On almost every contemporary issue there is a populist, middle-class argument to be made against elite liberalism. Yet the Republican class in charge seems ossified in its inability to make a counter-argument for the middle class. Never has the liberal agenda been so vulnerable, a logical development when bad ideas have had five years to prove themselves as very bad ideas. When Obama is all done he will have taken high presidential popularity ratings, a supermajority in the Senate, and a large margin in the House and lost them all — if only the Republicans can make an adequate case that they represent the middle class, the Democrats only the very wealthy and the very dependent.
We know the entry of 11 million illegal aliens depresses the wages of the poor and entry-level working class. Illegal immigration overwhelms state services, and that too hurts citizens most in need of help. The lower-middle classes do not have low-paid nannies, gardeners, and house-keepers. We know the illegal influx pleases La Raza activists, most of them second- and third-generation elites in government, politics, journalism and education, who without illegal immigration would not have much of a moral or legal justification for the continuance of affirmative action and identity politics, given that statistically Latinos would soon follow the pattern of other assimilated groups. (For example, is there affirmative action for Armenian immigrants? An Italian Razza movement? Punjabi Studies?)
We also know that cheap labor in the shadows benefits corporate business, eager for low-wage laborers. So how hard is it for a Republican simply to say, “I oppose illegal immigration because (1) it is illegal. It undermines the sanctity of the law and discriminates against the law-abiding waiting in line to enter the U.S. legally. (2) It benefits corporate grandees at the expense of working people. (3) It is driven by self-serving elites of the ethnic-grievance industry to enhance their own advantage, rather than to help poor folks struggling to find decent wages and schools. Illegal immigration, in short, is the most illiberal issue of our time.
Fracking and horizontal drilling help the middle class. Stopping them on federal lands or banning Keystone makes the lower classes pay for the pipe dreams of the upper class. The Berkeley Sierra Club professor doesn’t worry whether he can find a job welding on a pipeline. He does not drive along the Westside 50 miles to work and so cares little about the price of gas for his third-hand pick-up. It is about 70 degrees year round in Menlo Park, so it is easy to jack power bills up to subsidize wind and solar, when you don’t need to survive 105 degree temperatures in Bakersfield. Discouraging energy development is a pastime of the rich, who have the money to shield themselves from the consequences of their advocacy, and do not associate with the less well-off, who always seem to suffer from elite pipe dreams. Why not headquarter the Sierra Club in Bakersfield, where the cost of electricity is real for real people? Cannot a Republican rebuttal to the State of the Union simply say, “Mr. President, you are shamelessly taking credit for gas and oil production that you did all in your power to thwart. The middle class is enjoying a temporary cut in gas prices, despite, not because of, you.”
How hard it is for Republicans to say to liberals, “I accuse! The wealthy have their security details, most of them armed. The underclass has access to illegal weaponry as the armed crime sprees in a Detroit or Chicago attest. Why then go after the middle class, who neither outsource their security nor break the law? Before we issue sweeping edicts aimed at the law-abiding, let us disarm all the security guards of Hollywood and Washington, D.C., and put away for good the criminals who use illegal firearms to hurt the innocent.”
The Federal Reserve
Barack Obama’s Wall Street is booming, not because of a superb business cycle, but because there is no interest on capital anywhere else to be found. The rich profit from their more sophisticated knowledge of stocks, the poor from debt relief. The middle?
What good is it to them that they played by all the rules and saved money — if only to receive no interest on any of their passbook accounts? The self-employed man who was not a pensioned employee in the public sector, who does not chat with his stock broker each week, and who is not eligible for mortgage-debt relief, student-debt relief for his children, credit-card relief, or any federal relief of any sort is a veritable fool. He socked away each month a few hundred dollars in his savings — but in an era when having cash in the bank means that inflation eats it away faster than minimal interest can preserve it.
Obamacare is a gift to the old and affluent, who use subsidized health care from the young and poor. It is the greatest tax on the youthful cohort in the history of the republic at a time when student debt already exceeds $1 trillion. How liberal is that? Or for that matter, how liberal were colleges to up their annual tuition rates higher than inflation, assured that their own pyramidal cultures (compare the disparities in salaries of the part-timer and full professor for the same class) were subsidized by federally guaranteed (and mostly high-interest) loans? How many rants on race and gender are necessary to win exemption from the exploitation in the classroom next door?
