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Members of the Trump administration are rarely honest — particularly when talking about the Democratic Party.
Heck, they even refuse to call it by the right name, instead relying on the tin-eared, half-witticism, insult “Democrat” Party.
That said, Vice President Mike Pence, perhaps the greatest enabler of President Donald Trump’s destructive behavior, got it right just before Christmas when he said Democrats “want to make rich people poorer and poor people more comfortable.”
He meant it as an insult, but accidentally spoke the truth of the compassion-driven policies that most Democrats support.
For the most part, the Democratic coalition favors capitalism with guardrails, a system that encourages entrepreneurs, innovators and small businesses while trying to limit inequalities in the system that allow a small number of people to become incredibly rich while the vast majority of folks struggle to hold onto the middle class.
Democrats want environmental regulations that fight global warming and keep our air and water clean.
And they want everyone — every single person — to have access to quality affordable health care (though how we achieve that goal is open for spirited debate).
And yes: Most Democrats want the rich to be a little poorer and poor people to be more comfortable — with enough food to eat, safe and effective schools for their kids, a warm place to live and the ability to see a doctor if they become ill.
But for once, accidentally, he got something right.
I couldn’t help but be reminded of a similar event, when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, flabbergasted by a woman with the gall to speak, made a similar declaration that captured the truth of that moment.
McConnell “defended” himself: “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”
In his simple utterance, he gave rise to a rallying cry that helped to motivate women across the country — tired of the sexism and misogyny of leaders like McConnell, Trump and Pence. And it was many of those same women who turned out on Election Day and handed Trump and Pence a landslide defeat.
Republicans in Washington, I believe, have three guiding principles: To loot the government for the wealthy and big business; to appoint conservative judges; and to hold on to power at all costs even if it means subverting democracy itself.
We’ve seen it unfold dramatically for the last four years.
And it helps to explain how — during a global, deadly pandemic — inequalities grew worse. It wasn’t a side effect of COVID-19. It’s the desired outcome of Republican policies.
According to USA Today, America’s 614 billionaires saw their wealth increase by nearly a trillion dollars ($931 billion) during just seven months while COVID-19 was wrecking the economy and pushing millions of Americans toward disaster.
Democrats don’t begrudge success. Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates have built business empires. Bezos owns one of the most important newspapers in the world, The Washington Post. Gates is a leader on global health and vaccines. Zuckerberg gave us Facebook (not sure if that’s a compliment or an insult).
No one — not a single person — is so smart, so inventive, so lucky that they should have personal wealth of $200 billion while millions go without enough food to eat or a safe, dry place to sleep.
Mike Pence was right. Democrats do want to make rich people poorer and poor people more comfortable. Guilty.
David Farmer is a public affairs, political and media consultant in Portland, where he lives with his wife and two children.