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).