We talk about fairness. Do men and women make the same on the president’s own staff? Why does Kobe Bryant make so much and some of his gifted colleagues make so little in comparison? Does Johnny Depp really need $40 million a year when the Hollywood sound tech cannot afford a cottage in South Central L.A.? Did not the Malibu grandees hear their president say that they did not build their film careers, and at some point long ago had made enough money? Could not the gardeners or nannies of Santa Monica at least be unionized? Is there a chapter of ACORN at Google? Can graduate-school TAs get the SEIU interested in their plight? At some point cannot a conservative make the case that liberalism, as preached by its elites, is a psychological mechanism to shield wealthy progressives from the ramifications of their own ideology? Do Apple executives not outsource? Does Facebook not offshore? What is so liberal about Mark Zuckerberg besmirching his opponents as nativists, as he tries to access as much cheap labor as he can, at a time when the Other in Silicon Valley — from his gardeners to computer programmers — could not afford to rent a cot in his tool shed? Cannot a Republican ask Obama at least to forgo Martha’s Vineyard next summer or the next zillionaire golfing outing if he wants to rant about the perks of the 1%?
How liberal was it that a few hundred Bay Area elites went to court over the last few years to divert about 20 million acre-feet of precious irrigation water to flow out to the sea, in vain pursuit of their fantasies about expanding bait fish populations in the delta or in hopes of seeing a salmon jump out of the river by Fresno? Tens of thousands of poor people will lose their jobs this summer, as irrigation water reserves are exhausted and acreage goes out of production. What is more liberal: allowing an out-of-work poor logger of 23 to go into the Sierra to salvage timber from a burned-out Sierra Nevada forest, or to keep him jobless and on the dole in order that the precious lumber rots and breeds precious populations? In the liberal calculus, is Coleoptera more valuable than homo sapiens? Is the distant bark beetle a more cuddly creature than the jobless, tobacco-chewing chain-sawer having a beer at the Lakeshore bar?
Yes, let us all hail diversity and insist that it be applied across the board. Cannot California find a senior elected leader other than Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, and Nancy Pelosi? How diverse, given California’s trumpeted diversity, are three elderly multimillionaire women, with hyper-capitalist spouses, who live within commuting distance of each other in the Bay Area? Should the United States Postal service base correct its current labor profile by hiring in accordance with ethnic percentages within the population? Should Asians depart from UC Berkeley so more whites, blacks, and Latinos might enroll commensurately with their percentages in the population? Should the NFL have quotas for non-African-Americans, to give others a chance — to paraphrase Kanye West — to have insider contacts to land such lucrative athletic billets? How many Asians are on the L.A. Lakers versus the size of the Asian community in L.A. County? Have the military casualties of the last decade in Afghanistan and Iraq been computed to ensure that all groups suffered commensurately? Just when or when do we not insist on proportional representation based on ethnicity? Are the heads of Hollywood studios reflective of the rich diversity of California? And if we are going down the diversity and fairness routes, then surely Al Gore needs a sermon — after he unloaded a failed network to an anti-Semitic, carbon-burning medieval sheikdom, in failed efforts to beat the new capital gains tax that he so strenuously supported. How fair, how egalitarian, how diverse is all that? What is the ethnic profile of Sierra Club membership?
In 2014 Republicans are going to be kamikazeed by very wealthy, highly educated, and relentless operatives in the Boston-New York-Washington, D.C., nexus, with backup from the San Diego to San Francisco bookend coastal corridor. These critics mostly rest at the top of the capitalist heap, and will assail those who are not, on grounds that they are unfair to every hyphenated group in America.
To survive, Republicans must go on the offensive and point out that their accusers never live the lives they advocate for others. Liberal feminists seem to be John Edwards and Bill Clinton. Liberal men of the people are Al Gore, John Kerry, and Jon Corzine. Their populists who deplore outsourcing, offshore accounts, and non-unions are Apple and Facebook grandees who embrace all three. White privilege is not the fate of the West Virginian or West Texan working at Target, but the tiny, inbred old-boy and old-girl world of prep-school to Ivy League to the insider pull of Dad and Mom to land up with a phoned-in job in journalism, politics, finance, entertainment, the arts, and academia on the East and West coasts, followed by pro forma praise of diversity — for others. Open-borders zealots have their children behind the walls of private academies.
Surely there is a populist case to be made — or is the Republican establishment to manage a permanent, sober, and judicious out-party, as it is demagogued to death by the privileged?