Sarah Whalen: Dick Cheney, Class Warrior

By Sarah Whalen

Will America really fight a war of religion lasting a hundred years?

U.S. President George W. Bush, battling record-breaking unpopularity ratings, suggested so last week: “This is like the ideological war of the 21st century…and our children and grandchildren will be faced with an unbelievable, chaotic and dangerous situation in the Middle East.”

But actions by Bush’s vice president, Dick Cheney, say something different—that the coming Hundred Years War is no war of religion. 

It’s a class war, and Cheney is a class warrior.

It’s a war of the rich against the not-so-rich and the poor.  It’s a war in which Neocon ideology—easily exposed as fatuous–is merely a subterfuge.

Is Cheney the chief Neocon ideologue?  Frankly, ideology has never been Cheney’s thing.

Cheney’s a different kind of smart.  Getting rich, staying rich, and making sure his children are rich is Cheney’s thing.

Cheney and his family will never truly be one of the truly rich–those Kennebunkport Yalies, “born with a silver foot” in their mouths-rich.  Cheney comes from the low end of Laramie by way of Minnesota, the son of a federal civil servant in the Soil Conservation Service in Caspar, Wyoming.  Both his parents were liberal Democrats, and his own father told him not to take his vote for granted when Cheney ran for local office.

Unlike many truly rich Americans, Cheney knows how the other half lives.

But Cheney also knows what frightens truly rich Americans, and it’s not al Qaeda or Iraqi insurgents.  The truly rich fear the working and middle classes—a voting bloc that might undo Republican policies of regressive taxation and more, should the Democrats ever find leadership.  The truly rich fear genuine democracy, genuine dissent, and genuine debate.

Cheney’s their class warrior.  He believes he can manipulate the working and middle classes.

His engine of elite class control is the Republican Party, which of course needs more than just the votes of the rich to keep control of the presidency, control of the House and Senate, and control of the federal courts and U.S. Supreme Court.

But for the first time in a long time, fear of stem cell research, abortion, and teaching evolution have failed to form a viable coalition to safeguard the coming midterm elections. The traditional Republican Party coalition has crumbled under divisions over immigration, the selling of America’s port authorities, FEMA’s Katrina failures, secret prisons and questions of torture, and the shocking lack of progress by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan.  How can the Republicans save this mess?

They have only the fear of terrorism to rally around.

It’s a trick Cheney’s used time and time again.  Bush’s presidency was tanking when 9/11 occurred.  Call Bush “the al Qaeda president.”  Even though Bush clearly lost the popular vote and his presidency’s first term’s legitimacy will always be in doubt, and even though he came across as inarticulate and ineffective, the new war on terror perked things right up for the radical right.

Cheney’s mission now is to rejuvenate the radical right by reframing the Iraq and Afghanistan insurgencies as a Muslim Holy War against Christians. 

Bush is not directly to blame for America’s current class war.  He’s a mere tool of the rich himself.  He’s a largely clueless, elitist pretender who came out of nowhere to win the presidency.  He benefited from the Clinton White House’s corruption, which made the fundamentally conservative working and middle classes vote Republican. 

Even Bush is being watchdogged by Cheney.

“I’m the decider!” Bush scolds the bemused press, while Cheney silently positions himself to become the most powerful—and richest–vice president in America’s history.

The middle and working classes would like to go back to the Democrats.  But have the Democrats given them anything worthwhile to return to?

The coming century may indeed be long.

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