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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Good and Bad Class Treason

Timothy Egan has an interesting column at The Times, “Traitors to Their Class,” which takes a jaundiced look at three children of the white working-class, who have become advocates of screwing the poor and privileges for the rich.
Egan is talking about U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, Speaker John Boehnor and Governor Scott Walker, all of whom love citing the economic hardships of their upbringings as preface to their advocacy of large tax cuts for the rich and deep cuts in social programs benefitting the poor and working families.
Egan doesn’t get into the phenomenon of good class treason, which would include such exemplars as FDR, Sen. Ted Kennedy and perhaps Warren Buffet. FDR’s class treason still excites extraordinary animosity from conservative historians and the like, and his “I welcome their hatred” may be the most frequently cited utterance of class treason in modern memory. Senator Kennedy, also born into wealth, fought like hell throughout his career for social programs to benefit working people, supported unions and greater economic justice. Warren Buffet’s call for higher taxes on the rich has earned him the distinction of being the most well-known living class traitor — in a good way. Hats off to these class traitors who didn’t let self-interest prevent them from urging a better deal for their fellow citizens.
Egan’s treasonous trinity is quite another matter. They carry on about bread bags on feet (Ernst), serving fries at McDonald’s (Walker) and bartending through college (Boehner), just before they urge tax cuts for the rich and budget cuts for social programs. They prattle on about picking themselves up by their bootstraps and being self-made success stories — just before they pull up the ladder for others.
Never mind that they attended public schools they would now privatize for everyone else. They sure as hell used government roads and public transportation throughout their respective government-bashing careers and quietly accept the privileges of their office without any noise about cutting their perks. And don’t be surprised if revelations surface that they did in fact benefit from government programs of one sort or another in their respective journeys to success.
All of three of them get downright splenetic in denouncing proposed modest increases in the minimum wage or calling for repeal of the Affordable Care Act. As Egan concludes:

Giving the people who flip burgers, clean floors and stock grocery shelves a few dimes more an hour is not a handout. Offering working people some help on their insurance premiums does not promote dependence. Nor do those things hurt the economy — just the opposite.
So where is this coming from? The class traitors guiding the Republican Party, and the harsh new federal budget unveiled this week, usually promote their policies using personal anecdotes. Their condescension toward the poor springs from their own narratives: They are virtuous because they made it, or vice versa. Those who haven’t made a similar leap are weaklings. It’s a variant of Mitt Romney’s view that 47 percent of Americans are moochers. Stripped to its essence, it’s a load of loathing for their former class, delivered on a plate of platitudes.

They’ve got the megaphones now. But one day they will be seen as narcissistic elitists who turned their backs on the working people they grew up with, when they could have used their offices to awaken the conscience of their party and make life better for all Americans, instead of just the wealthy patrons of their political campaigns. A missed opportunity and a sad legacy indeed

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