Class Warfare for Republicans


As a Truman-style Democrat left politically homeless, I am often asked about the future of the Republican Party. Some Republicans want to push racial buttons on issues like immigration, or try to stop their political slide on gay marriage, which will steepen as younger people replace older people in the voting booth. Others think pure market-oriented principles will, somehow, win the day. Ron Paul did best among younger Republican voters in the primaries.

Yes, ideas do matter, but a simple defense of free markets is not likely to have broad-enough appeal. What Republicans need is a transformative issue that can attract a mass base – and that issue is class.

Of course, the whole idea of appealing to class may be repellant to most libertarian-conservative or country-club remnants of the Republican Party. Yet, it's the issue of the day, as President Obama recognized when he went after patrician Mitt Romney. It also may be the issue Obama now most wants to avoid, which explains his current focus on secondary issues like gun control and gay marriage.

For their part, Republicans need to make Obama own the class issue since his record is fairly indefensible. The fortunes of the middle quintiles of Americans have been eroding pretty much since Obama took office in 2009.

There's nothing fundamentally unRepublican about class warfare. After all, the party – led by what was then called Radical Republicans – waged a very successful war against the old slave-holding aristocracy; there's nothing to be ashamed of in that conquest. Republicans under Abraham Lincoln also pushed for greater landownership through such things as the Homestead Act, which supplied 160 acres of federal land to aspiring settlers.

No one expects the Republicans to turn socialist, but they can reap benefits from anger over the crony capitalism that has become emblematic of the Obama era. Wall Street and its more popular West Coast counterparts, the venture capital "community," consistently game the political system and, usually, succeed. They win, but everyone else pretty much has to content themselves with keeping up with the IRS.

This is where the opportunity lies. Republican opposition to Wall Street is already evident in the rise of Texas Republican Rep. Jeb Hensarling to the chairmanship of the House Banking Committee. He and Iowa GOP Sen. Charles Grassley's attack on "too big to fail" banks are a stark contrast to the likes of New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer, the Capitol consigliere of the Wall Street oligarchs, or the prince of gentry liberals and defender of billionaires everywhere, New York City Mayor Michael "luxury city" Bloomberg.

Who's angry and ready to raise their raise their pitchforks? Try the self-employed, who are now, according to Gallup, the large constituency most alienated from the present regime. Even the hapless Romney picked up their support against Obama.

The new core constituency of the GOP can best be identified as the enterprise base. They include small property owners, mainly in the suburbs, those who are married or aspiring to be so. They are more suburban than urban, and likely to work for someone else or themselves as opposed to working for the state. Combine the top half of private employees, over 50 million people, add some 10 million self-employed and you get to a serious economic, and political, base.

This group also includes many immigrants, particularly Asians, a constituency that should be tilting GOP but still isn't. They, too, increasingly live in the suburbs, own homes as well as business. And rarely do they benefit from the prevailing crony capitalism.

The enterprise base is by nature not ideologically rigid. Most, if you talk to them, would generally support sensible infrastructure improvement as well as repairs; they also tilt towards restrained taxation and a lighter regulatory hold. It's a movement for "Let's get this fixed and get on with our lives."

This new orientation would define the Republicans where they are strongest and the administration weakest – on the economy. The new wedge issues must be for a "level playing field" for entrepreneurs and the middle class and definitely not social issues, like opposition to gay rights, or support for old and new unwise wars.

An enterprise approach, and a focus on restarting real growth, could put the Democrats on their heels and worrying about their own base. Minorities, for example, have done far worse under this administration than virtually any in recent history, including that of George W. Bush. For many, this has been what the Fiscal Times has called "a food stamp recovery."

Among Obama's loyalist core, African Americans, unemployment now stands at the highest level in decades; blacks, while 12 percent of the nation's population, account for 21 percent of the nation's jobless. The picture is particularly dire in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, where black unemployment is nearly 20 percent, and Detroit, where's it's over 25 percent.

Of course, Republicans have their work cut out for them among African-Americans. But remember that Barack Obama will not be on any future ballots. A return to what Ishmael Reed has called "neo-classical" Republicanism – the same spirit that freed the slaves and fought for equal rights – could make some inroads.

