Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Why Can't McCain Make His Accusations of Socialism Stick?

Historically, if a politician, particularly a Democrat, dared to bring up the subject of inequality, they were branded as a Marxist or accused of trying to start class warfare. McCain and Palin have been reviving this tactic with gusto and are now trying to make it sound like tax cuts for the middle class are an "un-American" redistribution of wealth.

In the past, Republicans calling Democrats elitist or accusing them of socialism was effective. This time around, it isn't working. Why?

  • Economic Crisis - The most obvious answer is the economic crisis. It is blatantly obvious that the Republican sacred cows of greed, deregulation, and lowering taxes for the rich have caused an economic disaster. Even Alan Greenspan has (partially) admitted the error of his ways.
  • Anti-Corporatism - Feelings against large corporations have been growing for a long time. Growing up in the 80s, I watched massive layoffs of people who thought they had lifetime jobs. I saw the Reagan administration union busting. I watched savings and loan scandals and saw my father's small business be destroyed by Office Depot. I saw all of this in the midst of a cocaine and yacht-filled orgy of greed. Many of my generation learned not to expect much of employers. We refused to dedicate our lives to a company, preferring to make fun of work in movies like Office Space. From anti-Walmart films to protests against the WTO in Seattle, we have built up a deep distrust of "big business."
  • Generational Divide - The Cold War was the defining theme of my parents generation, but it is barely a blip for me. I am thirty-five years old and the only thing I know about the Cold War from personal experience is that a wall came down in Germany when I was a kid and that Reagan used communism as an excuse to fight illegal wars in many of my friends home countries. McCarthy is long dead. The Berlin wall has been down for almost twenty years. Cries of "socialist" don't mean much to anyone under the age of 40.
The truth is that it is Republicans who have been the primary class warriors. They're the ones who are always advocating policies that benefit only the wealthiest class while getting less wealthy people to vote for them by branding anyone intellectual as a coastal "elite."

I think we are all really tired of people with more houses than I have shoes telling us that letting them get richer, and bailing them out when they screw up, is necessary, but that doing something about the more than a million homes now in foreclosure is "socialism."

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