‘Going Nuclear’ on Class: The Democrats’ working-class disconnect.
As the closely contested presidential race enters the home stretch, both campaigns are trying to sway the few undecided voters and boost key, if uncertain, bases of support: white retirees or working class men for Mitt Romney, women and better-educated voters for Barack Obama.
The contest may hinge on the success of such narrow appeals, but, jousting aside, the core issues at stake in this election involve questions of class. Driven for decades by rich donors, big corporations and “movement conservatives” (like the Tea Partiers), the Republican Party has increasingly committed itself to an extreme anti-government, raw capitalist ideology. In reaction against Obama’s moderate liberalism—a return to pre-Bush tax rates for the rich and modest regulations of an out-of-control financial sector—Republicans want to consolidate the power of rich individuals and corporations while escalating the redistribution of wealth from the 99% to the 1%.
All elections revolve around class interests, but some—like Franklin Roosevelt’s Depression-era victories—do so more than others. In contrast, in the 1950s and 1960s, many big corporations and the mainstream of the Republican Party (but not Goldwater) grudgingly acquiesced to the New Deal legacy, making the elections less about class than about the Cold War, race and how much to expand the New Deal.
By the early 1970s, corporations—complemented by rich right-wing ideologues—began to organize in a more class-conscious way against the threat to their profits posed by unions and the movements of the ’60s. They built think tanks, lobbying operations and media organizations to advance both short-term policy goals and, in the long run, to politically “roll back the 20th century,” in the words of journalist William Greider. The conservative movement focused on the Republicans, but corporations and their PACs donated as well to Democrats, buying access and ultimately influencing policy.