On Christmas Day 240 years ago, Washington and his army crossed the Delaware; in sturdy craft called “Durham boats,” no less. They surprised the Hessian mercenaries in Trenton and won a battle that changed the direction of the Revolutionary War.
Hopefully on Nov. 8 Tarheels will defeat a different set of mercenaries and change the direction of a modern war: the class war.
Don’t believe there’s a class war? In the 35 years before Reaganomics, profits, productivity and wages all roughly doubled in value. But for the 35 years since 1980, wages for most working families have been stagnant. Yet profits and productivity still roughly doubled. I’m not a socialist, but that sounds like class war to me. Don’t like that term? I can suggest another one: “tyranny of the minority.”
The top 1 percent — and even the top 10 percent — has been doing quite well lately. They’ve amassed the vast majority of growth in income and wealth since 1980 and this despite the Republican Recession. (Both the Great Recession and the Great Depression were preceded respectively by six and 12 years of solid Republican governance. Coincidence? Or indictment?)
But to fight a class war or to enforce a tyranny-of-the-minority, you need mercenaries. Boots on the ground. The mercenaries I speak of are elected Republican legislators. Hard data indicates their primary responsibility is to the folks who write the big checks for their campaigns while paying lip service to the prejudicial interests of their voter base.
In North Carolina the Republican majority General Assembly marches in lock-step to support policies favored by the wealthy, but opposed by a large majority of Tarheels. Just a few examples:
68 percent of voters opposed plans to cut corporate and personal income taxes and raise sales taxes.
55 percent opposed cutting unemployment benefits.
61 percent of voters opposed ending the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit (64,000 veteran and military families depended on that credit).
That’s not all. Here are a few more examples of Republican mercenaries supporting a tyranny-of-the-minority:
59 percent of voters oppose the reduction in early voting days.
59 percent of voters want the districts drawn in a nonpartisan fashion (even 54 percent of Republicans support nonpartisan districts).
These minority policies help keep Republican mercenaries in power. They then cut programs that helped working families and small businesses and pass on the savings to the wealthy by way of tax cuts.
But you may be wondering how they can undermine average Tarheels and yet get re-elected. The N.C. GOP has been drawing votes by playing on the fears and prejudices of stressed voters. They promise — sometimes openly, sometimes quietly — to fight blacks, gays, transgender people and abortion doctors. All while knowing that the courts will overturn their bills.
In addition, race-based redistricting (aka Jim Crow 2.0) puts a rich man’s fat thumb on the electoral scales. Just one example: in 2012, 50.6 percent of voters backed Democratic candidates yet digital district designs delivered a 9-4 majority of U.S. House seats to the GOP.
Hopefully revolutionary Tarheel voters will throw these 21st century mercenaries out of office. That would be a Christmas worth waking up for.
Frank Hyman is a carpenter who has held two local elected offices in Durham and is the policy analyst for Southern Working Class Consulting.