Below is the transcript of a speech David Horowitz recently delivered at the Americans for Prosperity Defending the American Dream Summit in Orlando, Florida.
I’m pleased to be here. I want to thank Tim Phillips for inviting me to this gathering, and the Koch brothers for organizing it. Most of you probably know that I grew up in a Communist family and had a misspent youth as a Marxist leader of the New Left in the 1960s. In later years, when I reflected on the damage our “revolution” had inflicted on our country, I would ask myself, “Where was the ruling class? Why didn’t they defend the System from these modern day Luddites and America haters? Why didn’t they expel us from the schools we tried to shut down? Why did they give us platforms to advance our agendas? What were they thinking?”
As the years progressed, and the radicals first infiltrated and then took over the Democratic Party, I found myself asking, “Where is the ruling class? Why don’t they see the threat this radicalized party is posing to their interests and the country’s? Why isn’t the ruling class mobilizing its resources to oppose an assault that is threatening the free market system and the very foundations of our democracy?”
And then, last year, I was invited to this event, and here you are. Except that I no longer believe there is a ruling class or that you are one. America is — as it has always been — a pluralistic society with competing centers of power. Moreover, as Jacob Laksin and I have shown in our book The New Leviathan the preponderance of political wealth is on the left, and has been put in the service of parties and causes that are anti-capitalist. As Jacob and I showed, progressive foundations engaged in political activities are more than 10 times wealthier than their conservative counterparts, and are able to deploy resources for political ends that are greater by far than even that.
Historically the movers of radical transformations have always been drawn from the ranks of the upper classes. The French Revolution was initiated by French aristocrats; Karl Marx was funded and promoted by a capitalist factory owner. And the Obama socialists who today threaten our way of life are swimming in wealth up to their eyeballs. The purpose of these observations is first to underscore how important you as creators of wealth are to the battle facing us; and second, how much catching up you have to do in order for us to prevail.
If the last five unhappy years have taught us anything, it is these two things: First, elections have consequences. The left’s last two electoral triumphs have already had a devastating impact on our nation and its future. America is now a great power in steep decline, a by-stander in world events, where once it shaped them. Our president is set on a course that actively encourages our enemies, weakens our friends and diminishes our military strength. At home his policies have impelled us towards national bankruptcy and constitutional disorder. And worse. Until the IRS and NSA scandals and Obamacare revealed the power that the Obama radicals are acquiring, I myself did not realize how close we were to the prospect of losing our democracy and actually becoming a totalitarian state. If you control all that information about individual lives and you have all that power over their finances and health, you can destroy any opposition and you do not need a secret police to enforce your will.
The second thing we have learned is something that everyone knows but no one wants to admit: well-designed character attacks can have a crucial impact on electoral outcomes; well-designed character attacks overpower well-crafted messages.
In the last election, Romney had a good message and an obvious one: Obama’s economic recovery has been a sorry failure; 23 million people still are jobless; many more are underemployed; if you want jobs and economic opportunities, support the job creators and innovators and deregulators.
But a critical majority of the voting public never heard Romney’s message. The reason? A $200 million smear campaign successfully portrayed him as a heartless job destroyer, a mouthpiece for the selfish rich, someone whose words you can’t trust.
What was the answer of Obama’s opponents to this killer attack? They didn’t have one. There was no $200 million campaign dedicated to destroying Obama’s credibility and undermining his message. Obama’s opponents didn’t have a message discrediting his character and neutralizing his attacks.
Would it have been difficult to do this? Obama is arguably the most brazen and compulsive liar ever to occupy the White House. He is an absentee executive — invisible at the budget negotiations in Washington and the withdrawal negotiations in Iraq, missing in crisis after crisis. While Egypt and Syria burn, he golfs. His endless dithering and misguided interventions in support of the Muslim Brotherhood have set the entire region aflame. Meanwhile, he and his wife carry on like French royalty, lavishing tens of millions of taxpayer funds on their family and dog while tens of millions of Americans suffer historic levels of deprivation because of the policies Obama put in place.
How is it possible that his opponents have not buried him under his own disasters? How did two successive presidential candidates, McCain and Romney, characterize this selfish, malicious leader — selling hope while delivering misery — as a “good man,” and someone who only lacked experience for the job? How about a moral conscience?
The answer is obvious to everyone but no one will say it out loud.
No one will confront Obama the way he deserves to be confronted because he is black. Actually he is half black, raised by whites and one Indonesian but no matter, since racist liberals have made the color of one’s skin decisive. It is because Obama is a minority that no one will hold him to a common standard; or confront him with what he has actually done. Any political consultant will tell you that you can’t. This is how race conscious and race-prejudiced our country has become.
