National Commentary

It’s the Economy, Fareed!

I usually find columnist and Sunday morning CNN politics show host Fareed Zakaria to be among the more astute and reliable commentators on current events available to a wide public audience. So it was with some disappointment that I read his recent, misguided column entitled, “It’s Not the Economy, Democrats.”

He drew the wrong conclusions from the Democracy Fund study of voters in the 2016 election which found, among other things, “The primary conflict structuring the two parties involves questions of national identity, race and morality.” It was not economic differences, but different attitudes on “immigrants, blacks and Muslims,” it noted, and the Republican voter perception that “people like me are on the decline.” Another study he cited noted the Republican voters’ penchant toward ”fears of cultural displacement and support for deporting undocumented immigrants.”

Given these differences, he suggested that Democrats need to dump any focus on a better economic message and instead do a better job to “convey to a broad section of Americans – rural, less educated, older, whiter – that they understand and respect their lives, their values and their worth.”

Their lives and their worth, perhaps, but their values? Didn’t the studies that Zakaria cited just conclude that their values are grounded in racism and xenophobia? Just how is one who opposes these “values” supposed to “respect” them?

Many more progressive-minded people in our society today know what this is all about. They, like me, grew up in the households of the ‘40s and ‘50s where racism and xenophobia were far more prevalent than today. When I was growing up, my parents weren’t outwardly racist, but quietly quite so. Any xenophobia also didn’t occupy their consciousness except when Sen. Joe McCarthy’s and the FBI’s anti-communist witch hunts made an accusation of “commie” the most heinous thing one could say about someone, whether a teacher or neighbor or public figure.

Today, like then, most Americans aren’t normally inclined to think of themselves as actively racist and xenophobic, except to the extent those otherwise dormant remnants of a cultural yesterday are called out by a relentless drumbeat of sinister voices and forces.

Such roots have always been there among much of the public to be exploited by the nation’s elites who view tactics of divide and conquer as the best way to dissemble and repress the general public’s efforts at better economic and social justice.

Those elites went into overdrive with the election of Barack Obama in 2008. They launched “grass-top” (phony “grass roots”) efforts funded and controlled from Washington, D.C. including groups like arch-right winger Dick Armey’s “Freedom Works,” and greater ideological and issue coordination among a national network of radio talk show hate mongers like Rush Limbaugh to tap the most agitated among those recently displaced by the Great Recession to call to the surface and act out their underlying prejudices. With the first African-American in the White House, the task was easier. The Tea Party was born of this.

No doubt, the Tea Party was and is the American One-Percent Elites’ Republican Party, a new and refreshed radical Jacobin wing. As these efforts were stoked, scores of more traditional Republican elected officials were run out of office and replaced with the disgusting legions now in Congress to press for ending entitlements like Social Security and Medicare, dismantling Obamacare and deregulating everything else.

This is the social phenomenon that pushed Trump into the White House. It owes its origins to the Elites’ orchestrated reaction to the election of Obama and relentless appeals to the lowest angels of human nature.

All the scions of the Republican establishment are to be blamed for this, even those who for reasons of personal distastes abhor President Trump. The neo-cons who so oppose him now were the very ones who saw to his rise: everyone of them who promoted Limbaugh and all the others even while personally offended by him, they did this.

So, what’s with the appeal to Democrats to “respect” these kind of “values?” None.

Zakaria admonished in his column to “stress the common elements that bind.” But what identifies that more than achieving a common economic agenda? Achieving that goal will terrify the elites the most


Nicholas Benton may be emailed at