Stephen Moore: Class warfare isn’t working

| August 3 2012
Christopher Cook

Obama and the Democrats—following in the footsteps of well over a century of statists before them—have been deploying class warfare arguments to bolster their case for more spending, larger government, and their own reelection. But is it working?

In yesterday’s Diving Off the Tax Cliff, Moore argues that it is not, citing the tax vote as evidence:

We saw some bipartisanship at last on Wednesday when 19 House Democrats broke from their party leaders and voted for a one-year extension of the Bush tax cuts—even the ones for the rich. All but one Republican supported the measure.

The number of Democratic supporters was surprising, and Republicans I talked to were overjoyed. Democratic leaders had expected fewer than 10 defections. The Democrats who were most likely to vote for the tax cuts are in tough re-election races, which suggests that class warfare may not be the winning issue that President Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi think it is. By the way, the Democratic substitute bill—which has already passed the Democratic-controlled Senate and would extend the tax cuts only for households with earnings of less than $250,000—got clobbered, 257-170.

A recent Gallup poll may serve to bolster the claim that Americans simply don’t share these class warfare priorities, with increasing taxes on the “rich” coming in dead last among voters’ priorities.

On the other hand, some are arguing that Obama’s Bain (and other Romney-is-a-creepy-rich-dude) attacks are working where it matters most . . . in swing states:

That Quinnipiac poll suddenly becomes very worrisome if a guy as sharp as Trende thinks there might be something to it. Similarly, read the e-mail Bill Kristol got from a friend “with an excellent track record of reading election trends.” He makes a simple point: While it’s true Romney’s even with Obama in the national polls, it’s not true that he’s even with him in the far more important swing-state polls. (Silver has a chart illustrating this, in fact.) His theory is that the Bain attacks are working — not nationally, where comparatively few people are seeing them, but in areas that are being bombarded with tens of millions of dollars in ads. Perhaps not coincidentally, just today Romney hired a PR person for the exclusive purpose of answering the Bain critiques. That’s not to say Romney can’t make up the difference — conservatives will be carpet-bombing the swing states with ads soon enough — but the idea that he might be behind right now by a small but significant margin where it counts isn’t necessarily liberal media bias at work.

The truth is probably somewhere in between—lodged like a raspberry seed stuck annoyingly in one’s teeth—in the tragic fact of voter ignorance. (Note that I did not say “stupidity.”) Many people are simply ignorant of the best arguments for liberty and against class warfare. As Americans, most feel it in their bones—we believe in individualism and the free market as a part of our national character and psyche. On the other hand, we are susceptible to arguments about “unfairness” and “inequality,” especially in hard times. Thus, while Americans provide one of the least fertile fields for sowing class envy of any electorate on Earth, Obama’s attack ads will still have an impact with some.

That said, American “antibodies” in defense of liberty have been highly active since 2009. Moreover, national polls are showing Romney ahead, indicating a general Obama-fatigue among the electorate as a whole. At the end of the day, it seems (for the moment at least) like this will be a close race, and the best advice to the Romney campaign may be this:

When you start doing your ad blitz in swing states . . . make the better argument.

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