This is why Republicans lose elections. Because what is true of Obama is true of the Democratic Party and the socialists generally. They present themselves as the party of minorities, whom they use as human shields whenever they are attacked, portraying their critics as indecent and racist. If we can’t hold Obama accountable, how can we hold any Democrat, any liberal or any socialist accountable? Because this is how they fight, and will do so until a counter-strategy is put in place.
My purpose in coming here today is to outline such a strategy, one that will take down the socialists at election time, and between election times, and defend the market-based democracy we all hold dear. Defend it when we are attacked as racist, insensitive and unfair. Which is how they will always attack us.
Their campaign narrative goes like this: We are the defenders of the underdog, and the champions of equality and fairness. If you attack us you attack minorities, women, children, and the poor. If you oppose us you are racists; you are the people who supported segregation and lynching. Kathleen Sebelius, Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, has actually said this about opponents of Obamacare, glossing over the fact that segregation, like slavery, was a Democratic Party platform.
To begin to devise a counter-strategy, to expose their hypocrisy and impugn their character and neutralize their attacks, you have to ask yourself this question: How is it that Democrats liberals and socialists can pose as defenders of the poor?
Obama has created more poor people than all the presidents since World War II put together. Today, forty-seven million Americans are on food stamps and 100 million on government handouts. In Democrat monopolies like Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Washingon DC and a dozen other major urban blight areas, liberal socialists have damaged and destroyed the lives of more African Americans than all the Republicans since the creation of the Republic. Yet every four years – and in between – they are able to persuade voters thatthey are defenders of minorities and the poor.
How do they do it? Not by actually helping minorities and the poor, but by attacking the rich. They portray rich people as the enemies of minorities and the poor who refuse to pay their fare share. They demonize wealth. That is what allows them to pretend they are friends of the poor.
Conservatives often fail to appreciate the cynical basis of the attacks on them. Conservatives are earnest – too earnest. They aim their messages at the head instead of the heart. They appeal to reason instead of the emotions. That’s why they lose. Democrat socialists don’t actually hate rich people or believe they are oppressors of the poor. In fact Democrat socialists want to be rich. In fact they are rich. Just ask George Soros, Jon Corzine, Nancy Pelosi, Rahm Emanuel, Terry McAuliffe, Bill Clinton and the White House couple. They want to be filthy rich. As far as socialists are concerned rich people are ok — if they support the socialist agendas. It’s cynicism on steroids. It’s all about power. It’s a strategy to win. Attack the rich to show you are friends of the poor. And politically it works.
How can we who believe in individual rights and free markets fight this? How can we neutralize the slanders and show that we are the real defenders of minorities, the poor, the little guy, working Americans, the middle class? How can we turn the tables on them?
It’s not rocket science. You can counter their attacks by turning their guns around. You can neutralize them by fighting fire with fire.
In the real world, Democrat socialists have made the lives of poor Americans worse, much worse. You need to shove this fact in their faces every time you speak. Here is the reality: In every inner city of size in America, the selfish exploiters of the poor are liberals – what I am calling Democrat socialists;they are the ones who fatten themselves off the votes of minorities and the poor while blocking their opportunities for a better life, and throwing them crumbs in return.
Detroit is a city Democrat socialists have run as a political monopoly for 52 years. For twenty of those Detroit’s Democrat mayor, Coleman Young, was also a member of the Communist Party.
In 1961 before their rule, Detroit had the highest per capita income in the United States; Today, it is the poorest large city in all fifty states.
In 1960 Detroit was the fourth largest city in America with nearly 2 million inhabitants. Today two-thirds of Detroit’s population is gone. This human flight was the direct result of the government’s attacks on wealth and private companies, and on white people. It was a direct result of the rampant corruption among its political rulers and their draconian restrictions on what private individuals and entrepreneurs could do.
The city currently owes $14 billion in long-term debt, primarily driven by unfunded government union pension and retirement healthcare obligations.
Today Detroit’s median household income is $28,000 – slightly more than half the median income of the state of Michigan or the United States.
Nearly half of Detroit’s population is either unemployed or no longer looking for work. Its poverty level is 36 percent or more than twice that of the state level. Over a third of its inhabitants are on food stamps. Three out of every four of its children are born out of wedlock. A third of its school children don’t graduate and nearly half of those who do are functionally illiterate.
In one generation the Democrat socialists reduced America’s number one industrial city to the level of a third world nation.
Did I mention that eighty-two percent of Detroit’s population is African American?
This is a social atrocity committed by liberals and Democrat socialists against African Americans. If we spoke like they do, we would have no compunction about calling this the most appalling racist atrocity against African Americans since the passage of the Civil Rights Acts.
Now consider this: This historic assault on Detroit’s African American population was absent from all the speeches and all the political ads of all the actors supporting free market solutions in the 2012 elections. The word “Detroit” wasn’t mentioned.
