me, I’m glad that Howard Dean ran that year, even if he didn’t win. I hope someone else takes a shot next time.

                • Gregor Sansa says:

                  Re Sanders as VP:

                  Fantasizing about what Obama or Clinton should do is usually unhealthy. They’re better than the alternative, but they are not the goddamn batman.

                  So, I’ll be voting Warren/Sanders!

            • Anonymous says:

              ….there’s more or less zero chance that a white man takes the nomination from Clinton.

              True.

              You can’t continually bash white people and in particular white men, and then ask the base to vote for the people you’ve made out to be the devil.

          • Bill Murray says:

            I’m fine with Bernie Sanders doing this if he’s serious. Someone needs to anyway.

            I thought you were against 3rd party runs from the left? Remember, Sanders only caucuses with the Democrats, he is not a Democrat, so why would he run as a Democrat?

            • Erik Loomis says:

              I support if it is within the Democratic Party primary process. If it is real 3rd party run, then Sanders is an idiot. I don’t think Sanders is an idiot.

              • Pat says:

                Hey Erik – I was talking to some (old white Southern) relatives about the minimum wage increase idea the other day. Their reaction was fear, because they’re on Social Security, and nobody’s talking as much about raising it. Their main worry was that the price of groceries would rise if the minimum wage did.

                So it seems to me that Democrats should really campaign on helping out old people as well as the struggling workforce. It won’t do us any good to get the working poor into the polls at midterms if we lose the old folks.

            • Manny Kant says:

              Because when he’s talked about running, it was as a Democrat?

        • Brett says:

          I hope Warren doesn’t run, to be honest. We don’t just need good progressive folks in the Presidency – we need good, progressive Senators and Congresspeople, and Warren is one of those for sure. Give her enough time and she could pull some Ted Kennedy-level stuff.

          • Brien Jackson says:

            No, the days of that sort of powerful, individually acting Senator are probably over for good. And with partisan gridlock increasing the importance of executive branch functions for day to day operations and policy making, an individual can do FAR more as President than they can as a Senator.

            • Aimai says:

              We still need great Senators even if she isn’t able to be Kennedy right now. But if we took back the house? Having a Senator like Warren is incredibly important.

              • Brien Jackson says:

                The added value of Warren vs. her likely replacement is beyond microscopic compated to the value of Warren vs. a generic, centrist, Democrat as President.

                • Brien Jackson says:

                  And I’d ad that part of that is her specific background in banking and finance. As a Senator, Warren is at best an influential member of the committee on the Senate Banking Committee. As President, she gets to appoint officials to the Federal Reserve.

                • NonyNony says:

                  I disagree completely. Any Democrat we get in as President likely to be 99% the same as any other Democrat we get in as President as far as what they get done and how much they move public opinion.

                  Presidents can only do so much – they’re constrained not just by legislatures and courts but by popular opinion.

                  Republicans know this – that’s why they seem to care fuck-all about the President and more about making sure that they control enough state legislatures to control the House and the Senate. And that they have media ventures to help shape public opinion (“catapult the propaganda” as it were).

                  The president is most important long term for how s/he shapes the Supreme Court when the chance appears. Everything else is constrained by public opinion and legislature.

                  (A Warren win would be good for showing that the left-most bounds of acceptable discourse in the US are further to the left than what the media typically allows. But I don’t think that would be worth losing Warren as a potential lifetime advocate for liberalism in the Senate at this point.)

                • Brien Jackson says:

                  I don’t think that’s true at all. For one thing, one of the biggest mistakes Obama made in his first term was not realizing how important his federal reserve appointments were going to be. There’s roughly a o.o% chance Warren would make the same mistake, even at the time. And while there’s not going to be much difference in the decisions a President makes as it pertains to their relationship to the party as a whole or the Congressional delegation in particular, there’s a pretty big chance for big changes to be made in the administration of the executive branch itself. A Warren administration is going to be much different in their approach to the regulatory agencies, Supreme Court appointments, and so on than a Clinton administration would be, and in ways that will make very real policy differences.

                  In any case, it’s FAR more of a difference in outcomes than would result from the difference between Warren and a generic Massachusetts Democrat holding her Senate seat.

                • BigHank53 says:

                  That’s all well and good, but Warren hasn’t expressed any interest in being President, and having her engage in a half-hearted campaign would be worse than not running.

                • Brien Jackson says:

                  Well…she should want to be President, I guess.

                • Pat says:

                  Well, after watching the performance of Bush II and the massive cleanup action initiated by Obama, I think the issue of “who is President” is really freaking important. I’ve been massively impressed by Obama’s specific executive decisions, from killing bin Ladin, to achieving something close to universal health insurance and continuing to push it through, to finance reform (again, it was something close to it, but it heavily involved Warren and other experts). You can contrast any of these things to No Child Left Behind, Medicare D, Katrina or Iraq. It’s not even a question.

