Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The social problem, er, issue, er, fabricated talking point

People are going ga-ga over Jim Webb's response to the SOTU from last night, and with good reason. I'll leave it up to you to check out why the left blogosphere loved it so much. I noticed one passage in particular, though, that hasn't received any attention (at least, not for the reasons I'm about to give). Here's Webb:
"Regarding the economic imbalance in our country, I am reminded of the situation President Theodore Roosevelt faced in the early days of the 20th century. America was then, as now, drifting apart along class lines. The so-called robber barons were unapologetically raking in a huge percentage of the national wealth. The dispossessed workers at the bottom were threatening revolt.

Roosevelt spoke strongly against these divisions. He told his fellow Republicans that they must set themselves "as resolutely against improper corporate influence on the one hand as against demagogy and mob rule on the other." And he did something about it."

Now this is all well and good from a strategic perspective. What could be a better example than a Republican President who intervened against big business? There's a bit of a historical disconnect here, however. Webb says that the dispossessed workers were threatening revolt. Who on earth is doing that now? More to the point, back at the turn of the century workers joined the IWW or the Socialist Party. Today for a populist like Jim Webb! Therefore, isn't his message a bit different? It's more like, "Meet my demands, Mr. President--I don't know how long I can hold them back." In actuality, any sort of class struggle in America is infinitely remote. If the lower and middle classes really feel they're getting screwed, they'll vote for the Democrats; but that's already happening anyway. Don't get me wrong, it's good that Webb and others are pushing for less inequality. But at the end of the day, their ultimate reason can only be, "Because it's fair." They can't point to a looming social crisis, because there is none.


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