The Democrat Handbook: Playing Like It's 1936 All Over Again

It is now clear (as if there was ever any doubt) that the Democrats will be reverting to their traditional narrative for the 2012 elections.  President Obama's tax-the-rich fiscal proposal and Democrats' congressional district by-election campaigns this year show that the Dems will be relying on class-warfare demagoguery.  However, we're at a point in history where the Democrats actually have good reason to go to their good old class warfare demagoguery playbook.

The last time a Democrat president won reelection with unemployment as bad as predicted for 2012 was in 1936.  With the New Deal having failed to solve the Depression, Franklin Roosevelt resorted to a virulent anti-business campaign, denouncing "economic royalists" as responsible for the Depression's persistence.  In 1936, the strategy was spectacularly successful.  Roosevelt won by a large margin over Republican Alfred Landon, the Democrats made large gains in Congress, and Democrats have been using the class warfare playbook ever since.

Today we face a situation with many similarities to 1936.  We are in the worst economic downturn since the Depression, a Democrat program of Keynesian big-government spending and regulation has failed to solve it, and the Democrats are resorting to their old demagogic tactics to try to preserve their power.  How can Republicans avoid -- and indeed, reverse -- their fate from 1936?

One answer is to use the Democrats' own narrative against them.  After all, Democrats are the party of the fat cats.  It is the Democrats who cynically and hypocritically pretend to attack big business while actually promoting centralized government power in which only wealthy and powerful interests have a voice.  See for yourself:

  1. Wall Street is Democrat.  Wall Street gave almost twice as much money overall to Obama as it did to John McCain, and Goldman Sachs gave over three times as much to Obama as to McCain.  Obama continues to look there for a big chunk of his billion-dollar 2012 war chest.  Why does Wall Street support Obama even as the Democrats bash them?  First, for all the bashing, Dodd-Frank left the big Wall Street players untouched (which one cannot say for small community banks, who now labor under a huge new regulatory burden -- a burden which the big Wall Street firms can handle by just hiring some more lawyers).  Second, the Fed (at Obama's urging) has pumped trillions of dollars of virtually interest-free money into Wall Street (and that is in addition to hundreds of billions in outright bailouts).  Third, and most important, Wall Street loves government debt because Wall Street makes a fortune in fees selling that debt.  Charlie Gasparino's Bought and Paid For: The Unholy Alliance Between Barack Obama and Wall Street gives an inside description of how Wall Street and the Democrats collude.

  2. Big Business is Democrat.  The sickening relationship between the Obama administration and General Electric is well-known.  GE eliminates thousands of American jobs and lobbies for loopholes so it doesn't pay any taxes, and then Obama names its CEO the voice of business on a prestigious commission on job creation.  The quid pro quo smell is intense.  Obama got the de facto endorsement of GE's old NBC network, and GE got huge government subsidies and protected its tax loopholes.  However, GE is just the tip of the iceberg.  Federal economic regulators have always been captured by the largest interests they have attempted to regulate, and the regulations have then turned to disadvantage smaller competitors.  Investigative reporter Tim Carney's Obamanomics: How Barack Obama Is Bankrupting You and Enriching His Wall Street Friends, Corporate Lobbyists, and Union Bosses is an excellent exposé of the collusion between the Obama administration and Big Businesses.  And, as we've seen with Solyndra and other emerging "green tech" scandals, when they do start new small businesses, politically connected Democrat businessmen make sure to get big government subsidies for themselves.

  3. Big Government is Democrat.  Big government looks after the big guys; therefore, the Democrats look after the big guys.  The logic is compelling.  If you really want to empower the people, do you locate government power close to the people in their states and local governments, or far away in Washington, D.C.?

Since the facts and economics are on their side, conservatives tend to focus on careful quantitative arguments.  However, these have little impact if they are not embedded in a broader explanatory narrative.  In my book, Timely Renewed: Amendments to Restore the American Constitution, I use the example of organic farming to illustrate how big-government regulations made for and by big agribusiness suppress the local organic farmers beloved by all true back-to-the-earth progressives.  I highly recommend organic farming guru Joel Salatin's book Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal: War Stories from the Local Food Front for more on this example.

The narrative is short and sweet.  Power to the people means getting power close to the people.  Special-interest-loving, Democrat-dominated Washington, D.C. is as far away from the people as you can get.

However, a counterpoint to the false traditional Democrat "Big Government is the Friend of the Little Guy" narrative is not enough.  There needs to be a new narrative.  What does R stand for?  Many positive words come to mind -- "resurgence," "revitalization," "renewal."  However, the one I like is "restoration" (I like it so much I used it in the subtitle of my book).  R stands for the restoration of a Republic where government lives within its means, where entrepreneurs are free to invent and build, where our posterity's future is going to be better than the present.

The Democrat demagogues will reply that such an R actually stands for "reactionary."  But we do not apologize for reacting against a present based on loading future generations with unbearable debt, ever-expanding government power, and social hostility to private entrepreneurship.  We are for recovery of our Republic through the restoration of its founding principle of limiting and controlling the power of the state.

Of course, to accomplish this, Republicans will have to give up their own hypocritical participation in the Democrats' corrupt system.  And this they must do, for the sake of the real little guy: the people.

James W. Lucas is an attorney and the author of Timely Renewed: Amendments to Restore the American Constitution.  He blogs at

If you experience technical problems, please write to