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Democrats Should Advocate Trickle-Up Economics (REVIEW ESSAY)

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) March 24, 2013: Joan Walsh is probably most widely known for appearing on Bill O'Reilly's Fox TV show the "O'Reilly Factor" in 2009, not long after an anti-abortion zealot shot Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider in Kansas, as he was serving as an usher during Sunday services at his Lutheran church.

I would not have the courage to appear on O'Reilly's TV show under any circumstances. So I have to admire her courage in appearing on his TV show under the circumstances that preceded and led up to her appearance. Unfortunately for her, she thereby opened herself up not only to O'Reilly's verbal abuse, but also to a lot of verbal abuse afterward from other people as well.

As a side note, I want to mention that in a dozen or so places in her book Joan Walsh discusses the paleo-conservative Pat Buchanan, who is an American Catholic from an Irish American background, as are Bill O'Reilly and Joan Walsh herself.

But throughout her book WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH WHITE PEOPLE? WHY WE LONG FOR A GOLDEN AGE THAT NEVER WAS (2012; paperback edition 2013), Joan Walsh (born 1958) refers to herself and her family as "Irish Catholics," even though the people she is referring to did not live and do not live in Ireland, but in the United States. I have a problem with her way of speaking.

Even though both my paternal grandparents were immigrants from Ireland, I have always thought that Irish Catholics were people who lived in Ireland and who happened to be Catholics. But I'm an American (born 1944). I don't live in Ireland. As a result, I have enormous difficulty understanding anyone who is a citizen of the United States describing herself repeatedly as an "Irish Catholic" -- is she really so unacculturated in American culture that she sees herself as though she were born and raised and living in Ireland?

What's with her "Irish Catholic" shtick, eh? Why doesn't she refer to herself as an American Catholic, say, or as an Irish American? After all, we refer to Native Americans and African Americans.

In any event, she uses her "Irish Catholic" shtick repeatedly to claim that she comes from a white working class background, even though her father was a college-educated white-collar worker. (Disclosure: My father, a decorated World War II veteran, was not college-educated nor was he a white-collar worker. When I was growing up, both my father and my mother were Democrats.)

I am concerned about poor Americans and poverty in America, including the welfare of the white working class as well as other poor Americans who are not white. For this reason, I can relate to Joan Walsh's overall concern about the welfare of the white working class, provided that we do not overlook the welfare of other poor Americans who are not white.

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Joan Walsh makes one cogent observation that may be an under-statement about how Democrats fight against Republicans and the Republican party: "Democrats just don't fight as passionately or as viciously as Republicans" (page 164).

On the next page, she says, "Weak Democrats and street-fighting Republicans helped make [George W.] Bush president, but so did the ideologically rigid left. Proclaiming no difference between [Governor George W.] Bush and [Vice President Al] Gore, prominent lefties from Michael Moore to Susan Sarandon, Barbara Ehreneich to Cornel West campaigned for Ralph Nader in 2000" (page 165).

In the next paragraph, she continues: "The out-of-touch left helped elect Richard Nixon in 1968 and George W. Bush in 2000. My father would have been screaming" (page 165).

But Joan Walsh herself reports these and other sad points about Democratic in-fighting in a studiously dispassionate way.

Now, when Democrats fight among themselves, their viciousness toward one another does at times unfortunately resemble the viciousness of Republicans fighting among themselves -- trying to purge suspected liberal Republicans (so-called RINOs, Republicans in name only) from the Republican party. To a certain extent, Joan Walsh repeatedly calls attention to the viciousness of the in-fighting in the Democratic Party coalition.

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I know, I know, the party-line is the party-line, whether the political party is the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. In part, the processes of forging the party line for either political party will involve in-fighting that can easily become vicious. But if these two American political parties want to win elections, they need to be coalitions that can appeal to a broad enough spectrum of American voters to win the elections, not just to voters who are ideological purists of the left or of the right.

Moreover, when it comes to public debate between Democrats and Republicans about political issues, arguably, Democrats should be commended for not being as vicious as Republicans in the Republican noise machine typically are. American political debate is not enriched by vicious Republicans such as Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter.

Nevertheless, when Democrats set out to fight Republicans, both Democratic candidates running for office and their Democratic supporters often do not seem to fight as passionately for their political issues as their opponents usually fight for theirs. For example, Republicans denouncing so-called big government sound and come across as passionate. But Democrats do not seem to muster as passionate a defense of government and the necessary roles it plays in running our lives.

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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