Latinos, the other major part of the party's "downstairs" coalition, also have fared badly under Obama and could be even more amenable to a smarter GOP message. They have seen their incomes drop 4 percent over the past three years, and suffer unemployment two full points above the national average. Overall, the gap in net worth of minority households compared with whites is greater today than in 2005. White households lost 16 percent in recent years, but African-Americans dropped 53 percent and Latinos a staggering 66 percent of their precrash wealth.

But the most critical potential constituency may prove the millennial generation, who hitherto have been a strong constituency for both the president and his party. They continue to suffer the most of any age cohort in this persistently weak economy. Already, the first wave of millennials are hitting their thirties and may be getting restless about being permanent members of "Generation Rent."

Let's say, in two or four years, they are still finding opportunity lagging? Cliff Zukin at Rutgers John J. Heidrich Center for Workforce Development, predicts that many will "be permanently depressed and will be on a lower path of income for probably all their [lives]." One has to wonder if even the college-educated may want to see an economy where their educations count for more than a job at Starbucks. Remember: Baby boomers, too, once tilted to the left, but moved to the center-right starting with Ronald Reagan and have remained that way.

Yet, despite these threats, Democrats may still be rescued by perennially misfiring Republicans. There's no Stu Spencer, Michael Deaver or Peter Hannaford on the blue team to plot strategy. Missteps remain endemic: A group of North Carolina Republicans recently proposed a measure to establish Christianity as the state religion, only to blocked by the state's leadership.

Others think opposing gay marriage is the ticket to revival, even though public opinion, particularly among the young, is swinging in the other direction. Some 70 percent of millennials – people in their early thirties and younger – support gay marriage, twice the rate of those over 50. Social conservatives are also gearing up on the abortion issue even though three in five Americans, according to the latest Pew survey, oppose overturning Roe v. Wade. North Dakota could be showing that America can work, literally and figuratively, but instead the state passes abortion laws that are among the strictest in the country.

Yet, there's still hope that some Republicans will recognize this opportunity. I would like to see this, in part, because I have seen one-party politics in action here in California, and it doesn't work. Even more so, I'd like to see Republicans wage class warfare on behalf of the "enterprise" constituency because Democrats then would have to offer something in response, which could only have good consequences for the rest of us.

Joel Kotkin is executive editor of and a distinguished presidential fellow in urban futures at Chapman University, and a member of the editorial board of the Orange County Register. He is author of The City: A Global History and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. His most recent study, The Rise of Postfamilialism, has been widely discussed and distributed internationally. He lives in Los Angeles, CA.

This piece originally appeared in the Orange County Register.

Lincoln Memorial photo by Bigstock.

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I am so pleased to have encountered such a clear thinker

MarketAndChurch, you are amazing. I am so pleased to have encountered such a clear thinker. And I have not heard of a Polynesian conservative Christian intellectual before. I know you will appreciate this:

“……As things stand at present, the ideal of a free marketplace of ideas to which academia is ostensibly committed to promoting is a fiction. Between this ideal and the current reality, there exists a chasm that is as unbridgeable as it is glaring. Only the self-delusional, the ignorant, and the deceitful can say otherwise. For the rest of us, it requires spending all but five minutes in any given liberal arts or humanities department in the country to grasp the painful, ugly truth.

And the truth is that for many academics, not only is there no such thing as “the disinterested pursuit of truth.” There is no such thing as truth. I’m not kidding. Truth, along with such related concepts as “reason,” “fact,” “logic,” and “objectivity,” are routinely treated as Eurocentric social constructions by which white men have traditionally oppressed women, non-whites, homosexuals, non-Christians, and the environment.

World famous “post-modernist” philosophers, like Jacques Derrida, make it their task in life to “deconstruct” Western civilization so as to convict it of “logocentrism”—its faith in reason to access reality.
Far from challenging the prevailing status quo for no other reason but that it is the status quo, the average academic is an avowed apologist for it. Yet even this way of characterizing matters grossly understates the extent to which academia suffers from a poverty of vision.

It is more accurate to think of academia as a quasi-religious cult of a sort. This is no hyperbole. Intellectual life in the university has been constrained by the straightjacket of the creed.

Formally, of course, there is no such thing. But, in practice, the creed is almost everywhere affirmed. If it had to be summed up, it boils down to contempt—contempt for Western civilization generally, and America in particular.

