President Barack Obama warned of it, and he was castigated.
Rag-tag Occupy Wall Street protestors complained of it, and they were laughed off the streets.
It took Mitt Romney to articulate the truth in a way that Americans could understand it: A class war is in progress.
“There are 47 percent,” Romney said in a covertly videotaped meeting of contributors who attended a $50,000-a-plate fund raiser, “who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. … These are people who pay no income tax; 47 percent of Americans pay no income tax.”
“And so,” he continued, “my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
And in another part of his spiel, Romney even explained part of his strategy:
“I wind up talking about how the thing which I find most disappointing in this president is his attack of one America against another America, the division of America based on going after those who have been successful.”
It’s an incredible admission. After classifying as moochers the 47 percent whose income is too low to pay income tax, Romney reveals that his campaign strategy is to accuse Obama of class warfare.
Whether Romney actually believes what he said is not that important. What is more frightening is that he was saying what his contributors wanted to hear. Those contributors, and others like them, increasingly control both political parties and therefore the nation.
In the world of these contributors, the scorecard for human value is wealth.
They correctly recognize that the masses are dependent on them, both for their capital and their talent. They have lost sight of their dependence on the masses, on people who are consumers and laborers and — provided half a chance — future entrepreneurs.
The contributors are acutely aware, however, that the masses have latent political power. Through their votes, Americans control the laws that allow the contributors to accumulate their wealth. Americans, in theory, control the institutions and tax dollars that determine whether the poor and middle class have an opportunity to compete for market success.
Whether or not Romney buys into his contributors’ philosophy, his clumsy campaign has revealed it to the masses. He hinted at it in Israel, when — to the horror of Israelis and Palestinians alike — he attributed Israel’s comparative wealth to cultural superiority. He spotlighted the philosophy by choosing as a running mate a devotee of Ayn Rand, who preached the same class-superiority message relentlessly.
Forty percent of Alabamians have such low incomes that they pay no income tax. Most of the other 60 percent are busy convincing themselves that Romney’s words were about someone else. The fact is, though, that Alabama’s median wage is $22,711 per year, less than half the amount each contributor paid for one evening with Romney.
In a democracy, elitism is vulnerability. Accumulated wealth is subject to the whims of the far-more-numerous voters without significant wealth.
Romney alluded to the threat as he stood in the multimillion-dollar mansion owned by one of his supporters:
“I mean, there won’t be any houses like this if we stay on the road we’re on.”
There are remarkably few “houses like this” in Alabama, and the vast majority of Alabamians have no hope of obtaining one. The contributors are waging a class war, and they hope to seal their victory before opponents notice.
How can a tiny sliver of the population control the policies of a democratic nation filled with less successful people?
One of the contributors asked why he did not talk to voters more about the issues. Romney said voters could read about the issues in his book, but he did not believe the policy views expressed there would matter.
“A discussion of a whole series of important topics typically doesn’t win elections,” Romney said. “But advertising makes a difference. … And that’ll take money.”
This truism by Romney applies to both parties. Whatever their rhetoric, candidates increasingly will answer to those who can win them elections. They will answer to a financial elite that includes some who, comfortable in their cultural superiority, are happy to wage a class war.
And the poor people of Alabama will help them win it.