FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Classy Election

An Occupy Wall Street sign said it best: “They only call it class warfare when we fight back!”

Over four long decades, American working families and poor people have seen wages stagnate, social services slashed, and our unions attacked. Since the Great Recession hollowed out housing prices, millions of Main Street Americans have watched their life savings wither. U.S. inequality is festering.

Meanwhile, life over on Wall Street just keeps getting rosier and those 1 percenters seem oblivious to the pain they’ve caused.

“People feel like the system is rigged against them. And here’s the painful part: they’re right,” Massachusetts Senator-Elect Elizabeth Warren said last summer at the Democratic National Convention. “The system is rigged. Oil companies guzzle down billions in subsidies. Billionaires pay lower tax rates than their secretaries. Wall Street CEOs — the same ones who wrecked our economy and destroyed millions of jobs — still strut around Congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them.”

Most working families have known about this rigging for years. The 1 percent leverages its money power to keep politicians in line. As the bank bailout showed, the banks are “too big to fail,” and Wall Street has too much control over Congress for our lawmakers to change that.

The tide may have turned. In 2011, working people and students in Wisconsin held massive protests against a top-down attack on their rights. They narrowly lost a battle to remove Republican Governor Scott Walker from office, but Romney lost Wisconsin on Election Day. Not only that, he lost Janesville, his running mate Paul Ryan’s hometown. At the same time, progressive Rep. Tammy Baldwin won a Senate seat.

In Ohio, union-driven mass-mobilization in 2011 garnered less nationwide attention than in Wisconsin. But the Buckeye State passed a statewide ballot referendum with over 60 percent of the vote that protected collective bargaining. And Sen. Sherrod Brown, a stalwart progressive, won a tough re-election race in Ohio.

Normally, the need to amass campaign war chests naturally makes presidential and Senate candidates tone down rhetoric that might offend their deep-pocketed supporters. But this year the visceral anger that so many voters felt towards the 1 percent escaped the normal, “acceptable” bounds.

Even conservative Republicans broke the unwritten rules of electoral politics, with overtly class-conscious attacks. When Rick Perry balked at Mitt Romney’s bizarre $10,000 bet during a GOP primary debate and attacked the candidate for “vulture capitalism,” he helped lay the groundwork for making class a campaign issue in 2012. So did Newt Gingrich, when he ripped into Romney for being one of those “rich people figuring out clever legal ways to loot a company.”

The Super PAC allied with Obama, Priorities USA Action, followed these attacks with a series of ads hammering the Republican nominee based on the record of Bain Capital, the private equity firm he founded.

Those class-conscious attacks worked. By late September, Romney’s negative rating was up to 48.7 percent. Even a reluctant class warrior like Barack Obama was effectively using class anger at the cozy relationship between Wall Street and Washington to electoral advantage — especially in the Rustbelt’s swing states.

Class played an even bigger role in Senate races. Populist candidates Warren in Massachusetts, Brown in Ohio, and Baldwin in Wisconsin all overcame hundreds of millions of dollars in attack ads by openly standing up for working families. They promised to grow the economy from “the middle class out and the bottom up,” as Warren put it.

Steve Cobble is an associate fellow at IPS, a co-founder of Progressive Democrats of America (PDA), and a co-founder of the web site www.afterdowningstreet.org

This column was distributed by OtherWords.

Like Brown and Baldwin, she promised to protect Medicare and Social Security, rein in Wall Street, and reduce the influence of big money in politics.

I’d say they all beat their Republican opponents by out-classing them.

The Occupy Wall Street movement made the gulf between the rich and poor in America a matter of public, rather than academic, concern. The 2012 elections proved that big ideas can change voting patterns.

Wall Street, take note: Main Street has spoken.

More articles by:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
February 26, 2020
Matthew Hoh
Heaven Protect Us From Men Who Live the Illusion of Danger: Pete Buttigieg and the US Military
Jefferson Morley
How the US Intelligence Community is Interfering in the 2020 Elections
Patrick Cockburn
With Wikileaks, Julian Assange Did What All Journalists Should Do
Manuel García, Jr.
Climate Change and Voting 2020
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Russiagate: The Toxic Gift That Keeps on Giving
Andrew Bacevich
Going Off-Script in the Age of Trump
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Anti-Russian Xenophobia Reaches Ridiculous Levels
Ted Rall
Don’t Worry, Centrists. Bernie Isn’t Radical.
George Wuerthner
Whatever Happened to the Greater Yellowstone Coalition?
Scott Tucker
Democratic Socialism in the Twenty-First Century
Jonah Raskin
The Call of the Wild (2020): A Cinematic Fairy Tale for the Age of Environmental Disaster
George Ochenski
Why We Shouldn’t Run Government Like a Business
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange and the Imperium’s Face: Day One of the Extradition Hearings
Nozomi Hayase
Assange’s Extradition Hearing Reveals Trump’s War on Free Press Is Targeting WikiLeaks Publisher
Peter Harrison
Is It as Impossible to Build Jerusalem as It is to Escape Babylon? (Part Two)
Max Moran
Meet Brad Karp, the Top Lawyer Bankrolling the Democrats
David Swanson
Nonviolent Action for Peace
Ed Sanders
The Ex-Terr GooGoo Eyes “The Russkies Did it!” Plot
February 25, 2020
Michael Hudson
The Democrats’ Quandary: In a Struggle Between Oligarchy and Democracy, Something Must Give
Paul Street
The “Liberal” Media’s Propaganda War on Bernie Sanders
Sheldon Richman
The Non-Intervention Principle
Nicholas Levis
The Real Meaning of Red Scare 3.0
John Feffer
Cleaning Up Trump’s Global Mess
David Swanson
How Are We Going to Pay for Saving Trillions of Dollars?
Ralph Nader
Three Major News Stories That Need To Be Exposed
John Eskow
What Will You Do If the Democrats Steal It from Sanders?
Dean Baker
What If Buttigieg Said That He Doesn’t Accept the “Fashionable” View That Climate Change is a Problem?
Jack Rasmus
The Nevada Caucus and the Desperation of Democrat Elites
Howard Lisnoff
The Powerful Are Going After Jane Fonda Again
Binoy Kampmark
Viral Losses: Australian Universities, Coronavirus and Greed
John W. Whitehead
Gun-Toting Cops Endanger Students and Turn Schools into Prisons
Marshall Sahlins
David Brooks, Public Intellectual
February 24, 2020
Stephen Corry
New Deal for Nature: Paying the Emperor to Fence the Wind
M. K. Bhadrakumar
How India’s Modi is Playing on Trump’s Ego to His Advantage
Jennifer Matsui
Tycoon Battle-Bots Battle Bernie
Robert Fisk
There’s Little Chance for Change in Lebanon, Except for More Suffering
Rob Wallace
Connecting the Coronavirus to Agriculture
Bill Spence
Burning the Future: the Growing Anger of Young Australians
Eleanor Eagan
As the Primary Race Heats Up, Candidates Forget Principled Campaign Finance Stands
Binoy Kampmark
The Priorities of General Motors: Ditching Holden
George Wuerthner
Trojan Horse Timber Sales on the Bitterroot
Rick Meis
Public Lands “Collaboration” is Lousy Management
David Swanson
Bloomberg Has Spent Enough to Give a Nickel to Every Person Whose Life He’s Ever Damaged
Peter Cohen
What Tomorrow May Bring: Politics of the People
Peter Harrison
Is It as Impossible to Build Jerusalem as It is to Escape Babylon?
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail