Obama’s rebuttal to the ‘class warfare’ meme

Greg Sargent of the Washington Post posted a good analysis of Obama’s speech, making a couple of key points better than I did earlier today.

For one, Obama showed that he was well aware that any proposal to tax the wealthy would be labeled “class warfare.” He rebutted it directly, with the now-familiar story of Warren Buffet and secretary but also with this:

“We’re already hearing the usual defenders of these kinds of loopholes saying, ‘this is just class warfare.’ I reject the idea that asking a hedge fund manager to pay the same tax rate as a plumber or a teacher is class warfare. I think it’s just the right thing to do. I believe the American middle class, who’ve been pressured relentlesly for decades, believe it’s time that they were fought for as hard as the lobbyists and some lawmakers have fought to protect special treatment for billionaires and big corporations.”

Sargent also improved upon one common misconception in much of the instant analysis of the speech — the misconception that this is Obama playing to his base. True, the hard left has been frustrated with what they see as Obama’s excessive accommodations of the Repubs, negotiating against himself and then caving and all that stuff. And the Dem base seems very happy with the recent feistier version of Obama.

But insisting on tax increases for the wealthiest isn’t a left-only position. On the contrary, he has settled for the moment on a point with which independents and moderates also agree with him. If this turns out to be an important step in Obama’s political comeback, it will be because he decided to fight for something about which the left and the center agree.

If, as seems likely, Repubs feel they have to stand and fight against making rich people pay a penny more, they will have trouble broadening their base or moving to the middle next year.

I would add one more note. The term class warfare derives from socialism. When the Repubs play the rhetorical “class” card, it’s a not so subtle reminder of their claim — which is often made explicitly by Michele Bachmann and others — that Obamaism is socialism (a proposition that real socialists find pretty funny).

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Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 09/20/2011 - 04:55 pm.

    I’m not a socialist, nor do I play one on TV, but anyone who KNOWS anything about genuine socialism should, indeed, find claims from the right that Obama’s approach and programs are “socialism” to be amusing.

    Sad and intellectually bankrupt, but amusing, nonetheless.

  2. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 09/20/2011 - 05:08 pm.

    The campaign season has begun!

  3. Submitted by Colin Dunn on 09/20/2011 - 05:59 pm.

    It’s amusing until you hear it for the 50th time then it merely becomes annoying. The other day I had someone try to tell me that Obama is a true socialist. When I asked if he could prove that, he told me that an economist had studied Obama’s policies and decided that he was attempting to destroy the US’s economy in order to overthrow the capitalist system. he even gave me a pamphlet to read on the subject.

    How can you argue with logic like that?

  4. Submitted by Solly Johnson on 09/21/2011 - 05:50 am.

    After the assault on the middle class that began in the Reagan administration, we heard nothing about class warfare. Can you imagine the cries of the reactionaries if taxes on them were to be at the same level as half a century ago.
    As for socialism, international studies rate the socialistic democracies ahead of us in health care, honesty of business and government, education, care of the environment, etc. Of course, we hear nothing of these studies in the “liberal” media.

  5. Submitted by Kim Millman on 09/21/2011 - 08:24 am.

    As for Obama’s latest speech; blah, blah, blah! All words and intentionally no action. If he wanted to tackle any kind of serious issues and represent the people, instead of Wall Street, he would have picked different advisors and pushed through many types of legistation when he had a super majority. He would have fought when he was actually in the position and had the votes to get things done. And when he didn’t have the votes, he would have stared down the Republicans and fought anyway. But, instead he decided to be a Republican, until now it dawns on him that he can’t run in the Republican primary so he needs the base to get re-elected as a Democrat. Words, words, words and nothing more. Good luck Mr. President.

    My question to the Media and other elected Democrats is why are there no stories or op-eds in Minnesota connecting the Republican “class warfare” talking points to the Minnesota Republican property tax increase via the elimination of the homestead credit? I thought Republican were against any and all tax increases, no matter the form? Who is making it crystal clear that what they mean when they say no new taxes is no new taxes on their billionaire friends.

    Where is Vance Opperman’s op-ed about how “obnoxious” it is to tax one class of people; those with homes valued at less than $400,000? Oh Mr. Opperman where art thou with your Democratic class warfare talking points? Mr. Opperman your silence is deafening.

    Where is the Minnesota Tax Payers league calling out Republicans for raising taxes? Threatening to campaign against them? When’s the press conference?

    Oh elected Democrats where are you…where is the outrage about this duplicity?

  6. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/21/2011 - 08:58 am.

    To carry on with Kim’s (#5) train of thought, the problem with the democrats is their refusal to wage class warfare, not their initiation of it. If so frustrating to Democrats time and again respond with fear-based rhetoric. They’re afraid of being called socialists, their afraid of being accused of class warfare.

    The way to “respond” to class warfare accusations isn’t to deny the war is on… not only is it on, it’s a permanent feature of capitalism. The way to respond to class warfare is to acknowledge that Republicans have been throwing economic hand grenades into middle and lower class houses for decades. Democrats are afraid of class warfare arguments when they should be embracing them. Why? Because the wealthy are fantastically outnumbered, and the argument wins itself. Let the Republicans have the top 10% of the vote, you take the rest.

  7. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/21/2011 - 09:00 am.

    In other words, I (and most of us) don’t need Obama to rebut class warfare, we need him to fight it on our behalf… like FDR did.

  8. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/21/2011 - 11:46 am.

    “Can you imagine the cries of the reactionaries if taxes on them were to be at the same level as half a century ago.”

    Oh, I’m guessing those reactionaries would do what they always do…blame the revolutionary heroes of the proletariat.

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