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The *real* third-rail of politics

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Message Markos (Dailykos) Moulitsas
by kos

Blogger One Drop makes a spot-on observation:

Don't let all of the blathering about which candidates are "elitist" or "out of touch" distract you from the real significance of "Bittergate." The issue isn't really that Obama talked about people who "cling" to guns or religion. The issue is that he got too close to the real Third Rail of politics

Social Security is not the Third Rail, no matter what the media tells you. No, the Third Rail is economic class. Try talking about income disparity in America, what do you get? "You're engaging in class warfare!" The same cries of protest are sounded whenever one suggests that the Bush tax cuts were mostly aimed at the wealthy, or that doing away with the estate tax was only beneficial to something like the top 1% of Americans. No, we musn't talk about the working class or the middle class getting a raw deal economically. In other words, we musn't criticize the real elites in this country, namely the wealthy and the politically connected.

Absofuckinglutely. That's why Jim Webb gave the political class palpitations when he wrote this in the WSJ shortly after winning, when the idiot pundit class was still proclaiming him a "conservative" Democrat.

The most important--and unfortunately the least debated--issue in politics today is our society's steady drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century. America's top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country. Few among them send their children to public schools; fewer still send their loved ones to fight our wars. They own most of our stocks, making the stock market an unreliable indicator of the economic health of working people. The top 1% now takes in an astounding 16% of national income, up from 8% in 1980. The tax codes protect them, just as they protect corporate America, through a vast system of loopholes [...]

This ever-widening divide is too often ignored or downplayed by its beneficiaries. A sense of entitlement has set in among elites, bordering on hubris. When I raised this issue with corporate leaders during the recent political campaign, I was met repeatedly with denials, and, from some, an overt lack of concern for those who are falling behind. A troubling arrogance is in the air among the nation's most fortunate. Some shrug off large-scale economic and social dislocations as the inevitable byproducts of the "rough road of capitalism." Others claim that it's the fault of the worker or the public education system, that the average American is simply not up to the international challenge, that our education system fails us, or that our workers have become spoiled by old notions of corporate paternalism [...]

More troubling is this: If it remains unchecked, this bifurcation of opportunities and advantages along class lines has the potential to bring a period of political unrest. Up to now, most American workers have simply been worried about their job prospects. Once they understand that there are (and were) clear alternatives to the policies that have dislocated careers and altered futures, they will demand more accountability from the leaders who have failed to protect their interests. The "Wal-Marting" of cheap consumer products brought in from places like China, and the easy money from low-interest home mortgage refinancing, have softened the blows in recent years. But the balance point is tipping in both cases, away from the consumer and away from our national interest.

Needless to say, even the idiot pundits dropped the "conservative Democrat" schtick after that piece, and follow-up performances on cable TV and radio reinforcing that point.

Webb is a rare breed in Congress -- one of the few elected officials who can make this sort of argument and not get purged into immediate irrelevancy by the political and media gatekeepers. Now, thanks to this "bitter" nonsense, Obama can make these arguments as well.

That's why this issue is a net positive for us. Sure, Clinton has chosen her side, and it's of the corporatist status quo. That's no surprise. There's a reason she's in the leadership of the DLC. She may think that economically distressed Americans are "optimistic" and "resilient" and oh-so freakin' happy to lose their jobs and face few economic opportunities. All she's had to do is throw in a nice dose of San Francisco bashing (you know, the place where those gays live!), and her message is now indistinguishable from John McCain or Sean Hannity.

Obama now has an opportunity to run with the issue of class, the third rail of American politics. It'll drive the elite mad, whether in the political or media establishments. It'll make him relevant in a world where many Americans have been ignored and pandered to with bullshit social issues.

Rather than lull the masses into submission with irrelevant pablum, we have a chance to wage a real debate about something of real substance. Clinton may not want to. The Republicans certainly don't want to. And let's not even talk about the elite. They fear it.

But the opportunity is certainly there.

crossposted from 

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