Political Animal

PLAN? WHAT PLAN?….Patrick Ruffini reports

PLAN? WHAT PLAN?….Patrick Ruffini reports that a poll by Public Opinion Strategies shows that the Bush economic plan is preferred to the Democratic plan by 51%-41%.

I’ve got one question: do they really expect us to believe that 92% of the electorate has an opinion on this? That 92% of the electorate has even heard of Bush’s economic plan, let alone that the Democrats have a competing plan?

CLASS WARFARE….There’s been a fair

CLASS WARFARE….There’s been a fair amount of comment about David Brooks’ op-ed in the New York Times yesterday in which he says Democrats should give up complaining about tax cuts for the rich. The most popular quote, of course, was this one:

Nineteen percent of Americans say they are in the richest 1 percent and a further 20 percent expect to be someday. So right away you have 39 percent of Americans who thought that when Mr. Gore savaged a plan that favored the top 1 percent, he was taking a direct shot at them.

But I think his summary paragraph is more important:

[Democratic presidential candidates] haven’t learned what Franklin and Teddy Roosevelt and even Bill Clinton knew: that you can run against rich people, but only those who have betrayed the ideal of fair competition.

I don’t have any cosmic argument to make here, but my gut tells me that he’s right. Even in 1920, when there were lots of poor people ? and they were really poor back then ? it only occasionally worked to explicitly run against the rich. And sure, during the Depression it worked, but if it takes 25% unemployment to get people to respond to this message, it’s not going to work any time in the near future.

A common suggestion among liberal bloggers is that we should use actual numbers instead of percentages. Tell those people who make $50,000 a year that they aren’t in the top 1% and aren’t going to get there any time soon: they’ll have to make $400,000 a year before they have that honor. That ought to get their attention!

Maybe, and I imagine it’s better than saying “top 1%,” but I think it still misses the point. Brooks is right: fighting for social and economic policies that level the playing field may be the right thing to do, but we won’t get it by explicitly appealing to resentment of the rich. That resentment just isn’t very intense unless people feel that there’s some fundamental unfairness at work, and shooting the messenger won’t change that.

For example: fighting to raise the minimum wage is good politics, but charts showing how the minimum wage has declined over time won’t do the trick. Unfairness, however might: those CEOs have given themselves whopping pay raises, but they greedily refuse to share the good times with the hardworking folks at the bottom who make their companies run! It’s cheating and unfairness that will get people riled up, not richness by itself.

Maybe that will work, maybe it won’t. But complaining about the “richest 1%” looks more and more like an electoral loser to me.

POSTSCRIPT: Here’s an article by Brooks from The Atlantic last November that expands on his idea.


SAUDI ARABIA: FRIEND OR FOE?….Saudi Arabia gets a lot of grief in the blogosphere, and the cause isn’t hard to pinpoint: 15 Saudi nationals were part of 9/11, al-Qaeda continues to flourish in the Kingdom, and state-supported Wahhabi schools in Saudi Arabia preach a virulent blend of nationalism, fundamentalist Islam, and hatred toward Jews and the West.

So it’s worthwhile to take a deep breath once in a while and remind ourselves that the Saudi monarchy has also been pretty steadfast in its support of the U.S., even when it finds itself under considerable pressure from other Arab countries. Clyde Prestowitz makes the case for Saudi Arabia here.

POSITIVELY CHURCHILLIAN….Nope, no negotiation with

POSITIVELY CHURCHILLIAN….Nope, no negotiation with Korea. Well, talks maybe, but no negotiation. But definitely no aid, no no no. Oh heck, maybe a little bit of aid:

“We know there are energy problems in North Korea. Once we get beyond the nuclear problems, there may be an opportunity with the United States, with private investors, or with other countries to help North Korea in the energy area,” Kelly said in response to a reporter’s question at a news conference in Seoul.

“Private investors”? Who are these altruistic private investors who are going to ship fuel oil to Kim Jong-il?

The Bushies sure have had a steady hand on the tiller during this whole Korea deal, haven’t they? Remember when Winston Churchill said:

We will never parley; we will never negotiate with Hitler or any of his gang. We shall fight him by land; we shall fight him by sea; we shall fight him in the air, until, with God’s help, we have rid the earth of his shadow and liberated its people from his yoke.

See, the difference is that he actually meant it. But with the Bushies it’s always just about playacting, and someday it’s going to catch up to them.