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Posted at 08:56 AM ET, 11/09/2011

The Morning Plum: A nation of `socialists’ and `class warriors’

* Big win in Ohio sends clear message about mood of country: Yesterday, voters in Ohio soundly repudiated a central goal of the conservative economic and ideological agenda, defeating Governor John Kasich’s law rolling back the bargaining rights of public employees by over 20 points, 61-39.

Today, a new Post poll finds that a majority of Americans wants government action to reduce inequality.

Think these things are related?

For context, consider this. Exactly one year ago, sweeping Republican victories across the country left many convinced that the public had delivered a clear mandate for conservative governance. One of the central targets would be the power of public unions — if those powers could be rolled back, labor’s irreversible decline would continue apace. Pundits confidently predicted that public employees everywhere would make easy public scapegoats amid our dire economic climate.

But it’s now clear that this confidence produced a serious misreading of the public mood, and led to an overreach that stirred a real and meaningful national backlash. While labor and Dems fell just short of victory in Wisconsin, the months-long feat of organizing there — and the public’s clear support for the public employee unions in Scott Walker’s crosshairs — can now be seen as the first stirrings of this backlash. Then came Occupy Wall Street, the Elizabeth Warren candidacy, and the renewed focus on inequality and the true nature of shared sacrifice — and, now, a stinging rebuke in Ohio to the conservative fiscal worldview.

* A nation of “socialists”: What does this tell us about the public mood? The right’s response to Warren’s simple plea for shared sacrifice, via tax increases on the wealthy, has been to scream “socialism” and “class warfare.”

But today’s Post poll finds, strikingly, that Americans agree with her: Sixty-one percent say the gap between the rich and the rest of us is larger than in the past. And, crucially:

Do you think the federal government should or should not pursue policies that try to reduce the gap between wealthy and less well-off Americans? Do you feel that way strongly or somewhat?
Should pursue 60
Should not pursue 35

There’s no denying that many polls show general hostility towards government and spending. But public opinion is volatile and in flux, and there’s simply no clear evidence that the conservative vision is carrying the day with the public. (Update: 43 percent strongly believe government should pursue such policies.)

* Kasich acknowledges he overreached: In an important concession, GOP Governor John Kasich copped to his own misreading of the public mood:

“It’s time to pause,” he said. “The people have spoken clearly.” When asked about the people’s message, Mr. Kasich said, “They might have said it was too much too soon.”

As I noted here yesterday, the significance of the win here is that it helps clarify that Republicans overread their Tea Party-infused 2010 mandate and that voters want our fiscal problems solved with genuine shared sacrifice.

* Ohio win may begin reshaping progressive politics: Karen White, a top official at the pivotal force behind the Ohio win, the National Education Association, explains to Ben Smith that what really produced yesterday’s big win was a relatively new type of coalition, of educators, other workers, and liberal groups.

And Smith adds: “the stirrings on the left this year are reshaping the way progressive politics operates in ways that, I think, haven’t all settled out yet.” More on this later...

* “Personhood” amendment defeated: Also, a measure to define a fertilized egg as a person went down to defeat in Mississppi. Aaron Blake and Rachel Weiner explain that this has national significance, too: “A successful election night for supporters was expected to rekindle the national debate over abortion, but the measure came up well short.”

* We don’t live in Tea Party Nation, after all: Steve Kornacki on why yesterday’s results contain troubling signs for national Tea Party conservatism.

* Occupy Wall Street emboldening organized labor: Related to all of the above: A nice Steven Greenhouse take on how the protests and resurgent populism are emboldening unions to mount new organizing efforts. And:

Organized labor is also seizing on the simplicity of the Occupy movement’s message, which criticizes the great wealth of the top 1 percent of Americans compared with the economic struggles of much of the bottom 99 percent. A memo that the A.F.L.-C.I.O. sent out last week recommended that unions use the Occupy message about inequality and the 99 percent far more in their communications with members, employers and voters.

* Mitt Romney shouldn’t bet on Iowa: Stephen Stromberg makes a smart case for why contesting Iowa would be bad for Mitt Romney — and even for the country.

* Mitch McConnell’s boundless cynicism: McConnell is again pushing the line that Obama wants the supercommittee to fail because it will step on his “storyline” that Republicans in Congress are denying Obama bipartisan support for political reasons.

In case you’re wondering where Obama might have gotten this daft idea, it just may have been from Mitch McConnell himself.

* Unbalanced coverage of health care rulings: In light of yesterday’s court ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act, Steve Benen continues to document the massive disparity in coverage of pro-ACA and anti-ACA rulings.

* Supercommittee GOPers pushing huge tax cut for rich: Relatedly, Bloomberg confirms what I reported here yesterday: Republicans on the supercommittee are offering a deal that would exchange $300 billion in revenue hikes for cutting the tax rate on top earners to 28 percent.

What this means: The GOP commitment to cutting taxes on the wealthy — when Dems and outside fiscal efforts are making the obvious case that any credible deficit reduction plan must include tax increases — just might complicate the quest for a grand bargain.

* Public prefers Dem supercommittee plan: A new National Journal poll finds that Americans prefer the Dem proposal to reduce the deficit to the GOP one, 49-44, again confirming that the public favors a mix of spenidng cuts and tax increases to solve our fiscal problems.

* And are Republicans ready to disavow Norquist? Even exchanging new revenues for huge tax cuts for the rich would violate Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge. Now, via Taegan Goddard, some Republicans appear ready to take their names off of Norquist’s list, and here’s the key nugget:

Some Republicans have disavowed the pledge not based on a dispute over its duration, but because they say it constrains their policy choices.

Gee, so pledging never to diverge from rigid ideological opposition to raising taxes under any and all circumstances makes it harder to make rational governing choices. Who woulda thunk it?

By  |  08:56 AM ET, 11/09/2011

 
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