    • tsam says:

      I agree. Seems to me that another depression with 25% unemployment is the only thing that would get people to wise the fuck up and stop voting for saboteurs over representatives.

    • Karen says:

      I think Warren and Sanders would do more good simply raising this issue over and over while being very good Senators. Warren might be a good candidate for Pres later, but I don’t see her beating HRC and I really, really, reaaaalllllyyyy don’t want her immured as the Veep for 4 to 8 years. State and local policies are more important right now, and Warren and Sanders being intelligent on TV will help those more than either would as an unsuccessful candidate for President.

      • Brien Jackson says:

        Warren has basically the same route to beating Clinton that Obama had in 2008.

        • Gwen says:

          Not really. Obama divided the black vote in his favor. I don’t see Warren picking up enough support there to make a difference.

          I think the more apt analogy is to the 2000 race between Bill Bradley and Al Gore.

          • Brien Jackson says:

            You start with an alternative base of support to make yourself viable, then begin picking away at the frontrunner. It’s not a perfect analogy by any means, but then Clinton isn’t nearly as strong of a candidate going in to 2016 as she was in 2008, and given the state of the electorate and fiel now she’s far more vulnerable to Warren as the populist candidate than she was to Obama as the guy who opposed the Iraq war at this point in the cycle.

            • Anonymous says:

              alternative base and $50M by July 1, 2015

              How many large donors and bundlers are signing up early for the campaign to end carried interest and raise cap gains and marginal rates?

              • You forget a few things, champ. Elizabeth Warren would have no problems raising the necessary money to be viable. She also has another thing that Hillary doesn’t. People would come from all over to volunteer for her. Elizabeth Warren will get a lot more people working for her campaign for free(canvassing and the like) than HRC would. HRC’s support is a mile wide and an inch deep. Too bad it’s unlikely that we’ll get a Warren/Clinton primary. Because Warren would kick HRC’s ass 6 ways to Sunday.

                • You forget a few things, champ. Elizabeth Warren would have no problems raising the necessary money to be viable.

                  Based on… what? What deep pockets are there in the Democratic Party that are going to sink that much money into a Warren candidacy against HRC?

                  People would come from all over to volunteer for her… Warren would kick HRC’s ass 6 ways to Sunday

                  You are massively overestimating Elizabeth Warren’s popularity (and notoriety, for that matter). I like her too but she is not well-positioned to run in the Democratic primary, especially against HRC. I’d be glad to eat my words come the day Warren accepts the nomination, and I think she should run as long as she doesn’t resign from the Senate to do it.

                • Rick James says:

                  Cocaine is a helluva drug.

                • Brien Jackson says:

                  “Based on… what? What deep pockets are there in the Democratic Party that are going to sink that much money into a Warren candidacy against HRC?”

                  I don’t get this at all. I mean, she did just manage to secure the Democratic nomination in a large market, Northeastern, heavily Democratic state with a pretty solid bench of potential candidates. Between organized progressive interests, liberal individuals with money, and Obamaesque small donations, she shouldn’t have any trouble raising enough money to be viable, which is all you really need in this mass media age.

                  “You are massively overestimating Elizabeth Warren’s popularity (and notoriety, for that matter). I like her too but she is not well-positioned to run in the Democratic primary, especially against HRC.”

                  This is nonsense. The person who isn’t well positioned to run in the 2016 Democratic primary is Hillary. To an even greater degree than that was true in 2008, when Democratic voters responded to the collapse of the Republican Party’s viability ad the Iraq War by looking for something new and exciting, an opening that Obama stepped into a took away a nomination everyone assumed Clinton had won since roughly 1999. Now Democratic voters want someone who can speak to income inequality, middle and working class insecurity, high college costs, etc. Warren would have to beat inertia in the same way Obama did, but “being the candidate your party electorate wants to vote for” is about the best way possible to do that.

                  There’s also the fact that Hillary’s a below average campaigner with bad political instincts who isn’t necessarily going to manage to put together a good campaign team either.

            • Manny Kant says:

              Your analogy is so vague as to be useless. Gwen says that Obama “split the black vote in his favor,” but what he really did, by the end, was get an unbelievably high share of the black vote – 80% or so, I believe. And then he also dominated the caucus states because Clinton didn’t bother to really contest them. Predictions for 2016: 1) Elizabeth Warren will not get 80% of the Black vote; 2) Hillary Clinton will pay attention to the caucuses. To beat Clinton, we needed the conjunction of a pretty uniquely appealing alternative candidate and a uniquely incompetent Clinton campaign. I see no reason to think this will repeat itself.

