For the last several years, too many political debates have gone roughly like this:
A progressive pol points out the obvious, that wealth is getting too concentrated, and that the wealthy donors are controlling the political system as a means to accumulate still more wealth.
Then, conservatives, moderates and conservative-controlled news outlets cry in unison “Class warfare,” and “both sides do it.”
Then, the progressive politician timidly drops the subject, and agrees to their risk averse consultants’ demands that they henceforth sugar coat their campaign rhetoric.
This familiar scenario has played out hundreds of times over many decades, and that is why the United States now has the most unequal distribution of wealth of any advanced economy in the world.
Let that fact sink in for a moment. The home of the American dream now has the most unequal distribution of wealth of any advanced economy in the world. Is that really okay with us?
It’s not okay with South Dakota U.S. Senate candidate Rick Weiland. He looks to be a rare exception to the rule of political cowardice in the face of, gasp, “class warfare” accusations.
From the beginning, Weiland’s “Take It Back” campaign has been focused on battling the influence of big money. For instance, he has said that the first bill he will introduce in Congress will be a constitutional amendment to limit campaign donations and spending. The language of the amendment specifically calls out the need to limit the excessive influence of the wealthy.
This is not okay with the blog Constant Commoner, which is a more thoughtful than most conservative blog in South Dakota. In a piece titled “The Problem With Prairie Populism, Rick Weiland Style,” the Commoner recently shot this across candidate Weiland’s bow.
Where Weiland’s message is out-of-synch with reality is the way it lumps wealthy interests into some sort of monolithic, unified political juggernaut bent on making life miserable for ordinary Americans. This actually is way off the mark. The politics of big money simply don’t congeal that way. CNBC’s Robert Frank writes a nice critique and analysis of the study I reference and calls attention to the fact that for every right wing rich guy promoting schemes that Democrats abhor, there’s probably a wealthy leftie advocating the opposite. As Frank notes, for every Koch there’s a Buffett.
Historically, this is the point when progressive politicians would always obediently slink back to the mushy middle of American politics, like a scolded lapdog who had been caught pissing the Persian rug. But Weiland didn’t do that. Instead, he went right back onto the blogger’s home turf to politely but assertively call bullshit:
Warren Buffet understands big money’s total triumph in public argumentation perfectly when he says, “There’s class warfare all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
I’m sure Mr. Buffet has met Mr. Soros, and knows full well of the wide range of opinions within the billionaires club. But Mr. Buffet also understands the bottom line, and knows that the actual, factual distribution of wealth is the bottom line.
I agree with Warren Buffet. I believe the bottom line proves that the “big money” big foot against which I am campaigning hard not only exists, but is the fundamentally incorrect and unfair set of policy assumptions which must be slain before we can hope to right our course.
It is not true that the right to buy politicians is big monies free speech right.
It is not true that granting tax free status to offshore profits, and billionaires grand kids piggy banks, or bundling bad mortgages, helps spur productive economic growth.
The results of these untruths, propagated by our refusal to challenge the ascendant political myths of big money, are stunting our economy and defrauding our middle class.
Like Seymour’s plant in Little Shop of Horrors, their myths have been allowed to grow unchecked for far too long, and they must be pruned.
That is why I am campaigning against “big money.”
I’ve been waiting for a long time to see a courageous politician under pressure from the defenders of the status quo reply: “Class warfare? Hell yes I’m engaging in class warfare, on behalf of 99% of the rest of us!”
Today I saw it, and it was said exceptionally well. Weiland is not only an unapologetic “class warrior,” but his campaign carries the optimistic tone of a “happy warrior,” in the tradition of Minnesota’s happy warrior Hubert Humphrey.
Finally, here’s a gritty leader who has a strong enough spine to declare himself an unrepentant class warrior, and he’s doing it in a wicked tough environment – a deep red state versus a billionaire-backed conservative Governor. If progressives around the country don’t step up to financially support this kind of progressive eloquence and courage under political fire, and instead continue to fund the same old milquetoast timidity they have for decades, well, then they deserve what they have been getting from Congress.