More specifically, the creed demands that the entire history of the West be viewed through the narrowest—and most cartoonish—of lens: white, heterosexual, Christian men are villains, and everyone—and everything—else are their victims. It isn’t just racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, Islamophobia, and any and every other conceivable crime against humanity for which Western civilization stands condemned. Western (white) Man is also convicted by academics of specieism, bias against non-humans, and homocentrism, bias against the environment.

To be clear, the widely held belief among academia’s critics on the right that the university is a bastion of “moral relativism” is wide off the mark. There are no real relativists among academics. The latter are absolutists of the worst sort, crusaders or jihadists forever vigilant against deviations from the creed. And those who style themselves as relativists tend to be the most committed of its guardians…..”

Dissecting The Left

Philbeast, A few Preliminary Comments:
I'm only a 26 year old college student who has yet to start life, and yet to finish a meaningful degree. I am not the author of any of these thoughts, I wouldn't even dare to call myself an intellectual, I'm just a student of life whose making sense of the world with the ideas of the many thinkers who have influenced me. But I appreciate the compliment, because I know where it comes from. And it humbles me to be in the same ranks as you, and have such a bright and elevated group of New Geographers on this site who are willing to challenge the establishment, and their holy orthodoxies.

I wish I had your brain to digest data, but I am weak with numbers, unless it can be visualized, and contextualized with ideological schools of thought. I was also raised Christian, and still have a great affinity for the Methodist tradition I came from, but am no longer "fully" one lol, I'm just a theist whose understanding of God comes from the old testament, and the old testament only.

The Left Owns Objectivity:
The bias in academia is so deep. And one would think that they would be proud of it enough to just admit the obvious, that they slant Leftward, and are nothing more then a Leftwing Seminary. But whenever you bring up any of these issues in an discussion, there's always a bit of back-peddling, as if they have qualms with being proud of their leftwing identity. Which isn't the case. They are proud of being a leftist, but they don't really view themselves as ideological or having an ideology. They have instead framed the world in a way where objectivity conforms to their view of the world. If objectivity conforms to their view of the world, then notions of Right And Wrong have to be adjusted, as right and wrong no longer just mean good and evil… that is why they mock the right whenever we use the terms good and evil, because it's so black-and-white, and does not take into account the "gray" and nuances that Leftwing Social Sciences have unearthed.

And every word has to be reframed, to conform with this new objectivity. Justice is no longer justice, since it is such a generic and un-meaningful term that doesn't fully describe the nuances. For example, stealing isn't just stealing, it is an act one does because the wealthy have all the money, and this unjust economic gulf is what causes you to take things that don't belong to you. African Americans don't kill at much higher rates then other people because there's something wrong with a big enough portion of black culture & the inner-city ghettos they live in. No, they kill because of racism and classism, both of which are social constructs created by the white man to control power.

So to fully, and accurately, describe the term "justice," that takes into account all of which the Leftist Social Sciences have "discovered" about the world, they marry it with the term "social," to make Social Justice.

Objectivity Grants Them Pragmatism:
That's why they have the audacity to attach "Smart" to "Smart-Growth." Their just being pragmatic and smart, since it is objectively true that the environment cannot take our continual raping of it, and heralded institutions of sexism, classism, and racism, are all perpetuated by this institution known as "suburbia." It is a culturally un-cultured institution that perpetuates unequal gender constructs, marriage, sexist stereotypes, conspicuous consumption, racial segregation, and all the sins that the Left charges Suburbia with.

So the pragmatic tradition demands consolidating people into tighter confines, and to make them cultured by being surrounded by every income bracket and every racial background, while reducing our effect on the environment, freeing up previously held notions of gender, centralizing the tax-base so that they all share the same values and can better agree to the same political prescriptions that their tax-dollars will end up subsidizing, etc.

Objectivity Also Means That They Don't Have To Take Our Arguments Seriously:
Given all that I've said above, if objectivity resides on their side, and they reframe every notion to comport to the leftist objective view of the world, then it is a matter of awareness versus ignorance, truth versus lies, and education versus misinformation.

That is the leftist assumption. This is also why Liberals do not think that we actually believe in our ideals, since their version of objectivity states that all that has gone wrong throughout history owes its roots to conservatism, & couldnt possibly imagine someone taking those "conservative" ideas seriously.

    So they categorize us Conservatives into one of several possibilities:
    1.) He/She doesn't know any better, is mentally inept, stupid.
    2.) He/She could know better, but is misinformed.
    3.) He/She knows better, but has bad motivations.