              • Brien Jackson says:

                But Warren and Obama aren’t that closely analogous as candidates, either. Once you got past the fairly meaningless Iraq issue, Obama and Clinton really didn’t have any significant substantive differences as candidates. That’s why their campaign became a clash of identity issues (and not just black vs. woman, either) and a knife fight for votes on the ground. Warren would be different than Obama in that regard, as she’d either be running a very different kind of campaign, or running the same basic campaign much more convincingly. Which may still leave her losing, but to beat Elizabeth Warren, Hillary Clinton is going to have to run Elizabeth Warren’s campaign and talk like Elizabeth Warren.

                And I don’t know if it matters if Clinton pays attention to caucuses or not. They paid a lot of attention to Iowa in 2008 and bombed badly. The Clintons have yet to figure Iowa out, and it’s not hard to imagine Warren taking Iowa and New Hampshire.

                • Brien Jackson says:

                  Another factor to consider: If Warren announces and shows strong fundraising numbers in the first half of 2015, hires good people to run the campaign, etc., what are organized progressive interests, particularly labor, going to do? Are the unions who backed Clinton in 2008 really going to be able to endorse her over a viable Warren candidacy? You’d have to figure that at least some would flip, and that could be devastating to Hillary, especially in Iowa where she needs that organizing know how. Unless she’s gonna hire Bob Shrum or something.

                • dk says:

                  The “fairly meaningless Iraq issue”?

                  Fuck you.

    • Rudolph Schnaubelt says:

      Stop taxing passive income differently (and at lower rates) than labour income. Stop the unbalanced preference for capital.

  3. tsam says:

    Democrats need to spend more time explaining what Republicans actually mean by “smaller government”. They’ve never given any sort of shit about fiscal responsibility. This was, all along, a very successful campaign to wipe out income equality (AKA the middle class).

    They can also stop legitimizing Republicans by letting them control the narrative all the time.

  4. Srsly Dad Y says:

    Hold on, while I agree with the political point, Meyerson reports the Pew results slightly wrongly, and it’s Pew’s fault.

    Pew: “The share of the public who says [sic] they are in the lower or lower-middle classes rose by 15 percentage points, from 25% in 2008 to 40% today.” Their graph lumps all of those people into “lower.”

    Pew always gives people a choice of lower, lower-middle, middle, upper-middle, and upper. I have argued at other sites that lower and lower-middle should really be grouped together because it’s a big deal in American not to call yourself middle-middle.

    But still. It requires arguing.

    • Srsly Dad Y says:

      The 5-way class breakdown is curiously hard to find at the Pew site, and I’m supposed to be working, so….

      I strongly suspect the uptick in “lower classes” is almost all movement from middle to lower-middle, but maybe someone can confirm,

  5. Aimai says:

    I’ve been thinking about this in a slightly different register. I wish the Democrats would appeal to their own voters–rather than thinking defensively about appealing to Republican/White/Male voters–by changing the terms of the appeal. I wish they would saturate the airwaves with ads showing beautiful multi racial school aged children and appeal directly to AA and Latino and Liberal voters to raise taxes on the wealthy for better schools. I wish they would seize this refugee crisis and demand that Democratic voters take the lead and demand action on behalf of these kids. I wish that the focus would be on turning people who feel unheard and outside the process into activists in their own lives and communities. This is a moment to demand that people step up and join the fight for control of their own government.

    I’ not saying this is without risk for people. I just read a horrific account of some Georgian AA citizens who decided to get active in their local community after Barack Obama was elected. They went all in raising awareness of the importance of the local school board and they got enough people to vote who had never voted before, by absentee ballot, to boot three white members off the school board and replace them with three black members who wanted more and better spending on schools rather than to protect the tax payers from a tax increase. They ended up being charged with multiple felonies and they are still being tried and retried after several mistrials. Because the white georgia power structure basically decided to try to manufacture felonies from black people excercising the franchise.

    But its the only way to move forward. AA and Latino and younger voters and working class voters simply have to start voting for their own interests and demanding respect for their issues–and respect for their membership. And the Democrats can choose only to lead, follow, or get out of the fucking way.

    • efgoldman says:

      I’ve been thinking about this in a slightly different register. I wish the Democrats would appeal to their own voters–rather than thinking defensively about appealing to Republican/White/Male voters

      YES!
      Although I don’t necessarily agree with your short-term solution for this midterm. It’s laudable, but more long range.
      (I’ve said this before, but I have negative influence.) What’s needed is a national campaign of ten-second ads associating Republicans, by naming the party, with a whole bunch of issues:
      “The Republican Supreme Court says your boss can dictate your medical treatment. Vote Democratic on November 4.”
      “The Republican Congress won’t even vote to raise the minimum wage. Vote Democratic on November 4.”
      “The Republican Congress refused to vote additional aid for our veterans. Vote Democratic on November 4.”
      “The Republican Supreme Court says your state can keep you from voting. Vote Democratic on November 4.”
      And like that. I got a million of em.

