Salon Thinks Republicans Stole Class Warfare, Left Needs to Take It Back

July 5th, 2017 5:17 PM

It’s a tried and true leftist refrain, imbued with all of the condescension and paternalism that begot a reality TV star’s run to the White House: if only those rubes in America’s heartland knew better, they would never vote for small government economic policies. They’re too busy, to use the Obama formula, clinging to their guns and religion to see the paradisiacal possibilities of social democracy.

Man is primarily concerned with the economic, says Marx, and for any man to deny himself the opportunity to democratically vote for the usurpation of more of his neighbor’s property must involve a grand deception of the “ignorant masses”. According to Salon's Conor Lynch, that veiled force inducing the working class to “vote against their own interest” is, of course, the Republican Party:

“Over the past few decades Republicans have not only waged an economic class war against the working class but a cultural class war against the so-called “liberal elite” — which includes college professors, journalists, Democratic politicians, urban professionals, Hollywood entertainers and so on. While Trump’s rhetoric may be unusually belligerent, the practice of railing against cultural elites has been employed by conservatives for generations, as Thomas Frank explored in his 2004 book, ‘What’s the Matter With Kansas?’ The true genius of the right’s ‘culture war’ is that it enables clear economic elites like Trump to portray themselves as populists, even while they enact policies that serve billionaires and multinational corporations. Right-wing populism, Frank observes, ‘both encourages class hostility’ in the cultural sense and ‘simultaneously denies the economic basis of the grievance.”

You’re too stupid, you see, to notice this phenomenon without the shrewd help of Salon’s watchful eye. If only you had known, perhaps you would have changed your vote! Working class people are just too dumb, Lynch seemed to suggest, to detect the right-wing Ponzi scheme that has been keeping them in the shackles of proto-Marxist oppression.

In a country where you can go into a grocery store and get a loaf of bread for $1.25, one would think America lives under third world despotic rule given the rhetoric Lynch employs.

Further, Lynch declared, it isn’t the Left engaging in merciless class warfare in it’s Alinskyite attempt to divide the nation, but rather the Republicans who pit the nation’s socioeconomic strata against one another:

“Thomas Frank — who knows a thing or two about right-wing populism — agrees with this sentiment. In his most recent book, ‘Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?,’ Frank looks at how the Democratic Party abandoned class politics toward the latter part of the 20th century and embraced corporate-friendly centrism, which gave right-wingers a perfect opportunity to advance their own warped form of class politics. Today we are living in the aftermath of this Democratic shift towards neoliberalism.
‘If class warfare is being waged, it is not Democrats who are the aggressors,’ said Henry Aaron of the Brookings Institute in an analysis of the House version of Trumpcare published in March. This is doubtless the case, and it is why the Republicans have been so successful in crushing the working class while maintaining their populist veneer. If Democrats want to expose Republicans as the party of the 1 percent and start winning elections again, then perhaps it is time for them to become the aggressors and start waging a class war of their own.”

Embedded in this line of argument is the presumption that Reagan and free markets have squelched the middle class, but many argue that just the opposite occurred under the Gipper’s oversight. He reigned in runaway inflation that helped bolster the financial solvency of the retirement prospects of Americans of all income levels, and reinspired faith in American exceptionalism.

But the more precarious injunction by Lynch is that Democrats don’t engage enough in the politics of class warfare. If one were to read Lynch’s piece with no knowledge of history, it is conceivable you would come away with the notion that Democrats have been undying stalwarts of marketization and capitalism, refusing to tap into class struggle narratives and passions. Consider the following montage as a brief foray into the lunacy of that claim:

Americans don’t need more of the seeds of leftist class division, but a unity around founding principles. Scant does one see a modern Democrat do anything but pit Americans against each other in its ceaseless quest for government control.