Democrats Wrong To Play Defense On Class Warfare

While the GOP has been attempting to get the whole “Obama as class warrior’ narrative to catch on for a few years now, it appears that the phrase ‘class warfare’ may finally be taking root in the public consciousness.

It’s about time.

On Sunday, the Republican Congressional leadership launched a concerted effort to sell the notion of the president fomenting class warfare by his insistence that wealthy Americans pay more in taxes to help bring down the nation’s debt obligations while financing the federal government.

Appearing on “Fox News Sunday”, GOP Budget Committee Chairman, Paul Ryan, had this to say –

Class warfare may make for good politics, but it makes for rotten economics. We don’t need a system that seeks to divide people. We don’t need a system that seeks to prey on people’s fear, envy and anxiety.

Since Ryan’s appearance – one echoed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell during his own Sunday morning talk show turn -the GOP has been using every opportunity to parrot the phrase.

In response, the Democrats have taken every chance presented to them to once again go on defense by rejecting the allegation. By so doing, they are completely forgoing the opportunity to acknowledge that there is most assuredly such a war, it’s been raging for decades, and it’s high time that people begin to focus on who is on the side of the rich and who is on the side of the middle class and the poor.

Considering that this war was launched in the mid-1970’s, when CEO’s decided that it no longer served their interest to continue paying their workers a fair wage, it’s difficult to understand how anyone could be shocked to learn that the middle class has been under attack since Jimmy Carter sat in the White House or be persuaded that, somehow, Barack Obama is responsible for its creation.

Back in the 1970’s, before the first shot was fired, the richest 1 percent of Americans earned 9 percent of the income. By 2007, that 1 percent was taking 23.5 percent of the money. The numbers are even more depressing when we add in the next 4 percent at the top of the income scale. Meanwhile, everyone else has been left to suffer stagnating household incomes.

What does the wealthy class have to do to make it any clearer that they’ve been fighting a war where the other side has not only done little to nothing to fight back but is incapable of acknowledging the war even exists?

With these being the rules of engagement, who can blame the GOP for trying to pin the tail on Obama?

Not only have the forces of the wealthy, under the capable direction of four star generals like Charles and David Koch, managed to have their way with relative ease, they’ve cleverly succeeded in convincing many of their victims to join in on their side.

Exhibit ‘A’ to support that reality would be the Tea Party, a collection of middle class people financed by the Koch brothers who have locked arms with their enemy without even knowing they have done so. By sounding a false alarm about the dangers of big government, the upper class has fooled these people into believing that laying down the only defenses they’ve ever had – government and unions-is the way to solve the problems that plague them.

With successes like this in hand, it’s no wonder that Republicans believe they can sell the notion that Obama is somehow responsible for trying to start a class war that has already been going on for decades.

And yet, rather than take advantage of the opportunity the GOP has presented, the Democrats have chosen to take the narrow, defensive position of protecting the president from the attacks without taking the proverbial bull by the horns and sounding the alert that it is time to join the battle and fight back.

Democrats will not get a better chance to do what they should have done years ago. Not only is it good politics in an election year, it is an obligation that they cannot continue, in good conscious, to pass up.

As the president likes to say, it’s a simple math.

If those tasked with fighting the political battles for the middle class continue to engage in political malpractice by refusing to stand up to the forces of the wealthy, others will take up the fight for them. But these warriors will fight the battle beyond the walls of the Capitol and the White House. They will replace floor fights in the House of Representatives to battles that will play out on the streets of our largest cities.

Is this really the way we want to see this war go?

Democrats who play the game on the national scene need to follow the lead of the courageous Democrats in states like Wisconsin- Democrats who were willing to engage in the fight to stop the advances of the wealthy class.

This week, the President set the tone. Now his party must stop playing defense and step up to the fight.

Rick Ungar

Rick Ungar is an attorney in Southern California and a frequent writer, speaker and consultant on health care policy and politics. He is a contributing writer at Forbes. Readers can reach him at rickungar [at] gmail [dot] com.