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Mainstream Democrats and the punditocracy seem surprised and shocked to learn that nearly 60 percent of Americans support a top marginal rate of 70 percent on the ultra-rich. (Photo: Yuri Keegstra/Flickr/cc)

Mainstream Democrats and the punditocracy seem surprised and shocked to learn that nearly 60 percent of Americans support a top marginal rate of 70 percent on the ultra-rich. (Photo: Yuri Keegstra/Flickr/cc)

AOC’S 70 Percent Solution Shows US the Progressive Majority Has Been There All Along

But the Democrats aren’t interested in representing them

John Atcheson

On several occasions, now, progressive candidates have endorsed the idea that we should tax the rich more, in contrast to the Republicans who have been on a decades long mission to reduce taxes on the rich and corporations. Usually, pundits have reacted as if the progressives had lost their mind to advocate such a “radical” if not “communistic” idea.

And the Democratic mainstream typically shares the pundits’ incredulity.  In fact, when the Republicans started calling the progressives bad names, the Democratic Party went into a collective cringe, and tried to reign in the offending progressives.   

They should have learned from Bernie Sanders—the most popular politician in America—confronting the corporatists and conservatives was a better strategy than cringing from their name-calling.

 They should have learned from Bernie Sanders—the most popular politician in America—confronting the corporatists and conservatives was a better strategy than cringing from their name-calling.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the latest progressive to speak out in favor of taxing the wealthy, and predictably, the punditocracy pounced on her as if she was some naïve political ingenue, and just as predictably, many of the mainstream Democrats joined them.

As with Sanders, however, AOC didn’t go into a swoon when she was challenged on the idea that a 70 percent marginal rate could raise revenue needed to support a Green New Deal. In her 60 Minutes interview, when Anderson Cooper characterized her as “radical,” she said “… then call me radical.” When Scott Walker completely mischaracterized how marginal rates work in an attempt to discredit her, AOC took him on and destroyed him, rather than going into hiding. 

Her courage and conviction has proven to be a political asset, not a liability, as the corporate wing of the Democratic Party would have it.

But here’s the thing: after the 60 Minutes interview and AOC’s rebuttal of the assault by the forces of the status quo, mainstream Democrats and the punditocracy seem surprised and shocked to learn that nearly 60 percent of Americans support a top marginal rate of 70 percent on the ultra-rich.

Their surprise tells us why Democrats have been losing political ground, why Republicans dominate all three branches of government and most states, and why Americans are overwhelmingly cynical about politicians, government and the political process. 

Bottom line: the progressive majority has been there all along, but no one was willing to represent them, or champion progressive ideas.

Bottom line: the progressive majority has been there all along, but no one was willing to represent them, or champion progressive ideas.

A relatively recent article in The American Prospect cites polling by mainstream organizations like Pew and Gallup on a wide range of issues to show how overwhelmingly liberal Americans are when it comes to policy.  A few nuggets include:

  • 82 percent of Americans think wealthy people have too much power and influence in Washington.
  • 69 percent think large businesses have too much power and influence in Washington.
  • 82 percent of Americans think economic inequality is a “very big” (48 percent) or “moderately big” (34 percent) problem. Even 69 percent of Republicans share this view.
  • 66 percent of Americans think money and wealth should be distributed more evenly.
  • 78 percent of Americans say we need sweeping new laws to reduce the influence of money in politics.
  • 80 percent of Americans think some corporations don’t pay their fair share of taxes.
  • 78 percent think some wealthy people don’t pay their fair share of taxes.
  • 67 percent of Americans support lifting the cap on payroll taxes to require higher-income workers to pay Social Security taxes on all of their wages.
  • 76 percent of voters are “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about climate change.
  • 60 percent of registered voters favor “expanding Medicare to provide health insurance to every American.”

This level of support can be found for gun control, more humane immigration policies, increased minimum wages, tuition free college … on and on it goes.

So why is Trump president, and why do Republicans control much of the federal government and most of the states?

The short answer is because Democrats have ceded the debate to conservative corporatists, mostly because they’re as beholden to moneyed interests as the Republicans are.  And it’s not just politicians and the press.  The civil institutions we used to rely on to be watchdogs and counterweights to political, economic, and corporate power have been taken over by the elite establishment. As I point out in my latest book, over the last several decades, many unions, environmental groups, think tanks, foundations and not-for-profit public interest groups were headed by the establishment elites who often had little in common with the rank and file they purportedly represented.  In many cases they were run by the establishment elite and party mainstreamers and funded by the rich and corporations. 

With no one offering a counter narrative, three groups emerged in the electorate.  The less informed accepted lies, distortions and deceptions such as trickle-down, supply- side, government-as-the-problem, not the solution, and embraced conservativism. 

With no one offering a counter narrative, three groups emerged in the electorate.  The less informed accepted lies, distortions and deceptions such as trickle-down, supply- side, government-as-the-problem, not the solution, and embraced conservativism.  Others, witnessing the increasing disparity in power and wealth between them and the uber rich and corporations became enraged at the entire system, and focused their inchoate rage on the elites.  Many of these voted for Trump because he was one of the only politicians to channel their anger and alienation. Trump was, in essence, a way to toss a Molotov cocktail into the whole coopted system.  Still others were so turned off by the corrupt confederacy that had taken control of government that they simply stopped playing the political game.

That’s how Trump won, and why Republicans control most of government—even after the so-called blue wave of 2018.  As long as Democrats rely on Republican overreach to win, instead of embracing the progressive policies Americans favor, they will never be a majority party.

The reason party elites are gathered against candidates like Warren, Sanders and AOC in a confederacy of dunces is that they threaten to take away the elites’ hold on power and restore it to the people.

Ironically, the mainstream Democrats embrace of candidates like Biden, Booker, Gillibrand, Harris and O’Rourke – corporate centrists attempting to morph into progressives – will do more to keep Trump and the Republicans in power by stoking the cynicism and anger that now keeps them from the majority.  Anyone who doubts that, need only look to Hillary Clinton’s fate when she attempted a similar faux shift.

Yet Pelosi, Schumer, Hoyer et. al. continue to push centrist Pablum like paygo to an electorate hungry for radical change, in a world that needs radical change.


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John Atcheson

John Atcheson

John Atcheson, 1948-2020, was a long-time Common Dreams contributor, climate activist and author of, "A Being Darkly Wise, and a book on our fractured political landscape entitled, "WTF, America? How the US Went Off the Rails and How to Get It Back On Track". Follow him on Twitter @john_atcheson. John was tragically killed in a California car accident in January 2020.

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