Recently, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced her endorsement of Rep. Joseph Kennedy III in the Massachusetts Senate primary. Her decision came after what she called an “assault” on the Kennedy family by his opponent, incumbent and Green New Deal co-sponsor Ed Markey. Kennedy has accused Markey of “bullying” him and of “weaponizing” the Kennedy family history.
Some were surprised that a congressional leader who punishes others for endorsing primary challengers would do so herself, while others questioned the extent to which it’s possible for a 39-year-old congressman with a net worth of over $40 million to be bullied. But as an Ally to marginalized people like Kennedy, I applaud Pelosi’s endorsement. Markey and his army of trolls exemplify a sad but growing trend in this country: the dangerous and divisive targeting of People of Means.
For some unknowable reason, this trend started to gain momentum around 2008. It only got worse when Bernie Sanders emerged on the political scene, openly spewing anti-rich vitriol and emboldening anti-billionaire extremists. Insulting the rich, who prefer terms like People of Means or People of Wealth, is now disturbingly common, even normalized in left-leaning politics. Elon Musk, a prominent moneyed American, can hardly tweet anymore without being roasted by his social inferiors or investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission. When a moneyed couple from St. Louis exercised their right to bear arms near a recent Black Lives Matter march, they were taunted and memed so ferociously that they were driven straight into the arms of the Republican National Convention. When another Republican, Mike Bloomberg, ran for the Democratic nomination as a proud, openly-wealthy man, voters rejected him after being gaslit into examining his words, actions, and personality. Although the wealthy community is very encouraged by how the Democratic ticket shaped up, the message our nation sends to People of Means is clear: know your place, or you will be made fun of on websites.
Those of us who were born with fewer privileges must do the work of considering what it’s like to grow up wealthy in this country. Too few Americans understand what it means to be born, like Kennedy, into a family that actively fosters a reputation as literal American royalty. Imagine growing up as a target of anti-wealth hate speech, forced to listen over and over to the toxic insinuation that you got where you are not on merit, but because of the color of the spoon in your mouth. This is exactly the kind of behavior that is driving so many People of Wealth to retreat to their civil unrest bunkers in New Zealand.
Pelosi, who attained her position despite being the daughter of a congressman and governor, understands this struggle, but some Democrats need to Do Better. Does it make you uncomfortable to think that seats in our nation’s senate are handed out on the basis of how powerful your great uncle was? Sit with your discomfort! Think about what it feels like for a Person of Means to be called a “failson” or to be a young, vulnerable congressman whose Hamilton-themed fundraiser gets canceled by some of Theater Twitter’s most powerful cyberbullies. Educate yourself about systemic injustices like the discriminatory capital gains tax, designed specifically to target People of Wealth. Acquaint yourself with the rich tradition of Wealthy American literature, like the works of Ayn Rand or the New York Times opinion section.
If Ed Markey is going to openly criticize People of Wealth, how can he continue to call himself a Democrat? In this party, we listen to the wealthy, we prioritize them over progressives at our convention, and we try our damnedest to get every last member of the Kennedy family elected to something. At this time of heightened class conflict, I stand with Speaker Pelosi and Rep. Kennedy in urging my fellow Democrats to think long and hard about how we treat the rich. Hear them. Value them. Elect them. Then, shut the hell up and let them go on ruling us.