Our greatest liberal/progressive presidents were men of great wealth


A few months ago, the kidz at POLITICO Tiger Beat on The Potomac published one of their patented insider pieces on what the GOPropaganda Machine intends to do to Hillary Clinton in 2016. The GOP’s plan to turn Hillary into Mitt Romney:

HillaryForget about the Arkansas days, the small-bore scandals, her health care plan and most everything else from the 1990s. A consensus is forming within the Republican Party that the plan of attack against Hillary Clinton should be of a more recent vintage, rooted in her accumulation of wealth and designed to frame her as removed from the concerns of average Americans.

* * *

[I]nterviews with GOP consultants, party officials and the largest conservative super PACs point to an emerging narrative of a wealthy, out-of-touch candidate who plays by her own set of rules and lives in a world of private planes, chauffeured vehicles and million-dollar homes.

The out-of-touch plutocrat template is a familiar one: Democrats used it to devastating effect against Republican Mitt Romney in 2012.

Yadda, yadda, yadda. So what is this, the revenge of Willard “Mittens” Romney?

The New York Times reports that the GOP’s former master of the politics of personal destruction, Karl Rove, is fine tuning the GOPropaganda Machine’s attack ad strategy. The Best Way to Vilify Hillary Clinton? G.O.P. Spends Heavily to Test It:

Inside an office park here, about a dozen women gathered to watch a 30-second television spot that opened with Hillary Rodham Clinton looking well-coiffed and aristocratic, toasting champagne with her tuxedoed husband, the former president, against a golden-hued backdrop.

The ad then cut to Mrs. Clinton describing being “dead broke” when she and her husband left the White House, before a narrator intoned that Mrs. Clinton makes more money in a single speech, about $300,000, than an average family earns in five years.

The message hit a nerve. “She’s out of touch,” said one of the women, who works as a laundry attendant.

“Her reality is just so different than mine,” murmured another, as operatives from American Crossroads, a Republican “super PAC,” watched closely from behind a one-way mirror.

Greg Sargent of the Washington Post explains The problem with GOP attacks on Hillary as an out of touch elitist:

Later [today], Hillary Clinton will deliver the first in a series of speeches that will lay out her diagnosis of what has happened to the American economy and what she would do about it as president. According to a campaign official, Clinton will confirm that the overarching theme of these speeches will be this: “making sure the real incomes of everyday Americans are rising steadily and strongly is the defining economic challenge of our time.”

And so, which nominee truly represents the interests of working and middle class Americans will be one of the central battles of 2016 — whether they are defined as “everyday Americans,” or as “hard-working taxpayers,” as Scott Walker’s new announcement video puts it.

Republicans think they have hit on the ideal strategy to combat Clinton’s efforts in that regard: They will subject her to the Mitt Romney treatment. The New York Times’ Ashley Parker and Amy Chozick report that Karl Rove’s Crossroads group has convened focus groups designed to test the best ways of vilifying Clinton.

Chozick finds that Republicans are beside themselves with glee over Hillary’s recent claim that the Clintons were “dead broke” when they left the White House — they think it rivals Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” remark as powerful ammunition to portray her as “out of touch.” The “dead broke” remark will help Republicans portray a “gulf” between Clinton’s life and that of the “less affluent.”

But there’s a problem with this diagnosis: Voters my well evaluate attacks on the image and character of candidates through the prism of their actual policy proposals and the priorities that underlie them. Many Dems believe the attacks on Romney as an elitist plutocrat were successful not simply because of his manner and profile, but also because they resonated with public perceptions that his policy proposals actually would favor the wealthy.

David Axelrod, the chief strategist for Obama’s two presidential campaigns, arguably has a good sense of why the attacks on Romney worked. I asked him for comment on the GOP efforts to portray Clinton as out of touch, and he emailed:

The case against Romney as an out-touch, economic [elitist] worked because all the pieces fit — profile, policy and pronouncements. He helped us make the case every day. Hillary’s campaign clearly is focused on the middle class and meeting the challenges of inequality and the lack of mobility in today’s economy. It’s about honoring the value of work.

