Of Populsim, Envy, and Identity

The debate last night showed Edwards and Huckabee getting ready to try to win the presidency on typical class-warfare, envy politics. Edwards is the worst, but he’s only being honest about his goals where his Democrat counterparts are being quiet. But Huckabee isn’t much better. Both are running on the notion that the middle class is being oppressed and that the government needs to “balance” the economy and classes. Central to both of their campaigns is the tenet that the “rich are getting richer” while the poor and middle class pay the price.

However good that is for votes, it’s not reality. As George Will points out:

Economist Stephen Rose, defining the middle class as households with annual incomes between $30,000 and $100,000, says a smaller percentage of Americans are in that category than in 1979 — because the percentage of Americans earning more than $100,000 has doubled from 12 to 24, while the percentage earning less than $30,000 is unchanged. “So,” Rose says, “the entire ‘decline’ of the middle class came from people moving up the income ladder.” Even as housing values declined in 2007, the net worth of households increased.

What I think both of these candidates have in common is the recognition that acknowledging prosperity for the country hurts them as politicians. After all, when you’re doing well and know it, who needs a politician to pick someone else’s pocket on your behalf?

Huckabee’s envy, populist politics is more insidious than Edwards’, though.  Whereas Edwards is simply a Marxist and easily identified as such, Huckabee is counting on his identity as a conservative Christian to really ratchet things up for his populist message. Huckabee is running on the platform that he should be the one to reform the federal government in order to facilitate “Christian Duty.”

Bruce Walker writes:

…as a Christian, Huckabee can be a witness to Christian behavior; he can exhort others to themselves become a witness to Christian behavior; but he cannot demand the enslavement of others to do those things which, as a Christian, he feels that he should do. The term “enslavement,” of course, is relative. Americans are comparatively free. But everything that Huckabee feels government should do requires a loss of freedom for every American. Moreover, Huckabee is not just asking for the greater enslavement of Christian Americans, but he is asking for the greater enslavement of all Americans. This is most un-Christian. Does my verdict sound extreme? Substitute “Rome” for “America” and substitute “publican” for “tax dollars.” […] Despite the ways in which Roman power could be used to improve the world, Christ never looked to Rome to bring paradise or earth or even to be the agent of doing good in this world.

Both Huckabee and Edwards share the same basic philosophy of government: use it to make everyone do what you think they should be doing.  Or to at least make everyone pay for those things.

What was really missing in last night’s debates, both Republican and Democrat, was a sense of individuality and freedom as the underpinning of what made our country great. The closest anyone came was Fred Thompson, but the fact is, I just don’t think many people are interested in hearing about personal responsibility (because that is what freedom means).

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