March 20, 2012
Conservative Class Warriors?By Sally Zelikovsky
One of the most disappointing aspects of this primary contest has been the class warfare attacks leveled against Mitt Romney -- not by the president, but by fellow Republicans.
Historically falling within the jurisdiction of the left wing, Pandora's Class Warfare Box was opened by Newt Gingrich when pro-Newt super-PACs attacked Romney's tenure and success at Bain Capital. Gingrich, while technically no more responsible for these ads than Romney for his super-PAC, immediately and relentlessly started to carpet-bomb Romney's success until forced to back off when conservative voters made it clear that this tactic did not resonate with them.
Rick Perry embraced Newt's anti-1% rhetoric tout de suite when he called Romney a "vulture capitalist." This didn't hit conservatives in the sweet spot either.
The forces supporting Gingrich are doing it again in their new "Time to Choose" ad, which features regular folks across the country speaking on Newt's behalf. It's all well and good until class warfare references rear their ugly head again. One woman says she can't relate to Romney (inference: he's so 1% and I'm in the 99%), and another characterizes Romney as the type of guy who doesn't pump his own gas (inference: Romney is a member of the privileged 1% and lives above the rest of us who are stuck in the oppressed 99%).
Rick Santorum also jumped on the anti-prosperity bandwagon, but his arguments have been more subtle. He has consistently battled Romney at the class warfare level with repeated claims that (1) Romney can't relate to blue-collar workers, but he can; (2) Romney is rich, but he is not; (3) Romney's campaign is better-financed than his (this is true); (4) Romney spends his money on ads attacking Santorum (sorry, but that's "The Art of Political War"); and (5) for some reason, this is not fair.
Remember that argument Sarah Palin keeps making -- that the primary process is good and will make our candidates stronger as they build up immunities against left-wing arguments? That politics is tough, a war by other means, a "rough and tumble" battleground that will prep our nominee when he faces off against Obama's billion-dollar machine? If you can't take the fire, then, get outta the kitchen, right?
To be consistent, shouldn't Palin's thinking apply to Santorum as well when he whines that Romney has all this money to utilize and (shock!) spends it on ads that attack him? If he is the Republican nominee, what does he think Obama will do? Play patty-cake?
Mitt Romney certainly is wealthy. But Santorum isn't exactly poor. According to ABC, Santorum "earned an average of more than $900,000 each year between 2007 and 2010."
Oops. Looks like he's a one-percenter.
And Santorum isn't the only candidate who is the son of poor immigrants. His dad was a psychologist who immigrated here from Italy as a child, and his mom was a nurse. Apparently, his grandfather was the coal miner.
Romney's father, George, also immigrated here as a child, but from Mexico and, according to the Wikipedia biography, was dirt-poor -- literally. His parents' farming ventures failed. At 11, George worked in the fields and then learned lath-and-plaster work when his dad ventured into construction.
George Romney eventually earned considerable wealth and rose to prominence as Michigan's governor. (The inheritance he left his son? Mitt gave it to charity.)
Both Mitt and Rick are sons of hardworking men who immigrated here as children and worked their way to varying levels of the American Dream. These are both great American stories.
Both have law degrees. While Romney's wealth exceeds Santorum's exponentially, it's not clear that Santorum can claim to be a blue-collar man any more or less than Romney could (if he tried).
While Romney would be hard-pressed to claim blue-collar status, that doesn't mean he is unfamiliar with hard work. It also doesn't mean he can't relate to people who are lower in the economic spectrum. To imply this in any way does a disservice to all of us and our abilities to empathize and put ourselves in the shoes of others. Unlike Rick and Newt, who harp on Mitt's wealth and inability to connect with average folks, Mitt hasn't once imputed anything similar to Santorum or Gingrich, who are both educated and wealthy enough to be considered card-carrying members of the 1%.
Moreover, Gingrich continuously pulls Occupy Wall Street incantations out of his hat when he claims Mitt is propped up by that evil Wall Street money reviled by 99-percenters the world over.
Ouch. Newt sounds more like a resident of Zuccotti Park every day.
The president, the unions, and Democrats in positions of political power are masters at this game; they have long claimed to be for the "workers" and "working families" while the rest of us are for the rich. If I had to bet money on it, this is probably their most-recited mantra.
By "workers" or "working families" they don't include everyone who works, pays taxes, raises a family, struggles to make a life for his or her family, or educate his or her kids. They mean the poor, the working class, union members, illegal immigrants, and, under Obama's new definition of "millionaire," anyone earning less than $250,000 per annum. Small businesses aren't included unless they are owned by minorities or are failed ventures. The intimation is that "the rest of us" do not know the value of hard work and do not qualify as "workers" or members of a "working family."
This divides the good people of our country -- rich, poor, and anything in between. It divides blue and white collar, professional and non-professional, employer and employee, and those with advanced degrees vs. those who "work with their hands."
The left intends to elevate those who work "with their hands" above those who work...in their offices. (You thought I was going to say with their brains, but we all work with our brains, and anyone who has a job or is looking for one is working.) As for working with our hands, why is it that a construction worker is more worthy of that description than a lawyer who spends countless hours doing research and writing briefs...with his hands...or a surgeon who uses her hands performing a triple-bypass?
The aim of the left is to divide us. Conservatives generally don't sing this song, but when they do, it is conduct unbecoming a conservative.
Is it really such a horror that Romney has more money than Rick Santorum? Candidates need money. Money is a necessary commodity in any political race today. When conservatives take down other conservatives because of their wealth, they sound like liberals, and frankly, it makes my skin crawl. (This was actually a common argument used against Meg Whitman in California's gubernatorial race in 2010. The rationale was that because she had a lot of money in her political till [much of it her own], she was somehow unclean, not worthy of our vote, "buying" the election.)
Those who have such an attitude did not put much faith in the electorate then, nor do they now. If anything, they treat voters like automatons.
An election is bought and paid for when voters are bribed or coerced into voting a certain way with the promise of a job or benefit. Yes, Meg Whitman purchased many ads that might have influenced voters, but ultimately, individuals made their own, informed decisions. No one forced anyone to vote one way or the other. However, it is as if people like Rick Santorum think -- again, classic left-wing tactics unbecoming a conservative -- that voters can't make up their own minds, that we don't have the wherewithal to do our own research, marshal the facts, evaluate claims in ads, and then cast our vote.
I don't mind a good fight. Duke it out, boys. But don't soil our primary employing the stratagems of the left in the process. We are better than that. And it is turning off voters.
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