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The "You Always Have To Help Someone Else" Tactic

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Yglesias identifies a key strategy for opposing progressive change without openly opposing the underlying goals:

One has to keep in mind the broader picture here, too. The right’s main tactic whenever Democrats want to do something that might be helpful to any group of citizens everywhere is to identify some even more desperately poor group and claim that their opposition to helping out is driven by a die-hard commitment to these truly needy types. Try to help the working class, and the underclass are trotted out for moral blackmail. Try to help the middle class, and what about the poor? But then when push comes to shove, these are the same people trying to cut section eight housing programs, trying to cut food stamps, etc. The only people they’re really serious about helping are the extremely wealthy beneficiaries of their tax cuts.

Exactly. I think my favorite somewhat recent example of this feeble diversionary tactic was David Velleman’s opposition to grad student unionization at NYU on the grounds that janitors in Houston are even worse off. (And, of course, the fact that this unionization might lead to mild restrictions on his own privileges rather than someone else’s is just an amazing coinky-dink!)

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