For many decades, any politician who dared to fight for economic justice would be accused of “class war.” It was always a grim laughable accusation from rich elites, as well as their corporate media and elective officials. In the real world, class war – or whatever you want to call it – has always been an economic and political reality.
In recent decades, the class war in the United States has become increasingly crooked. The steady decline in union membership, the deterioration of income inequality and the erosion of the public sector are some of the results of ongoing attacks on social decency and countless human lives. The power of companies failed.
Now the billionaire class is worried. For the first time in memory, there is a real chance that the next president could threaten the existence of billionaires – or at least reduce their unconscious pace of capital accumulation – in a country and on a planet that causes so much human misery extreme economic inequalities.
In the early fall, when Bernie Sanders said, “I don’t think billionaires should exist,” many billionaires heard an existential threat. It was hardly a one-time comment; the Bernie 2020 campaign followed the national distribution of a bumper sticker with the text “Billionaires should not exist.”
When Elizabeth Warren is at a debate and argues for a targeted marginal tax on the astronomical empires, such a plea is anathema to those who believe that the only legitimate class war is being waged from above. In the early fall, CNBC reported that “Democratic donors on Wall Street and in large companies are preparing to end the fundraising cycle of the presidential campaign – or even support President Donald Trump – if Senator Elizabeth Warren wins the party’s nomination.”
As for Bernie Sanders, he wore every district in West Virginia four years ago against Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary. But last week West Virginia senator Joe Manchin, nominally a democrat, bluntly stated that if Sanders won the nomination, he would not vote for his party’s nominee against Trump in November 2020.
Some billionaires do not support Trump and others. But few billionaires have a good word to say about Sanders of Warren. And the pattern of billionaires who support their democratic rivals is enlightening.
“Dozens of US billionaires have taken out their checkbooks to support candidates involved in a wide-open struggle for the Democratic presidential nomination,” Forbes reported this summer. The dollar total of those donations given directly to a campaign (the federal law limits each to $ 2,800) is less important than the sentiment they reflect. And people with enormous wealth can dump hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars into a super PAC at the same time, which grassroots-dried AstroTurf candidate Joe Biden gave the green light last month.
The donations from billionaires to current Democratic candidates can be seen as a kind of Oligarchy Confidence Index, based on data from the Federal Election Commission. As reported by Forbes, Pete Buttigieg leads all candidates with 23 billionaire donors, followed by 18 for Cory Booker and 17 for Kamala Harris. Among the other candidates who qualified for the debate coming later this month, Biden has 13 billionaire donors and Amy Klobuchar has eight, followed by three for Warren and one for Tulsi Gabbard and Andrew Yang. Sanders has zero billionaire donors.
(The 10th candidate who qualified for the next debate, the self-financing billionaire Tom Steyer, is in a class alone. But with Michael Bloomberg’s possible late participation in the race, maybe not much longer.)
Meanwhile, Sanders and Warren rely on the contributions of small donors “eager bait, troll and bash billionaires on every occasion,” in the words of a recent news report about the Los Angeles Times. “They send donors to donors who brag about how much damage their plans would inflict on the portfolios of specific wealthy families and companies.”
The newspaper added: “Sanders claims that his wealth tax Amazon owner Jeff Bezos would cost $ 8.9 billion a year. He even defended a bill with the abbreviation BEZOS: The Stop Bad Employers by zeroing the Subsidies Act, would have forced Amazon and other large companies to pay the full cost of food vouchers and other benefits for their employees with the lowest wages. “
For extremely wealthy people who confuse assets with human value, the prospect of losing billions is a scandalous opportunity. And so, a few months ago, Facebook megamiljardair Mark Zuckerberg expressed his antipathy towards Warren during a meeting with employees. As a transcription of leaked audio makes clear, Warren’s vision of using antitrust laws to break Big Tech virtual monopolies was more than the head of Facebook could consider.
“But look,” said Zuckerberg, “at the end of the day, if someone is going to try to threaten something that is existential, you go to the mat and fight.”
The struggle that is now taking place for the Democratic presidential nomination largely comes down to class warfare. And the forces that have prevailed in the past are furious that they are currently dealing with so much progressive opposition. As Carl von Clausewitz remarked: “A victor is always a lover of peace.”