It’s become an article of faith among conservatives — and even some neutral commentators — that Obama’a newly aggressive populism and call for tax hikes on the rich is “class warfare,” a nakedly partisan play for the Democratic base that is divisively pitting one group of Americans against another.
Obama’s new tack is “anti-millionaire populism” from a “self-proclaimed class warrior,” laments Charles Krauthammer. “Pitting one group of Americans against another is not leadership,” adds John Boehner.
Frightful stuff indeed. But two new polls suggest that the American public isn’t buying it.
Fox News is out with a new poll that seems designed to gauge the public’s attitude towards Obama’s new posture. For those making the “class warfare” argument, these results won’t be encouraging:
Do you think Barack Obama’s political strategy for reelection is designed to bring people together with a hopeful message, or drive people apart with a partisan message?
Bring people together: 56
Drive people apart: 32
Even a majority of independents, 53 percent, and a big majority of moderates, 68 percent, say Obama is trying to “bring people together,” despite the question’s aggressive wording. Fifty eight percent of those over $50,000 say the same.
The only groups that say Obama is trying to “drive people apart” are Republicans (57 percent) conservatives (49 percent) and Tea Partyers (68 percent).
That’s not all. A new Washington Post poll also finds that a meager 29 percent say Obama is doing more to help the “have nots” than to help the “haves.” A plurality, 45 percent, say he’s treating both equally, and a plurality of independents, 46 percent, says the same. Meanwhile, a plurality of 47 percent overall also say Republicans are doing more to help the “haves.”
This polling all took place after Obama embarked on his new quest to sell his jobs plan and his call for tax hikes on the wealthy to the American people — and during a period in which the national debate over his alleged “class warfare” has been in full swing.
Obama has taken great pains to rebut the claim that his call for tax hikes on the rich is about envy and pitting the classes against one another, instead framing it as an argument about national unity and the social contract. As I’ve said before, there are plenty of reasons why the debate about taxes may not end up helping Obama and Dems politically in the long run. But it does seem increasingly clear that the public is open to his framing of the argument.
Yup: This is a very good debate for us to be having.