      • Most Favoured Commenter says:

        These types of radio ads are already used on black and Spanish-language stations. The ads Thad Cochran put out on black radio were very well done, with slight variations of the same pitch on each commercial break so people don’t tune out.

      • I wish the Democratic Party would push the concept of “Democrats” more. Right-wingers have their own little catchphrase (“conservative”); I’d like to see the Democrats push the idea that you should vote for Democrats (as opposed to every campaign being solely about individual candidates).

        The party system in the US is so weak, though, that I doubt it’s possible.

      • Rudolph Schnaubelt says:

        Very nice!

    • Bruce Baugh says:

      Oh I would love that so much.

    • Karen says:

      Oh, so much this. The Texas legislature slashed school funding in ’11 and bodes ill to do the same next year. The cuts fell hardest on foreign language programs, arts (always, but for some reason not marching bands) and libraries. My Facebook friends and I have tried to organize on this, but we don’t have loads of time, live in different cities, and general need guidance. The Texas Dems are worthless; no one has contacted us even after I called headquarters. I can’t think we are the only fifteen mothers in Rexas who care about the schools.

      • NonyNony says:

        but for some reason not marching bands

        Is that a sarcastic “for some reason” or an actual “for some reason”?

        Because the reason marching bands get shielded from cuts is because of football. At least up here in Ohio that’s the case and I can’t imagine that Texas is any different.

        • efgoldman says:

          Because the reason marching bands get shielded from cuts is because of football.

          As we blog, ESPN is running a story about a new book that says the U of Texas offered Nick Saban $100 million to leave Alabama.
          Glad they have their priorities straight.

          • Karen says:

            Ugh. I saw that. Apparently cooler heads prevailed and squelched the offer before we could humiliate ourselves like that.

          • Brien Jackson says:

            Depending on them length of time (haven’t seen the story) that…actually seems like a bargain. Given Texas’ huge sources of potential revenue, getting Saban running the program for $8-12 million would almost certainly provide a hugely profitable return.

        • Karen says:

          Both, actually. Bands, and especially drill teams (for the non-Southerners, “drill team” hear is a chorus line of teenage girls wearing spangled leotards in school colors and usually big hats) are essential to half-time shows and are therefore protected from budget cuts. Marching bands are also, however, populated by “band queers” who are not socially dominant white males, so therefore are subhuman. I still don’t get this one.

          • efgoldman says:

            Marching bands are also, however, populated by “band queers” who are not socially dominant white males, so therefore are subhuman. I still don’t get this one.

            :::AHEM:::
            Eight years (high school and college) marching band queer here.
            And (now 33 y.o.) daughter makes two.

          • Bill Murray says:

            hey some of us were both in the marching band and on the football team. Although our band was large enough i did not do halftime shows when I was on the varsity. I have seen that happen at small schools, though.

      • efgoldman says:

        but for some reason not marching bands

        Hey! Marching bands are second only to life itself in importance. [NOT sarcasm!]

  6. Rob in CT says:

    Re: class war, another way this could be stated is this:

    “Hey Democrats! Return Fire!”

    Trouble is, of course, that even the left wing of the Democratic Party is made up by and large of well-off people, and there’s the dependency on plutocrats for funding to consider.

    There are lots of changes I’d love to see in our politics, including something that could open people’s eyes about estate taxation (pathetically, comically toothless, and yet hated by tons of folks who will never in a million years pay it). More and more I think that is of higher importance than an increase in the top marginal income tax rate or capital gains rate. But it’s currently got a snowball’s chance in hell of happening.

    Anyway, will left-wing populism sell? I’d love to think so. And yeah, there is poll data suggesting it’s possible. But whenever I see it tried even mildly, it doesn’t work nearly as well as you’d think based on that poll data. IMO.

    • Srsly Dad Y says:

      I live in a famously liberal congressional district (VA8) and we Dems just nominated a rich Volvo dealer/former ambassador over several experienced and credible (albeit noncharismatic) populists. Nothing wrong with his issues per se (environment, reproductive freedom) but he clearly didn’t think economic populism would sell.

    • cpinva says:

      “(pathetically, comically toothless, and yet hated by tons of folks who will never in a million years pay it).”

      true, but like joe “the wannabe plumber”, millions aspire to one day be rich enough to die, and leave an estate worthy of being taxed. granted, the odds are slim & none, and none just left town, but who among us would deny someone the american dream, of one day having enough income to make it worth while to commit fraud on their 1040?