This atrocity is not just being committed in Detroit. The government of every major inner city in America has been 100% controlled by Democrat socialists for the last fifty years. Everything that is wrong with America’s inner cities that policy can affect, liberals, Democrats and socialists are responsible for. They have their boot heels on the necks of poor black and Hispanic families. But we are all too polite to mention it.
Some Republicans have complained that Democrats win because they hand out goodies to minorities and the poor. Yes, they do. But the goodies they hand out are chump change compared to what they’ve destroyed for all Americans and especially for the poor. Would you rather live on food stamps and handouts or be able to pay for what you need and want? I don’t think there are many Americans who would have trouble making that choice.
So here’s the strategy, remembering that the best defense is a good offense:Attack the Democrat socialists for their wars against minorities and the poor. Expose their empty promises and question their character and undermine their message by portraying them as hypocrites who cannot be trusted. In attacking them as enemies of minorities and the poor we show that we care what happens to minorities and the poor. We put them on the defensive, and we neutralize their malicious and unfair attacks.
There is one more lesson to be learned from the last election: By well-placed attacks, we can change the story line of the national debate to our advantage.
Republicans planned to make the 2012 election about Obamacare, because there was a Republican landslide in 2010 around that issue. But two things happened on the way to the election that changed the subject. First, Romney picked Paul Ryan as his running mate so the details of Ryan’s plan to fix everything – including Medicare – became targets that were used to neutralize and divert the Republican attack.
Second, and far more importantly, a movement called Occupy Wall Street went on a rampage in American cities attacking the so-called 1% and the allegedly unfair distribution of wealth. Occupy Wall Street was a criminal mob supported by Obama and Pelosi, orchestrated and financed by the socialist government unions. Overnight, this changed the national debate from Obamacare to “fairness.” It cast anyone opposing more taxes as a selfish defender of the rich, and put Republicans on the defensive.
We don’t have the presidency, and we don’t have the union network or the national media to shift the debate to subjects that will give us that advantage. But we do have independent expenditure campaigns, and we do have the Tea Party grassroots to promote the message. And this is what the message should be:
They say we’re anti-woman because we don’t want to finance contraceptives for upper middle class academic women. Our answer to this attack should not be to argue about contraceptives, which will lose us a lot of single women votes. Our answer should be: After 5 years of Obama rule there are 16 million women on food stamps. Two out of every five single mothers are on food stamps. Under Obamacare family health care costs are about to skyrocket. This is Obama’s war on women.
They say we’re anti-Hispanic. After 5 years of Obama rule, there 8 million Hispanics on food stamps, and 20 million Hispanics who are unemployed or no longer looking for work. This is Obama’s war on minorities.
They say we don’t care about blacks. Look at America’s inner cities. They are run by Democrats and socialists and have been for fifty years. This is their war on African Americans and the poor.
And so on. As I said, it’s not rocket science. It’s about turning the guns around. It’s about having the moral fiber to do so.
Finally, I don’t want to leave you with the idea that campaigns are won on negatives alone. The negatives I have proposed are designed to blunt the opposition attacks and put them on the defensive. But people need hope, and are looking for change. These are basic elements of any campaign message. In crafting the message the positive elements should be designed so that they also dramatize the negative: how the opposition hurts minorities, working Americans and the poor. In opposing parties that oppress these underdog classes we demonstrate that we care about what happens to them. It’s a simple equation. But our side doesn’t get it yet.
Here’s one example of how it could be done:
Let’s take the education dollar that taxpayers now give to the bureaucrats who don’t care about their children, and give it back to the taxpayers. Let’s voucherize all the school systems in the country from kindergarten to college. Conservatives are always talking about abolishing the Department of Education. This is not the way to go about it. Voters will be told that conservatives are against education.
Instead of calling for the abolition of the Department of Education call for a fundamental change in its mission. Take its $50 billion or so budget and require that the money be spent on a voucher program for all Americans – from kindergarten through college. Let’s put the education dollars in the hands of every poor and middle class person in America. And let’s launch this effort with a $100 million TV ad campaign to tell Americans how the liberal socialists in every major urban school system have destroyed the lives of poor, mainly black and Hispanic children, who can’t afford the private schools that liberal legislators send their own kids to.
Let’s put hope in the hands of people who can’t afford to send their kids to schools that will teach them. Let’s change the way the educational economy works, so that individuals are empowered – not government – so that competition is restored and standards are raised. Let’s take the second biggest part of the government economy and return it to the people. Let’s create a model of the kind of society we want — a free market society, a society based on individual achievement, not government defined collectives.
This is just one possible campaign. Even if this particular campaign doesn’t win the first or second time around it will eventually change the perceptions of everyone in politics. We will no longer be seen as the defenders of the rich; we will be seen as the defenders of minorities and the poor; and our opponents will be seen as their oppressors. If campaigns like this are conducted in the right way they will change not only the way conservatives frame their message; they will change the political landscape of the country and the prospects for our nation’s future.
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