Class Envy in the GOP

Meredith Turney
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Posted: Jun 01, 2010 9:27 AM

It’s rather ironic that in one of California’s most difficult economic periods, with the state facing a $20 billion deficit, this year’s statewide political races will be among the most expensive in California history. While many Californians are struggling to hang on to every dollar, and California’s official unemployment rate is 13%, millions of dollars are being poured into the campaigns of the men and women who think they can restore California’s prosperity.

Because California is such a large state—one of the top ten economies in the world, really the size of a small country—campaigning for statewide office can be incredibly expensive; on par with campaigning for president.

Rush Limbaugh

Of all the political parties, the Republican Party should support an individual’s use of their personal wealth to finance their campaign for public office. After all, Republicans believe in the free market and the ability to use one’s money as one sees fit. Republicans also support free speech, including the freedom to give political donations to whichever candidate one supports—as long as it is publicly disclosed.

But during the unprecedented spending spree in the GOP primaries for governor and senate, there’s been a disturbing grumbling coming from the candidates with leaner campaign coffers. Some of the candidates aren’t just sticking to the issues when attacking their opponents; they’re making their opponents’ personal wealth an issue.

Whenever someone is assailed for their personal wealth in order to evoke sympathy from the public for a political purpose, it’s called class envy or class warfare.

Class envy is an effective tool utilized by the Democrat Party to win the votes of those who believe they are owed more money by the wealthy. Most recently, John Edwards perfected this demagoguery with his “Two Americas” stump speech. But the Democrats are merely borrowing from the Communist playbook. It was the Communists who demonized the bourgeoisie, causing the proletariat to rise up and overthrow existing government.

Class envy is not a trivial matter; it’s a serious political weapon not to be trifled with. So it’s alarming to hear Republicans—members of the party most antithetical to Communism—using class envy to try and demonize wealthier Republicans.

If a millionaire used his or her freedom to earn their wealth, they should have the freedom to spend it however they see fit—even if it’s giving millions to their own campaign. Why on earth would Republicans, who champion the free market and liberty, disparage anyone who used capitalism and liberty to earn their money?

It’s almost amusing to hear the grumbling taking place in the gubernatorial campaign. Meg Whitman has dropped an eye-popping $71 million of her own wealth into her campaign—and that’s just for the primary. But while Steve Poizner complains about being outspent, he’s dropped $24 million of his own wealth into his campaign. Only in California could someone investing $24 million into a campaign complain about being the poor candidate.

In the Senate race, Carly Fiornia is clearly the wealthiest candidate, having invested $5.5 million in her primary campaign. Fiorina’s wealth has been made an issue in that race as well, with Chuck DeVore dubbing her a “self-funded dilettante.” On several occasions DeVore has brought up Fiorina’s wealth and accused her of trying to buy her victory.

I respect both Steve Poizner and Chuck DeVore. That’s why I find their comments so disturbing. Instead of attacking their fellow candidates’ personal wealth, they should simply acknowledge that Whitman and Fiorina have used their freedom and their talent to live the American Dream. If Whitman and Fiorina want to spend the money they worked hard to earn on their political campaigns, they’ve earned that right as well. End of story.

When it comes right down to it, every candidate should know that votes cannot be bought. Californians are notorious for rejecting wealthy candidates who invest heavily in their campaigns. Whitman and Fiorina’s donations to their campaigns are public knowledge, and that’s all that needs to be known.

If there’s one thing all Republicans should be united on, it’s supporting every American as they pursue unlimited success—including financial prosperity. Republican candidates, please stick to the issues facing California, not the class warfare of demonizing others’ personal wealth.