  7. Brett says:

    I’m a big fan of anything that increases direct employee control in the firm, including stuff like employee representatives on the board. Democrats could probably help that even further if they took some of the restrictions off what unions could do with their money in terms of buying into firms in the form of shareholder activism to promote unionization.

    I’m more pessimistic about easing rules for unions. If LBJ and dual super-majorities in Congress couldn’t get Taft-Hartley weakened, then I don’t know what will. You still might be able to get some new experiments out there in terms of labor organization, which is almost certainly something that could appeal to millenials if it goes cross-sectional with other stuff and gets popular support.

    • rea says:

      if they took some of the restrictions off what unions could do with their money in terms of buying into firms

      Those rules are aimed at the “Animal Farm” problem–you don’t want the employer running the union, and if the union starts buying up shares in the employer, how do you tell the difference?

      • NonyNony says:

        On the other hand it’s also a way to prevent the workers from owning the means of production. In our system the easiest way to do that would be for the union to pool money together and buy the company outright.

        I’ve always wondered which one the folks writing up the regulations were actually more worried about.

      • Brett says:

        As long as the union leaders are still democratically elected, it’s still a major improvement that will likely improve company accountability towards its workers and make it possible to spread organization to other workers in firms that the union would be targeting.

  8. CDW says:

    I consider myself a liberal now and was a moderate in 2000. The difference is not that my political views have changed in the last 14 years, but that the democratic party has taken the country to the right while it tagged along after the republicans. My views now are to the left of the mainstream establishment. As nearly as I can tell, the democratic party doesn’t stand for anything except whatever the polls are saying at some point in time.

    And to make their empty platform official: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/07/17/top-democrat-says-party-doesn-t-have-a-message.html

    • Rob in CT says:

      the democratic party has taken the country to the right while it tagged along after the republicans

      Wait, in the last 14 years? What?

      Usually this is argued about the Dems in the Reagan era and 90s. You’re saying they’ve gone rightward since 2000?

      How, exactly?

    • NonyNony says:

      And to make their empty platform official

      So Wasserman-Shultz says that the Democratic Party isn’t going to have a unified message in midterm elections, but is instead allowing candidates to run whatever works for them locally.

      And this is different from every other midterm election when Democrats held the presidency how exactly?

      That was pretty much how it was when Clinton was president and how it was in 2010 as well – Democrats are free to run their own election campaigns without a national message. National messages come into play during national campaigns. When Republicans are in office the national midterm campaign is almost always “That guy in the Oval Office is wrong – let’s do something about that” but that’s about it. (And hell IIRC in 2002 they didn’t even go that far.)

      It may not be a good idea (I think it’s stupid myself and part of the reason why midterm election turnout is always abyssmal for Democrats) but it’s the way the national party has run things for at least 20 years and it’s the way the local Democratic parties tend to like things run. It certainly hasn’t changed since 2000 by any means.

      • efgoldman says:

        Democrats are free to run their own election campaigns without a national message.

        True.
        Also idiocy.
        Every congressional election election is a fucking national election.
        Where the hell does Wasserman-Schultz think those 435 individuals go to do their mischief? Dallas? Sheboygan? Bala Cynwyd?
        No, Deb, they go to DC and the national legislature.
        [/Captain Obvious]

        (See my http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2014/07/class-war-yes-please/comment-page-1#comment-1221868 above, also too.)

      • Anonymous says:

        The DCCC obviously believes they are not going to make any real gains in the midterms. A unified message would help in a wave year – maybe 2016 – but 2014 is all about defense.

        • James E. Powell says:

          Best defense is a good offense.

          In 2010 the Republicans screamed “Death panels!” and Democrats scattered like cockroaches when the lights are turned on. They refused to stand up to the bastards, to stand with their president, to explain how and why Obamacare would make things better. They lost. All those Blue Dogs who claimed they had to run as Republican lite to win? They lost. They all got really good jobs in selling access and other forms of corruption, so I guess they didn’t really mind.

    • panda says:

      Could you, in three sentences or less, explain how the Democratic party took the country to the right since 2000 (I presume you speak about domestic issuess, in foreign/security policy, you may have a point).

    • joe from Lowell says:

      that the democratic party has taken the country to the right while it tagged along after the republicans

      No. Not even close.

      In 2000, Al Gore ran on a tax cut. Democrats have been running on tax increases for years.

      In 2000, the Democrats were pushing financial deregulation. Today, they’re bragging about Dodd-Frank and the CFPB.

      Remember Al Gore’s health care plan in 2000? Me, neither. Meanwhile, the Democrats just expanded single-payer health care by the largest chunk since the Great Society.

      In 2000, Al Gore was bragging about welfare reform. See Medicaid expansion above.

