Open Thread: Class Warfare's Failure

You would think given the utter failure that Democratic presidential campaigns have had with class warfare rhetoric--John Edwards, John Kerry, Al Gore, and Walter Mondale come to mind--that their strategists would have realized long ago that the politics of envy just don't work.

Unfortunately, however, that hasn't been the case, as President Obama has embraced with abandon attacks on his fellow Americans (while at the same time keeping an open door for the very richest to give and receive favors). This time around, class warfare is not working too well, either, as political analyst Michael Barone writes:

"A 2008 election widely regarded as heralding a shift toward the more government-friendly public sentiment of the New Deal and Great Society eras seems to have yielded just the reverse."

So writes William Galston, Brookings Institution scholar and deputy domestic adviser in the Clinton White House, in the New Republic. Galston, one of the smartest political and policy analysts around, has strong evidence for this conclusion.

He cites a recent Gallup poll showing that while 82 percent of Americans think it's extremely or very important to "grow and expand the economy" and 70 percent say it's similarly important to "increase equality of opportunity for people to get ahead," only 46 percent say it's important to "reduce the income and wealth gap between the rich and the poor," and 54 percent say this is only somewhat or not important.

In addition, by a 52 to 45 percent margin, Americans see the gap between the rich and the poor as an acceptable part of the economic system rather than a problem that needs to be fixed. In 1998, during the high-tech economic boom, Americans took the opposite view by the same margin.

As Galston notes, these findings suggest that Obama's much-praised speech at Osawatomie, Kan., decrying inequality, "may well reduce his chances of prevailing in a close race." Class warfare politics, as I have noted, hasn't produced a Democratic presidential victory in a long, long time.

The full discussion in the article is worth reading. It does

NB Staff
NB Staff