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'Class Warfare' and the Abbott-and-Costello Routine

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Recently I've been arguing that the Dems need to put forward a message to mainstream America that's based on SHARED American values to help awaken the American majority to the profound threat that this proto-fascist Bushite regime represents to our democratic heritage.

And as part of that, I've suggested that it seems that issues that "cast a shadow on the liberal-vs.-conservative dimension" are apparently unlikely to prove politically beneficial in this struggle against the Bushites-- partly because of the genius of Karl Rove in using such issues to tap into the dark and fearful side of the American psyche, partly because of the trance-state that many Americans remain caught up in, and partly because of the ineptitude and lack of effective moral passion on the part of the American opposition.

A few years ago I was more optimistic than I am now about the ripeness of the moment for speaking the truth about the unjust and exploitative nature of the Bushite domestic policies. Posted here below is a piece I wrote at that time, which appeared in the BALTIMORE SUN, in which I sensed a turning that, it now seems, did not get well realized.

I've also been suggesting in recent days that a proper strategy for awakening America requires a sequencing of issues and truths. In this sequencing, those issues and truths which Americans are most ready to hear are communicated first, and these in turn help create the basis for hearing others.

Perhaps, if it is true that there was a turning beginning a few years ago that has not advanced as I thought it might, it is because the voice of the Democratic opposition has been so weak in preparing the way for Americans to come to see what is so plain to anyone not mired in the Bushite trance. (John Edwards' "Two Americas" theme was a decent --albeit non-confrontational-- effort on this theme, however.)

And surely our corporate media have played a role in keeping this issue from ripening.

Here is that earlier piece, "'Class Warfare' and the Abbott-and-Costello Routine."


"Class Warfare" and the Abbott-and-Costello Routine
Andrew Bard Schmookler

It looks as though a long-running Abbott and Costello routine in American politics may finally be coming to an end. I hope so.

You know the routine-it's about "class warfare." The Republicans push through laws that enrich the rich. The Democrats protest the injustice of such policies. The Republicans then accuse the Democrats of waging "class warfare." Which forces the Democrats into impotent silence, until the next round.

Watching over the years how effectively this rhetorical strategy has worked to shield our "them that has, gets" politics has filled me with the same feeling of frustrated rage that I felt as a boy when I saw a brilliant Abbott-and-Costello routine in one of their films.

In it, as I recall, the two men are stranded on a desert island with no food-until Costello finds a bag of beans. Abbott argues successfully that, as the two of them are buddies -share and share alike-the beans should be divided between them.

Abbott then eats all his beans, while Costello slowly makes ready to enjoy his small trove of food. But before he can take his first bite, Abbott protests: how can it be that he has nothing to eat while Costello has all those beans? Aren't they buddies? Shouldn't the beans be divided?

Costello senses something's wrong, but the appeal to this ideal of buddies sharing silences his misgivings. So the beans are divided again, and again Abbott eats his share while Costello again prepares to eat his, and again is interrupted by Abbott's outraged protestations. Aren't we buddies, share and share alike?

And so it goes until they're down to the last bean, Abbott having eaten all the others, and then challenging Costello for half the remaining bean. If I remember correctly, Costello ends up throwing his last remaining bean-fragment away -still having eaten nothing-furious but bewildered.

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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)
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