    • Malaclypse says:

      I consider myself a liberal now and was a moderate in 2000. The difference is not that my political views have changed in the last 14 years, but that the democratic party has taken the country to the right while it tagged along after the republicans. My views now are to the left of the mainstream establishment. As nearly as I can tell, the democratic party doesn’t stand for anything except whatever the polls are saying at some point in time.

      I too have completely forgotten the actual Bill Clinton presidency, as distinct from the one where he was a genuine liberal who kept welfare as we knew it, did not sign DOMA, and did not declare the end of the era of big government.

  9. Dr. Ronnie James, DO says:

    “Starting by supporting policies that would take riches from the wealthy, create job programs, and expand the welfare state would move us on that road.”

    It bears repeating: the ACA is the most redistributive piece of federal legislation / expansion of the welfare state since LBJ was in the White House. But maybe we can get more like it.

    • Poochy says:

      I think the most plausible expansion in the near term is an increase in Social Security benefits. I’d love to see this be a thing in the next election cycle.

    • wrongway says:

      Largest expansion of the welfare state but is far behind Reagan’s tax cuts (2.1% of GDP) and probably ends up less than the Bush tax cuts (1.5% of GDP) in terms of redistribution.

  10. Prok says:

    Didn’t this same polling show younger liberals are pretty ignorant about race relations? I feel like that probably has some terrifying long-run implications.

  11. Rob in CT says:

    I guess the big question is this:

    If the Democrats went with this strategy, would it boost base turnout enough to overcome losses from moderates?

    • NonyNony says:

      A bigger question is – would there be losses from moderates?

      I’m not so sure that there would be.

      • Rob in CT says:

        Oh, I think there would be, but the question is whether or not those losses matter. They might be tiny losses. Or those losses could be concentrated in particular areas where they can afford losses (e.g., losing some votes in New York or something).

        There really are people who think of themselves as liberal but really only are on “social issues.” Ok with gay marriage but don’t wanna pay more taxes. They exist, I talk to them all the time.

    • joe from Lowell says:

      I don’t think that’s the big question. Moderates like tax increases on the rich and regulation of big banks.

      Certainly, it would be possible to go too far on class issues and turn off moderates, but we’re not anywhere near that.

    • efgoldman says:

      Pound the crap out of women’s issues and the GOBP (and their reactionary court) war on women.

  12. Chris says:

    There is one more thing about class populism: we are gonna get slammed for it anyway. A massive chunk of the country already considers the Democrats to be a party of the most extreme left-win socialists ever to socialist. Most of the people who are bothered by economic populism already hate us. To borrow from Bill Watterson, if we’re going to get clobbered, we may as well deserve it.

  13. Dilan Esper says:

    The middle class / working people thing really gets my goat. (Actually, my least favorite term is “working families”, which isn’t true in any society that bans child labor.) Both substantively and rhetorically, the goal of the left should be to help the poor and working classes, not to coddle the middle class (especially since that category includes a lot of people who call themselves middle class but actually are very well off).

    But having said that, the real issue here is probably taxation. To create the sort of social welfare state that I would want to create (and which would do a lot to reduce income inequality and make the poor and working classes better off), we need to tax the middle class in the manner that Scandinavian countries do. And in a country where it’s verboten to even talk about raising the gas tax to replenish the highway trust fund, I don’t see that happening any time soon.

    • Rob in CT says:

      Seems to me there is plenty of space between the present-day Dem messaging and what you would prefer, though.

      I think your idea about not “coddling” the middle class is kinda screwy, depending on what is meant by middle class. I agree that people making $200k/yr calling themselves middle class is pretty silly (which is why I don’t do it), but the fact is that overwhelming majorities of Americans consider themselves middle class or think they will be middle class, so you gotta be careful about even seeming to be out to get the middle class.

      The point of this post is that this self-IDing may be fraying a tad, but even so it’s still really strong. It’s not just well-off people who delude themselves into thinking they’re middle class.

      • Rob in CT says:

        Also, too: I have more in common with working class people than I do with the folks to whom the GOP (and some Dems) is devoted: the .01%.

        Compare me to the average and I look very well off. I am, and it’s great. But I’m a damned flea in comparison to a Romney, who is in turn rather insect-like in comparison to the billionares.

        I don’t need coddling, certainly, and would never argue otherwise.

        • Snarki, Child of Loki says:

          It’s a good distinction: “working people” vs. “Lazy Richy-Rich Rentier Parasites, AKA 0.01%ers”

          • Rob in CT says:

            There’s a fairly easy distinction between people who have to work for a living, whether they are paycheck to paycheck or well-off and people whose money just provides them with a living.