Those like you and me are routinely thrown into the 3rd category. Our variety of folk is to Leftism, what satan worshipers, those in Voodoo, and the occult, is to Christianity. We know the light, but choose to be on a corporations payroll. We could simply offer up 90% of our income to feed and cloth the have-not's, but our greed has blinded us from love. It is why we on the Right are Demons, whereas a muslim or Hindu who also opposes Gay Marriage is not necessarily looked down upon. They are of the second variety and are therefore excused by their "innocence." If they are extremists of the first variety, and go about lynching homosexuals, they may be of the first or second variety, but are still granted innocence if they are non-white. Which is why the Left thinks all of this can be solved by their smart, intellectual, evolved, and nuanced Education. Education is the key to destroying ignorance, especially the one that Fox News perpetuates in its war to misinform the populace, by creating ideological right-wing drones who don't know any better then the ideological drivel they've been brainwashed into regurgitating.

Here's My Angle On Moral Relativism:
I have to disagree with you about moral relativism. But it is a meaningless disagreement, in the sense that it doesn't actually disagree with what you say, so much as it is providing a different angle on the issue, so bare with me, and take it in that light:

The Left suffers from a lack of self-awareness. A college professor will get up, and tell you how you can't judge gender inequality in India, in China, in The Congo, or in Saudi Arabia, because that's there culture, that's how they do things, and who are we judge them? For them, morality is all a wash, and any opinion about Yemen's hanging homosexuals in public is purely subjective. That's their thing, who are we to judge.

It is a clear rejection of the Judeo-Christian premise, that there is Universal moral law, and that murder and rape is wrong everywhere, and not limited by something as arbitrary as a border or tribe.

But that is not the real crime here, or my main objection. In the same rant, wherein they will berate Americans on judging other people for what they are…, without missing a breath, they will then take a dump on US policy, US culture, and US values, as being objectively immoral. On this, they have no problem as stating as an objective truth… One man's terrorist may be another man's freedom fighter vis-a-vis a non-European, non-White country who engages in terrorism. But the US is objectively immoral. Everything else can be a wash, but that is an objective fact…

And you wonder whether the intellectual architects who thought this up ever bothered to check for the continuity of holding such a notion. Or whether every professor who regurgitates this drivel hears themselves, or examines the ramifications of holding such a stupid belief.

And the truth of the matter is that, there is very little sense of self-awareness on the Left. The math works out in their head, because they just have to espouse what is idyllic, have good intentions, and that's it! As Thomas Sowell has pointed out, this allows them to forgo consideration of the ramifications of their policy prescription, as it is a form of "Stage 1 Thinking." So long as there is a right-wing scapegoat to blame for their policy failures, they can double-down efforts and continue to "invest" in their failed ideas, and never feel shame or worry about the lives they inadvertently affect for the worse, because "they meant well." And in the religion of Leftism, that's all that matters.

There is never a formal apology given to those whose lives they ruin. Never.

RE: Let me get this straight

So, Dave--

Is this how you liberals show your non-hate-filled compassion for those with whom you disagree?

Party of hate?

Your comment, Dave, should be placed in a museum as a perfect example of liberal projection.

Your comment is a living example of how liberals weasel out of any kind of intellectually-based defense of their views. Any point of view that disagrees with your own MUST be bred of hate and is made by a hater. No challenge nor argument based on fact, no bolstering one's own argument based on merit. Just dismiss any opposing views as ones of hate and be done with it. So clean, so easy, isn't it?

Not to mention the epitome of intellectual sloth.

The irony of all this, of course, being that progressive culture is steeped in the veritable hate that you claim to despise.

The way conservative people of color, such as Clarence Thomas, Thomas Sowell, Condoleeza Rice and other conservative minorities are treated by the 'oh, so tolerant' progressives would make a Klansman blush. You champion women's rights by celebrating the killing of their innocent offspring. You claim to champion free speech, yet instead of constructing an argument based on merit, you shut down others' speech by hurling epithets, creating boycotts, or engaging in character assassinations.

You, and those of your ilk, are the REAL haters.

The next time you take fingers to keyboard to spew more boilerplate mindless talking points, take a good look in the mirror.

