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Robert Reich: GOP’s divide-and-conquer strategy is backfiring!

For almost forty years Republicans have pursued a divide-and-conquer strategy intended to convince working-class whites that the poor were their enemies.

The big news is it’s starting to backfire.

Republicans told the working class that its hard-earned tax dollars were being siphoned off to pay for “welfare queens” (as Ronald Reagan decorously dubbed a black single woman on welfare) and other nefarious loafers. The poor were “them” — lazy, dependent on government handouts, and overwhelmingly black — in sharp contrast to “us,” who were working ever harder, proudly independent (even sending wives and mothers to work, in order to prop up family incomes dragged down by shrinking male paychecks), and white.

It was a cunning strategy designed to split the broad Democratic coalition that had supported the New Deal and Great Society, by using the cleavers of racial prejudice and economic anxiety. It also conveniently fueled resentment of government taxes and spending.

The strategy also served to distract attention from the real cause of the working class’s shrinking paychecks — corporations that were busily busting unions, outsourcing abroad, and replacing jobs with automated equipment and, subsequently, computers and robotics.

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