Bernstein wants to know why Democrats don't engage in more class warfare:
Polls pretty clearly show that, at least in the abstract, people love soak-the-rich tax policies. So why don't Democrats run on them? Even if Democrats actually believe that soak-the-rich is bad policy (do they?), one would think that they would be inclined to run on the issue, and then trade it away or ignore it after the election. Of course, quite a few individual Democrats do run on this issue, and Obama's policy positions in 2008 were in that direction, although at least as I heard it his rhetoric really wasn't. And it's not as if Democrats are too principled to demagogue an issue, as they've proved in cases from Social Security to trade. So: why not more bash-the-rich rhetoric in support of soak-the-rich tax policy? Is there something in the polls beyond the basic numbers? Are Dems gunshy about it because of some prior experience? Any ideas?
It's just not American to bash the successful. It goes against the grain. What does make sense, I believe, is what Obama has said: that even those of us who oppose progressive taxation in principle have to come to terms with the real and troubling rise of deep social inequality and the strain on the middle class. A Tory will worry about this; a libertarian fanatic won't. A Tory libertarian like me is hopelessly conflicted.
But Obama genuinely persuaded me for the first time in my life that a little redistribution would not be the worst thing in the world in our current circumstances. And the fiscal need for more stability is so profound I have few qualms about returning to Clinton-era tax rates. He persuaded me by eschewing class warfare rhetoric and speaking of the need to keep America as one nation, to acknowledge the real crisis facing the American working class in a globalized economy, and to redress an astonishing imbalance that has emerged in the last two decades. You can see this as class warfare I suppose. I prefer to think of it as a steadying of the ship of state by a tilt to the pragmatic and not ideological left.
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