Jewish World Review Nov. 5, 2004 / 21 Mar-Cheshvan, 5765

Thomas Sowell

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The oldest fraud | Election frauds are nothing new and neither are political frauds in general. The oldest fraud is the belief that the political left is the party of the poor and the downtrodden.

The election results in California are only the latest evidence to give the lie to that belief. While the state as a whole went for Kerry, 55 percent versus 44 percent for Bush, the various counties ranged from 71 percent Bush to 83 percent Kerry. The most affluent counties were where Kerry had his strongest support.

In Marin County, where the average home price is $750,000, 73 percent of the votes went for Kerry. In Alameda County, where Berkeley is located, it was 74 percent Kerry. San Francisco, with the highest rents of any major city in the country, gave 83 percent of its votes to Kerry.

Out where ordinary people live, it was a different story. Thirty-six counties went for Bush versus 22 counties for Kerry, and usually by more balanced vote totals, though Bush went over 70 percent in less fashionable places like Lassen County and Modoc County. If you have never heard of them, there's a reason.

It was much the same story on the votes for Proposition 66, which would have limited the "three strikes" law that puts career criminals away for life. Affluent voters living insulated lives in places well removed from high-crime neighborhoods have the luxury of worrying about whether we are not being nice enough to hoodlums, criminals and terrorists.

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They don't like the "three strikes" law and want it weakened. While most California voters opposed any weakening of that law, a majority of the voters in the affluent and heavily pro-Kerry counties mentioned wanted us to stop being so mean to criminals.

This pattern is not confined to California and it is not new. There were limousine liberals before there were limousines. The same pattern applies when you go even further left on the political spectrum, to socialists and communists.

The British Labor Party's leader in the heyday of its socialist zealotry was Clement Attlee, who grew up in a large home with servants — and this was not the only home his family owned. Meanwhile, Margaret Thatcher's family ran a grocery store and lived upstairs over it.

While the British Labor Party was affiliated with labor unions, it was the affluent and the intellectuals in the party who had the most left-wing ideologies and the most unrealistic policies. In the years leading up to World War II, the Labor Party was for disarmament while Hitler was arming Germany to the teeth across the Channel.

Eventually, it was the labor union component of the party that insisted on some sanity, so that Britain could begin preparing to defend itself militarily — not a moment too soon.

When Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto, they were a couple of spoiled young men from rich families. All their talk about the working class was just talk, but it appealed to other such young men who liked heady talk.

As Engels himself put it, when the Communist group for whom the Manifesto was written was choosing delegates, "a working man was proposed for appearances sake, but those who proposed him voted for me." This may have been the first rigged election of the Communist movement but it was certainly not the last.

All sorts of modern extremist movements, such as the Weathermen in the United States or the Bader-Meinhof gang in Germany, have attracted a disproportionate number of the affluent in general and the intellectuals in particular.

Such people may speak in the name of the downtrodden but they themselves are often people who have time on their hands to nurse their pet notions about the world and their fancies about themselves as leaders of the poor, saviors of the environment or whatever happens to be the Big Deal du jour.

Osama bin Laden is not someone embittered by poverty. He is from a very rich family and has had both the time to nurse his resentments of the West and the money to organize terrorists to lash out in the only way that can give them any significance.

The belief that liberal, left-wing or extremist movements are for the poor may or may not be the biggest fraud but it is certainly the oldest.

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JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author of several books, including his latest, "Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One." (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.) To comment please click here.


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© 2004, Creators Syndicate