            My wife and I work for a living. We have to. We are nontheless quite well off and lucky and all that and fine with paying higher taxes. I was one who wanted the Bush tax cuts to lapse in full, and I want more marginal rates at the top, and a real inheritance tax (one real enough to actually affect me). And magic ponies, free beer for all, yadda yadda.

            But I do think it’s important to keep in mind that while it’s silly to paint us as salt of the Earth, we’ve got basically nothing in common with plutocrats. Zero, nada, zilch.

            • Ronan says:

              but there isnt enough potential revenue amongst the plutocrats to redistribute wealth in a way that would be *significantly* in the interests of the poor, so I think Dilan is right (on the ‘substance’), the interests of the ordinary middle and upper middle classes are not the same as the working (and lower middle classes)

              • Lurking Canadian says:

                If Picketty’s anywhere close to right that accumulated wealth is currently six times GDP, a wealth tax of 3% would roughly double US government revenue. If Picketty’s also right that r=5%, this tax would not even (by itself) shrink accumulated wealth.

                Such a thing is completely impossible, of course, but it’s not because the money’s not there.

                • Ronan says:

                  *politically possible* is what I meant, but I didnt know those figures.. I do think it’s true though that the middle and working classes (economic) interests arent naturally the same (as much as the western and developing worlds working class have divergent interets)

                • Anonymous says:

                  You can also push policies that benefit the poor and working class without raising the upfront cost. The government could double the amount spent on Pell Grants merely by ending educational tax credits or subsidies for families in the top two quintiles.
                  Then you link Pell Grants or other federal funding to universities meeting an entering class composition of say ~22% Pell Grant students (which a surprising number of state flagships do not currently meet). You can also put in conditions based on grad rates (base rate or maybe predicted vs actual) or indebtedness for Pell Grant students.

                • Most Favoured Commenter says:

                  I agree a wealth tax is a very good idea, but your numbers are way off.

                  “If Picketty’s also right that r=5%”

                  It is much lower now and has no chance of changing in the next decade. A very big chuck of worldwide wealth is locked into making 0.25-3.0% now: all US, Japanese, and Western Euro government and investment grade corporate debt, plus trillions of US mortgages refinanced for under 4% and locked in for 30 years.

                  “a wealth tax of 3% would roughly double US government revenue”

                  Only if it covers every penny of wealth in the USA down to the equity in $80,000 houses with $75,000 mortgages and plus the assets of insurance and pension plans.

                  You’re also assuming 100% compliance and 0 compliance costs. Exempt 60% of wealth and assume a 70% compliance rate, and your 18% of GDP falls to 5% of GDP, and those are still very optimistic assumptions with no compliance costs.

      • Dilan Esper says:

        I think your idea about not “coddling” the middle class is kinda screwy, depending on what is meant by middle class. I agree that people making $200k/yr calling themselves middle class is pretty silly (which is why I don’t do it), but the fact is that overwhelming majorities of Americans consider themselves middle class or think they will be middle class, so you gotta be careful about even seeming to be out to get the middle class.

        I’m not out to get them. But I do think (1) they should pay more taxes, because they are more fortunate than poor or working class people, and (2) that there’s no particular reason why they should be the targets of all forms of government largesse.

        • Rob in CT says:

          (1) Agreed.
          (2) Not sure about this one. Depends on what you mean.

          • Dilan Esper says:

            What I mean by (2) is that a heck of a lot of political attention is given to things like middle class tax cuts and too little attention is given to programs to help the poor and working classes. Middle class problems get lots of attention, problems of poor people do not.

            • LeeEsq says:

              The most enduring welfare programs are the ones accessible by everybody rather than the means tested one. Thats one reason why its universal healthcare rather than free healthcare for lower income people only.

            • Anonymous says:

              The top two quintiles benefit much more from current policy then the middle quintile. It would be assine to go after actual middle class subsidies until you have rung all the money you can out of the the obscenely rich, the very rich, the plain rich, the super comfortable upper middle class, the comfortable upper middle class, two income professionals etc.

              • Ronan says:

                absolutely, “The top two quintiles benefit much more from current policy” than pretty much anyone, but any long term (sustainable) change (where the point of policy becomes to counteract the negatives of poverty and inequality) is going to have to look at the class structure more completly

          • BigHank53 says:

            An example of tax policy being used to give presents to the wealthy: remember how there was a first-time homebuyer’s credit back in 2009? And it worked well enough that they extended it to an house upgrade tax credit if you’d owned your old house more than five years? That tax credit could be taken in 2009. Or moved to 2010. Or retroactively applied to your 2008 taxes. Whichever saved you the most money, basically.

            It was of zero use to anyone who derived their income entirely from a payroll, and considerably more useful to anyone who had five-figure income from investments or financial instruments.

