Ed Driscoll

Frank Rich: Begun the Class War Has

Bipartisan consensus achieved — even Frank Rich thinks that Occupy Wall Street are Obamavilles:

During the death throes of Herbert Hoover’s presidency in June 1932, desperate bands of men traveled to Washington and set up camp within view of the Capitol. The first contingent journeyed all the way from Portland, Oregon, but others soon converged from all over—alone, in groups, with families—until their main Hooverville on the Anacostia River’s fetid mudflats swelled to a population as high as 20,000. The men, World War I veterans who could not find jobs, became known as the Bonus Army—for the modest government bonus they were owed for their service. Under a law passed in 1924, they had been awarded roughly $1,000 each, to be collected in 1945 or at death, whichever came first. But they didn’t want to wait any longer for their pre–New Deal entitlement—especially given that Congress had bailed out big business with the creation of a Reconstruction Finance Corporation earlier in its session. Father Charles Coughlin, the populist “Radio Priest” who became a phenomenon for railing against “greedy bankers and financiers,” framed Washington’s double standard this way: “If the government can pay $2 billion to the bankers and the railroads, why cannot it pay the $2 billion to the soldiers?”

The echoes of our own Great Recession do not end there. Both parties were alarmed by this motley assemblage and its political rallies; the Secret Service infiltrated its ranks to root out radicals. But a good Communist was hard to find. The men were mostly middle-class, patriotic Americans. They kept their improvised hovels clean and maintained small gardens. Even so, good behavior by the Bonus Army did not prevent the U.S. Army’s hotheaded chief of staff, General Douglas MacArthur, from summoning an overwhelming force to evict it from Pennsylvania Avenue late that July. After assaulting the veterans and thousands of onlookers with tear gas, ­MacArthur’s troops crossed the bridge and burned down the encampment. The general had acted against Hoover’s wishes, but the president expressed satisfaction afterward that the government had dispatched “a mob”—albeit at the cost of killing two of the demonstrators. The public had another take. When graphic newsreels of the riotous mêlée fanned out to the nation’s movie theaters, audiences booed MacArthur and his troops, not the men down on their luck. Even the mining heiress Evalyn Walsh McLean, the owner of the Hope diamond and wife of the proprietor of the Washington Post, professed solidarity with the “mob” that had occupied the nation’s capital.

And how’d that work out for Hoover in ’32? Which dovetails into Jonah Goldberg’s Friday column: “OWS Needs a Republican President.” As Jonah writes, “It’s tough to have a revolution while supporting the status quo,” though not impossible as we saw in the last post, if you’re prepared to perform sufficient mental calisthenics:

An iron law of politics is that parties out of power are more unified than parties in power. That’s because when you control the government, members of the ruling coalition squabble over who gets what. When you don’t control government, everyone can at least agree that the top priority is to win back control.

A corollary to that law is that it’s ideologically empowering to be out of power. When you don’t have responsibility for anything, you can afford the luxury of purity.

The tea parties had an easy time of it in 2009 because there was no one in power to defend and no compromises required. If the financial crisis had hit in 2006, the emergence of anything like the tea party would have torn the GOP apart. But in 2009, with Bush gone, Democrats running the show, and Obama championing a program that made George W. Bush look like Calvin Coolidge (praise be upon him), there was nothing holding back the tea parties.

For Occupy Wall Street to enjoy similar freedom, it can’t be hobbled by having to defend the most powerful and important politician in America. You can’t declare war with the status quo and support the chief author of the status quo at the same time. Similarly, you can’t run for re-election and be joined at the hip with fringe revolutionaries.

If it were possible to buy stock in Occupy Wall Street, shareholders would be doing everything they could for a Republican victory in 2012. Only then will you see Democratic leaders and Immortal Technique fans alike, locked arm in arm, in united opposition to the Powers that Be.

Given that “73% of Occupy Wall Street protesters disapprove of Obama’s job performance,” they may get their wish, either by being dispirited and sleeping in on election day next year,  or as, the Professor suggests, “can you say, ‘Third Party?'” Which is just one of the reasons why “Experts begin to doubt Obama’s re-electability,” Neil Munro writes at the Daily Caller:

Barack Obama polls below 50 percent in every state that matters. The economy has stalled, unemployment is much higher than the official number of 9 percent, and Hispanics and African Americans are disappointed. The president’s approval ratings have tanked, and the right-track/wrong-track number fell of the cliff in the summer.

Obama has reached the stage of political doom when voters’ disappointment is so deep that they just don’t want to listen to him, talk about him or watch him, said David Hill, a veteran GOP strategist and pollster, in an interview with The Daily Caller.

“Nobody says it to their loved ones … [and] they don’t want to do anything about it,” said Hill, who has worked for conservative and liberal Republicans on the East Coast, the West Coast and in the Midwest, since 1984.

A tipping point might have been reached in August, when the monthly jobs report showed zero new jobs, Republican pollster Glenn Bolger told TheDC. “With [George W.] Bush, it happened sometime in 2006, after Katrina and the 2005 Iraq situation,” said Bolger, who heads the polling firm Public Opinion Strategies.

Even Obama-friendly experts are close to dismissing him.

Gallup numbers show the president’s approval at 41 percent, and show him trailing an unnamed “generic Republican” by eight percentage points, National Journal’s Charlie Cook wrote on Oct. 28. “These numbers certainly don’t show Obama’s reelection fortunes as hopeless, but they paint a very challenging situation.”

“Nobody’s gotten elected with these kinds of numbers,” James Carville, the Democratic Party’s snapping turtle, told a radio interviewer Oct. 25. “Everything worries me … I profoundly admit that,” he said on Scott Hennen’s show.

Even Bill Daley, the president’s chief of staff, is hoping for a secular miracle. “I don’t think it’s outside the realm of possibility that we have a stronger attitude around the economy … just the beginning of a psychological change,” he told Politico on Oct. 28. “That is the biggest thing. What are the factors that [will create] that? Who knows?…. you can just feel this electorate is very volatile.”

Even if there is a turnaround,  Hill told TheDC, “there has been such a long and steady and consistent loss of affection for him it would be very difficult to give him credit … I don’t think they’ll be listening.”

Which brings us to today’s class war. Speaking of which, guess who said, in 2008, “In this election, we cannot afford the same political games and tactics that are being used to pit us against one another, to make us afraid of one another. The stakes are too high to divide us by class and region and background; by who we are or what we believe:”

Yup, Mr. Bitter Clingers himself, mentored by the man who famously said, “white folks’ greed runs a world in need” — who once again is pretty cool with the idea of class warfare, because it’s all he has left, despite it being one heck of a two-edged sword.