Why Capitalism Thrives–and how it self-destructs

Open letter to Democrats running in Republican districts:
why not tell it like it is?

So, you’re behind in the polls and no one is giving you a chance. Why not do what you should have been doing all along? If you had been openly against NAFTA and subsequent free trade agreements—and clearly explained why—by now you would be getting support from many independent working Americans.

And if you had advocated giving tax breaks to those below $50,000 a year—and paying for it by raising taxes on those making over $120,000 a year—you would have gotten more of your middle and low income voters on your side. In other words, look at the realities of our society, tell the truth, and do what’s right.

Listen to Roosevelt

 In political campaigns Roosevelt did not feel he had to meet the Republicans half-way to get elected or reelected. He made no attempt to placate the demagogues of the day, nor did he feel he had to get the support of the dominant centers of wealth, power and influence. He knew they were his opponents and wanted him defeated. He openly recognized that they were “unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred.”

 In his 1936 State of the Union address, he enumerated the many things he had accomplished for working-class Americans, and for the improved health of the economy. Then he attacked his Republican opponents in no uncertain terms:

To be sure, in so doing, we have invited battle. We have earned the hatred of entrenched greed. The very nature of the problem that we faced made it necessary to drive some people from power and strictly to regulate others. I made that plain when I took the oath of office in March, 1933. I spoke of the practices of the unscrupulous money-changers who stood indicted in the court of public opinion. I spoke of the rulers of the exchanges of mankind’s goods, who failed through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence. I said that they had admitted their failure and had abdicated.

Abdicated? Yes, in 1933, but now with the passing of danger they forget their damaging admissions and withdraw their abdication. They seek the restoration of their selfish power. They offer to lead us back round the same old corner into the same old dreary street.

Can you imagine a modern Democrat with guts enough to say something like that? Today? In a State of the Union Address? I can’t either, and that’s why Democrats aren’t winning elections.

Or, Listen to Truman

When Truman campaigned for president in 1948, he beat a coalition of Republicans and rebellious conservative Democrats by asking voters:

How many times do you have to be hit on the head before you find out who’s hitting you?

Of course, he also answered the question and won the election, despite the common assumption that the electorate had been convinced that conservatives were good for the economy.

That same coalition had previously passed the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947 over President Truman’s veto. Taft-Hartley allowed states to pass “right-to-work” laws which made it almost impossible for unions to gain a foothold in them. The states that passed such laws were able to attract industry from those that didn’t by offering corporations a union-free environment, along with guaranteed low wages and terrible working conditions.

Truman also attacked Wall Street, and “the profiteers and the privileged class.”

Those Republicans are cold men…they want a return of the wall Street economic dictatorship…  [He then referred to them as] …selfish men who have always tried to skim the cream from our natural resources to satisfy their own greed.

Again, can you imagine any of today’s Democrats saying that?

NAFTA and free trade agreements

Guess what. This very same coalition that Truman defeated, Republicans and conservative Democrats, is doing it to the country again. NAFTA and subsequent trade agreements are today’s equivalent to the Taft-Hartley Bill of 1947. Except now, the strategy of pitting workers from different states against each other has been extended to the world “free market.”

Today’s voters have been conned into believing that it is a good idea to pit workers of the world against American workers, and someone needs to educate the public about what’s going on. (Guess what, most of the public knows it anyway—they’re just in denial—so it’ll be easy.)

 Of course, if you supported NAFTA and other free trade agreements, you’ve already made a serious mistake. I hope you at least supported strong regulations to protect the environment and workers’ rights. If, like the Republicans, you didn’t, you’ve lost one of the most powerful voter appeals you could have had.

Of course, as everyone now knows, trade agreements that protect workers’ rights aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. Countries in the developing world know full well that their power to attract American corporations is totally dependent upon the extent to which they can offer impoverished workers with no real protections. No matter what they agree to, their enforcement of worker protection agreements are cosmetic at best.

Someone has to start it

Hey, if you’re behind anyway, why not do what you should have been doing all along? Americans are almost desperate for someone to say out loud what most people are thinking. In a heavily gerrymandered Republican district your chances to win today are slim to none.

However, many of your middle and low income voters will decide that the economy is more important than a candidates’ religious preference, sexual orientation, race, or position on whether or not unqualified people should be able to buy armor piercing bullets. Even more of those in high income brackets, if they are objective and truly value our country’s future, will vote for you.

You’ll likely lose this election, but you’ll help pave the way for the next one by changing voter attitudes. Positive changes in the political environment sometimes are slow and hard to come by, but if no one starts the movement, it never happens.

And if your constituencies are mostly middle and low income voters—no matter how far behind you are—you can begin turning it around. Even those who are in the high income brackets, if they are objective and truly value our country’s future, will vote for you. And if not for you, maybe the next one.

Chuck Kelly

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