I frequently come across the annoying and in my opinion, baseless and non-constructive accusation (from conservatives and mainstream libertarians) that political liberals, progressives and democratic voters (and possibly by extension anyone else on the political left) are motivated by envy of the rich or some sort of hatred of their success. It comes off as though anyone to left of Ronald Reagan is just a hater, with uncontrollable jealousy issues, and that there is no other reason why anyone could possibly support the welfare state, or any other measures that are seemingly put in place to benefit the poor. Right wing types tell us it was this jealousy that was responsible for Mitt Romney’s loss, in the most recent presidential election.
As I indicated before I find this to be utter nonsense. To be clear, I am not saying that no political liberal, progressive or Obama voter has ever been motivated by jealousy. I am just saying I have yet to met one for whom, that appears to be the case, nor do I expect to. What I find instead is concern about the well being of people, who are poor and cannot provide for themselves for whatever reason, as well awareness of the higher quality of life in places with a usable welfare system. Furthermore rather than envy of the rich, what I find is people who are concerned about the rich using the state to further their own interest at the expense of everyone else. We live in an age of massive bailouts, pervasive tax loopholes, direct government subsidies and countless other interventions on behalf of the rich and powerful, and everything about the mainstream right (as well as much of the Democratic Party Establishment, for that matter) has given every indication that they will do everything to continue this trend. The Republican party is unambiguously plutocratic and the Democratic party, while often not much better, is frequently seen as the only viable alternative.
Then there is the issue of war and the surveilence state. The mainstream political right in this country has made it clear, that they have never met an opportunity for war they did not want to pursue. They also are unambiguously in favor of increasing the NSA’s surveilence state which is actively spying on Americans. Additionally they have made it abundantly clear, that they favor increasing the amount of money that is taken from us and put into hands of cronies in the weapons business. As such voting against the political right is often the most apparent means of self-defense, though it is hardly a good one, as Democrats when in office also tend to be just as bad when it comes to these things.
I’ll also mention that the mainstream right is horrible on social freedoms, not only are they vocally pro-surveillance state, many of there number want the government involved in promoting religion, regulating marriage, restricting abortion access (abortion is self-defense, as I argued in a previous post), restricting immigration and of course fighting a war on drugs that has given us the worlds biggest prison population. None of these things the republican establishment favors involves making the government smaller, and opposing these things hardly is a matter of jealousy.
Now as I have said, before in practice the Democrats are rarely better than the Republicans on most of these issues. Obama has largely served George Bush’s third when it comes to most issues. But because one party is so clearly war-loving, surveillance loving, plutocratic, and interested in cracking down are personal freedoms, it is understandable that many have turned to the only visible opposition available. As such for many being a liberal or a progressive is largely a means of self defense.
The whole right wing tendency to dismiss this as simply enviousness of the rich, strikes me as a reflection of the right’s plutocratic tendencies (they like to over look, the huge amounts of intervention that have benefited the richest Americans) and something akin to playground bullying: “you’re just jealous because we got all the money and you don’t”. It is hardly an endearing attitude, it trivializes important issues, and above all it is just childish.