The Republicans may try and make a lifestyle case, but lifestyle is the least of it. It’s what you believe and where you propose to lead.

I would add what one would think is some obvious historical context that GOPropagandists appear to be overlooking. From among America’s 10 Richest Presidents, four of them were liberal/progressives who were seen as champions of everyday Americans, often opposed to the interests of their own wealthy elite privileged class.

Teddy Roosevelt was a “trust fund baby” born into a prominent wealthy New York family. His 235-acre estate, Sagamore Hill, sits on some of the most valuable real estate on Long Island. Teddy Roosevelt was the leader of the Progressive era, a “trust buster” who championed the rights of the “little man” with a Square Deal, and fought the “malefactors of great wealth” in his own economic class.

Teddy’s cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. also was born into a prominent wealthy New York family and inherited and married into wealth. FDR and his “New Deal” epitomized him as the champion of everyday Americans. As FDR said in his address at Madison Square Garden in 1936:

For twelve years this Nation was afflicted with hear-nothing, see-nothing, do-nothing Government. The Nation looked to Government but the Government looked away. Nine mocking years with the golden calf and three long years of the scourge! Nine crazy years at the ticker and three long years in the breadlines! Nine mad years of mirage and three long years of despair! Powerful influences strive today to restore that kind of government with its doctrine that that Government is best which is most indifferent.

For nearly four years you have had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up.

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace—business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred.

I should like to have it said of my first Administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second Administration that in it these forces met their master.

John F. Kennedy was a Boston Brahmin, born into great wealth. His father Joseph Kennedy was one of the wealthiest men in America and was the first chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. JFK began the process of ending racial apartheid segregation in America. His youthful optimism for America’s role in the world from the Peace Corps to the New Frontier to the NASA space program to go to the moon, inspired millions of Americans and millions of people around the world.

Kennedy’s successor in office, Lyndon Baines Johnson, acquired his wealth through various business enterprises, and accumulated 1,500 acres in Blanco County, Texas, which included his home, called the “Texas White House.” LBJ finished what JFK had started in ending racial apartheid segregation in America with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the 24th Amendment to the Constitution, and the Fair Housing Act of 1965. LBJ’s Great Society programs sought to address the work yet to be completed from FDR’s New Deal, with Medicare and Medicaid, and anti-poverty and education programs.

These presidents were all men of great wealth who nevertheless were champions of the hopes and dreams of “everyday Americans.” They frequently pursued policies opposed by the wealthy elite economic class to which they belonged. If Hillary Clinton follows in their footsteps, she too can aspire to be a great president.

The Clinton’s wealth was acquired after leaving the White House. They are what the blue bloods despise as being “New Money,” or Nouveau Riche, a pejorative used to describe the vulgarity and ostentation of the new-rich man and woman who lack the worldly experience and the system of values of “Old Money” and inherited wealth. To these blue blood wealthy elite Plutocrats, the Clintons will always be a caricature version of The Beverly Hillbillies from Arkansas.

This is the real animosity behind blue blood wealthy elite Plutocrats like Willard “Mittens” Romney and J.E.B.(!) Bush attacking the Clintons for their wealth. They are deemed not worthy of the “entitlement” to lord over their fellow American citizens that is the “birthright” of “Old Money” inherited wealth Plutocrats.


  1. “…through the prism of their actual policy proposals …”

    This usually isn’t a problem in voting since the majority of votes tend to run along Party lines. In the case of Hillary, almost everything is a wild card because of the deep, visceral reaction she evokes in people. She is either loved or hated…there is no middle ground for her. You can go back and analyze previous Presidents all you want, Hillary is unique. She has been in the public eye for so long that you had to live in a dark cave not to know about her and to have formulated an opinion.

    I think the Republicans are on the mark with the focus on the fortune she and Bill have accumulated since they left office. Generating wealth envy and resentment is still, sadly, an effective political ploy. Used very effectively by Democrats election after election it will be interesting to see how it plays AGAINST a Democrat for a change.

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