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Posted at 09:14 AM ET, 10/27/2011

The Morning Plum

* Populism goes mainstream: Beyond whatever fate awaits Occupy Wall Street, one thing is now clear: Efforts to marginalize the critique of the current system that the protests embody — and the larger arguments about inequality and economic fairness that they have set in motion — as radical or extreme are proving a complete failure.

Polls are showing that pluralities or majorities agree with the protests — including the moderate voters who are supposed to be culturally alienated by outsized protest tactics. New Yorkers continue to embrace the protests. Dem candidates, refreshingly, are refusing to be frightened away by GOP efforts to tie them to the protesters’ excesses. Top shelf columnists are earnestly discussing the protests as an important phenomenon, regardless of their durability, and concluding that it’s time for a serious national conversation about inequality, economic justice, and what our failure to address these issues portends for the future. Obama advisers are claiming that they will be central to Campaign 2012.

And perhaps most tellingly, the “class warfare” shrieks from the right are growing louder.

* Conservative effort to smear Occupy Wall Street going bust: Indeed, no matter how hard the right tries to smear the protesters (they’re deficating on doorsteps! Doing drugs!! Sex!!!), New Yorkers continue to be fine with the protests. In today’s Quinnipiac poll, they say this by an overwhelming margin of 82-13. And New Yorkers overwhelmingly agree with the movement’s message, 58-28. Crucially, even upstaters and independents agree with it.

* Obama channeling anger at corporations: The President last night framed the 2012 campaign as a referendum on whether corporations will be allowed to run roughshod over ordinary Americans:

“If you get sick, you’re on your own. If you can’t afford college, you’re on your own. If you don’t like that some corporation is polluting your air or the air that your child breathes, then you’re on your own,” he said. “That’s not the America I believe in. It’s not the America you believe in.”...
“I reject an argument that says we’ve got to roll back protections that ban hidden fees by credit card companies, or rules that keep our kids from being exposed to mercury, or laws that prevent the health insurance industry from exploiting people who are sick,” Obama said.

Obama has been signaling that he hopes the coming campaign is seen as a clash of values, and the efffort to speak directly to anti-corporate anger in service of that goal is another sign of the degree to which the protests are shifting the political landscape.

* Robert Gibbs on inequality: Indeed, here’s Obama adviser Robert Gibbs, arguing that the rising “anxiety and frustration” created by “income inequality” means the contrast between the parties will play in Obama’s favor: “Every one of the Republican candidates wants to roll back Wall Street reform, wants to put Wall Street back in charge of writing the rules that quite frankly got us into a lot of this current mess.”

* Elizabeth Warren stands firm. Will it work? A very nice Steve Kornacki piece on the meaning of Elizabeth Warren’s willingness to embrace the protests, and on why the GOP is doubling down against them. Also note Kornacki’s point that we can’t be too sure that this won’t damage Warren in the long run.

* Economy showing signs of life, but... Real GDP increased at an annual rate of 2.5 percent in the third quarter, which is a hopeful sign, but as Steve Benen notes, there’s still a tremendous amount riding on whether policymakers continue to be held hostage to drastically diminished expectations and continue to fail to act.

* No, OWS is not about tearing down the capitalist system: Nick Kristof does a nice job setting the record straight, arguing that precisely the opposite is the case — the movement is about saving capitalism:

So, yes, we face a threat to our capitalist system. But it’s not coming from half-naked anarchists manning the barricades at Occupy Wall Street protests. Rather, it comes from pinstriped apologists for a financial system that glides along without enough of the discipline of failure and that produces soaring inequality, socialist bank bailouts and unaccountable executives. It’s time to take the crony out of capitalism, right here at home.

* OWS is changing the conversation: E.J. Dionne makes a great point, noting that if it weren’t for the protests, the Vatican’s much-discussed critique of the financial system might have received far less attention:

This document got more attention than it might have because the demonstrators have heightened concern about the problems it addresses. Moreover, the Vatican office’s intervention shows that those protesting against a broken and unjust financial system are not expressing some marginal point of view. They are highlighting worries shared by many, including the Roman Catholic Church. To challenge what the global markets have wrought is not extreme.

* GOP still refusing to entertain high end tax hike: The Post reports that Harry Reid privately broached the idea with John Boehner and Mitch McConnell of a grand bargain including big entitlements cuts in exchange for revenue increases. But the GOP leaders are cool to the idea. Supercommittee Republicans are countering with some kind of deficit reduction deal that doesn’t include any tax hikes.

Look, this is like a rerun of a bad movie. Can we just stop with the BS? Republicans seem to be signaling again that they aren’t going to agree to any tax hikes on the wealthy — period. And if they don’t, there isn’t going to be any “grand bargain.”

* More supercommittee follies: Relatedly, several House Republicans are now circulating a letter calling for everything to be on the table in the supercommittee talks, including tax hikes, on the theory that Congressional dysfunction is actually a serious problem that needs to be solved. It’ll be interesting to see how many Republicans sign it.

* Romney’s waffle on Ohio labor battle still a problem: Mitt now says he’s fully in favor of the unpopular Ohio initiative rolling back bargaining rights. But he can’t be happy about the fact that Karl Rove is now publicly pointing out that the episode made Romney look “squishy” and “tepid” and “adds to the narrative that he’s not strong.” This one has clearly left a mark.

* Mitt Romney’s mideast adviser has a curious past: A nice scoop from Plum Line alum Adam Serwer: It turns out that Walid Phares, the new co-chair of Mitt Romney’s mideast advisory group, trained Lebanese warlords in the 1980s that were accused of atrocities. And a CIA expert tells Serwer that he can think of no comparable position held by advisers to past political campaigns.

* What Paul Ryan’s speech was really about: More from Kornacki, who notes the real political goal behind Ryan’s claim yesterday that Obama has fallen far short of being the post-partisan transformative figure he seemed in 2008: He’s offering swing voters who are inclined to turn on Obama even if they support his proposals an easy-to-swallow rationale for concluding he is to blame for government’s failure to fix the economy. Worth keeping this one in mind.

* Ryan’s pettiness: Yesterday Ryan charged it’s “petty” of Obama to make the obvious point that deregulation might lead to dirtier air and water, and today the labor-backed Americans United for Change responds with a video recapping some of Ryan’s own rather petty observations on key policy matters.

* And Rubio’s star wattage is rapidly dimming: In the wake of revelations that Marco Rubio mischaracterized his parents as exiles, even some Republicans appear to be worrying that making him the Veep candidate could be a risky bet, another sign of just how rapidly national political fortunes can shift.

Also: Can Rubio really win over Latinos to the GOP ticket, given the party’s immigration rhetoric and opposition to the nation’s first Hispanic Supreme Court justice?

By  |  09:14 AM ET, 10/27/2011

 
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