      • Ronan says:

        “Both substantively and rhetorically, the goal of the left should be to help the poor and working classes, not to coddle the middle class (especially since that category includes a lot of people who call themselves middle class but actually are very well off ”

        Maybe, but ‘substantively and rhetorically’ are not the same thing. Sometimes you have to massage the rhetoric to implement substantive policies.

    • Lurking Canadian says:

      Two points in reply. 1) Yes, for sure a lot of people in the US who call themselves “middle class” aren’t, because they’re actually in the top 10%. BUT, also a lot of people in the US who call themselves “middle class” aren’t because they’re what would be called “working class” anywhere else. I think Picketty’s 0-50, 50-90, >90 model makes a lot of sense for “lower”,, “middle”, “upper”, but the rhetoric in the US is more like 0-20, 20-98, >98. If you say you want to tax the “middle class” a lot of people in the 20-60 percentile range are going to be (justifiably) pissed off at you.

      2) Before you can impose the kind of taxation they have in Scandinavia, you first need a much flatter distribution. That means tax the living shit out of accumulated wealth, and tax large incomes (>$10M say) at 90% for about twenty years, so they completely cease to exist. Then, when the money is actually in the hands of regular people again, you can tax it from them instead.

      • Karate Bearfighter says:

        Here’s a Boston Globe poll/infographic illustrating your first point. In every income group, a plurality identified their own income as being “middle income”.

      • JKTHs says:

        Before you can impose the kind of taxation they have in Scandinavia, you first need a much flatter distribution.

        And you need to have the Scandinavian type social programs in place or about to be put in place for it to matter.

      • Poochy says:

        That means tax the living shit out of accumulated wealth, and tax large incomes (>$10M say) at 90% for about twenty years, so they completely cease to exist.

        I don’t expect this to happen in my lifetime, but if it could at least enter the conversation I would be so thrilled.

      • Anonymous says:

        Well said.

        My wife and I make good money. It’s nice Someday, I will inherit money from my parents. That will be nice too. If similar things happen for, like, 10 generations, assuming nobody has a ton of kids, maybe some descendant will actually achieve serious wealth (doubt it).

        I think a check on the runaway accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few needs to be enshrined in policy. Inheritance taxation: kinda key if you want to even attempt something vaguely like a meritocracy. This is not just about revenue. In fact, the revenue is secondary. I want to spread the wealth around and I don’t really care if it passes through the government or not.

        Dilan,

        Middle class problems get lots of attention, problems of poor people do not.

        I have a chicken/egg question here. Is this because poor people don’t turn out to vote at the levels middle class people do, or do poor people not vote at the levels middle class people do because they don’t get the attention you’d like them to get?

        I think it’s the former (not that I’m blaming poor folks for this – voting is trivially easy for me, but less so for them, and there’s more going on besides), not the latter.

      • wengler says:

        I wish these polls had some cross tabs on self-reported vs. actual so we could see what quintile is the most delusional.

  14. NS says:

    This won’t work because the most reliable voters still view this as Reagan’s labor dynamism vs Mitterands hysteresis. And their analysis is basically correct. There’s no evidence that policies Erik Aries for would help those he would like to help.

  15. Gwen says:

    Sales 101. Figure out what people want and then find a way to convince them that what you’re selling meets those desires.

    Survey says people wants jobs, want to feel safe, want better schools, want America to be a world leader, would prefer lower taxes, and for the government to stay out of their business.

    And we as Democrats, we gotta go out there and say: we will make your wildest dreams come true, America!

  16. JKTHs says:

    One thing I think is missing, which admittedly is hard to achieve right now, ia a commitment to full employment. Tight labor markets were a consistent feature of the post-war era through the 70s and have been mostly absent since. It’s no coincidence that the former had largely equal income growth while the latter’s been ridiculously unequal.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes! Thanks for bringing that up.

      And it’s not just about the working class. There are a lot of professionals making good money who are being worked ridiculously hard nowadays.

      My wife makes really good money. We have no cause to whine. But seriously: it’s nuts. She’s on her laptop after work a lot. They don’t hire. They just expect more and more from the staff they have. Our company is profitable – very much so. The CEO makes ~$20 million/yr. The stock is in the stratosphere. But hire more (permanent, on-shore) staff? Hah!

  17. mojrim says:

    Wait… Seriously? Are we well and truly going to talk about class after 40 years? As if it mattered more than the hobby horses of identity politics?

  18. liberal says:

    Hmm…corporate wing of the Democratic party isn’t going to go for it…

  19. […] 2014 at 20:09:31 EDTTo: dewayne@warpspeed.comClass War: Yes PleaseBy Erik LoomisJul 17 2014 <http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2014/07/class-war-yes-please>I mostly agree with Harold Meyerson’s essay on the Democrats reaping a huge political […]

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