Help me get this straight

Dave Barnes,

So I'll play along with your tired memes about the "Party of Hate"

Which of your three groups elected:

1. ProGun Control REPUBLICAN and Obama embracing Gov. Chris Christie of NJ?

2. Pro Gay Marriage, Pro Cap and Trade Gov. REPUBLICAN Arnold Terminator in CA?

3. Pro Open Borders REPUBLICAN Gov. Jeb Bush in FLA?

As a bonus, I guess those racist Tea Party types in South Carolina didn't notice that REPUBLICAN Gov. Niki Haley wasn't a white man (just in case you didn't know Dave, she's of Indian descent). The racists hicks also allowed very black REPUBLICAN Tim Scott to be elevated to the Senate (guess that got slipped past those knuckle draggers too Dave). Did you notice Dave that dark skinned REPUBLICAN Gov. Jindahl of Louisiana is also of Indian descent. Finally Dave, the racists in the Republican party worked like hell to get Allen West re-elected in Florida. He's not white either Dave.

Finally Dave, those conservative evangelical primary voters really hate Israel and the Jews right? Wrong. They seem to like them a lot more than Mr. Obama.

C'mon Dave, time to retire your old cut and paste material about Republicans.

Now, I can agree Dave, that if the Republican party doesn't ditch the mealy mouthed Christies, Roves, Bush and McCain types, they will go the way of the Whigs.

Major Strategy Mistake

Mr. Kotkin makes some insightful comments. But I am disappointed in them because, he's still using the old 1960's template to categorize "America".
It's a shame that the Republicans are committing the same mistake as Mr. Kotkin.
There are NO "progressives" in the United States, anymore.
It used to be that the GOP represented "Progress" and the Democrats represented "Status Quo". But no more.
The Democrats still represent "Status Quo", and the Repubs now attempt to represent "Better Status Quo".
Both Ruling Parties are stuck in a race to the past....the "Good Ole Days".
The only signifigant change in US demographics is this: The US has irreversibly changed from a "rural" society to an "urban" society. The past two elections have shown that the "suburban" types have given up on the Bush Era Republican "rural" philosophy and allied with the Kennedy Era Democrat "urban" philosophy.......
White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, whatever......these are all just "divide and conquer" classifications designed to create weak "special interest" groups that can never hope to achieve anything constructive or even remotely "progressive".
If the Repubs ever hope to win another national election they must reject the "House of Bush" and re-emphisize "United We Stand-Divided We Fall".

the governing class

You avoid the biggest class issue: The governing class vs. the rest. The simmering anger against government employees and their fierce grab for limited dollars is palpable. This selfish approach has defined downward our quality of life, whether we are poor or rich, D or R. Boomtown DC and boomtown Sacramento vs. the rest of us.

Republicans are already class warriors - on the wrong side.

Those aren't Democrats looking to gut Dodd-Frank and blocking Richard Cordray's nomination at the CFSC.

Is Kotkin joking?

It was not that long ago that Democrats assured us that unless the GOP embraced a pro-abortion position it would cease to exist. The GOP was also advised to make its peace with ObamaCare, line up behind gun control, give up its support of a strong national defense, and embrace the welfare state. Now Kotkin tells Republicans they are doomed unless they give in to amnesty for illegal aliens (favored by a weird alliance of big business and racist Democrat groups) and gay/lesbian marriage. With friends like these....

If the GOP follows Kotkin's advice they will richly deserve the drubbing they will get at the polls. Republicans cannot outflank Democrats on the Far Left - period. The amnesty/homosexual debate is a diversion that seeks to obscure the fact that Democrats have screwed up the economy big time, and the US is now a punching bag for Islamic terrorists around the world. Don't fall for this smoke-and-mirrors trick.

As long as Republican

As long as Republican policies are tax breaks for plutocrats and savage benefit cuts for the poorest citizens, there can be no doubt about which side the R's have chosen in class warfare, Plutocrats Uber Alles.
"Messaging" will make no difference as long as the fundamental policies serve only the class that has been vacuuming up all the US wealth, while the 99% get ground into the dirt.
Bobby Jindal lambasted "stupid" but proposed replacing progressive income tax with a sales tax that transfers the tax burden from those with the most resources to the lowest income quintile. Reverse Robin Hood policies that take from the poor to give to the rich are true class warfare, and like Buffet said, his class has been winning the class warfare for decades. Counting on Republicans to reverse the inequality that their policies have created is moronic.