Is New York Democrat Chuck Schumer living in a dream world?

I asked myself this question while reading a New York Times article by John Harwood that suggests that “spreading the wealth around” may be a better talking point for Democrats in 2012 than it was in 2008.

As you recall, the McCain campaign pounced on it when then-candidate Barack Obama uttered those words in an unscripted moment with Joe “The Plumber” Wurzelbacher. Why would spreading the wealth around be more popular now?

“The whole battleground has changed,” Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the top political strategist among Democrats in the chamber, said in an interview. “There’s been a major shift in public opinion.”

Mr. Schumer is, at least in part, making a case for accountability. In 2009 and 2010, Democrats shouldered the blame for voters’ economic pain since they controlled the White House and Congress. Now they share it with a House Republican majority that is committed to government cutbacks.

But he is also talking about the consequences of Occupy Wall Street that linger after the removal of the tents from Zuccotti Park. By highlighting the widening disparity between top earners and everyone else, Mr. Schumer said, the movement has created an opening for Democrats even as the Obama-era economy remains weak.

“Jobs and income inequality are going to be the No. 1 issue” in 2012, he said. “Simply cutting government isn’t going to work.”

Wow! Where to begin…

Well, first of all it shows shows an amazing disconnect from the American public if Mr. Schumer really believes that Occupy Wall Street is good for the Democrats, who persistently make common cause with it. Most Americans do not instinctively like folks who shove grannies to the ground, disrupt shopping in economically perilous times, and get arrested. And I haven't even gotten to the public urination!

Indeed, a poll released earlier this month by Public Policy Polling, a liberal outfit, was headlined “Voters moving against Occupy movement.”

PPP’s summary:

As the Occupy Wall Street movement has continued and spread, its esteem in American voters’ eyes has slipped. Last month, when PPP first asked about the movement nationally, voters were split, with 35% supporting the movement’s goals and 36% opposing them. Now, that is 33-45, 11 points worse. Still 52% of Democrats support their goals, but opposition has risen from 16% to 24%. Meanwhile, both Republicans (from 13-59 to 11-71) and independents (from 39-34 to 34-42) have moved 13 or 14 points against O.W.S.

Oh, and Senator Schumer, there’s this:

That now makes the movement less popular than its right-wing counterpart, the Tea Party. 42% support that movement’s goals, and 45% oppose them. It was 39-45 in the previous survey. When asked of which movement they have a higher opinion, voters sidewith the Tea Party now, 43-37, a reverse of last month’s 40-37 in favor of O.W.S.Democrats (from 62-9 for O.W.S. to 58-12) and Republicans (from 11-71 to 10-78) have each moved seven or eight points toward favoring the Tea Party, while independents have shifted 13 points, from 43-34 to 40-44.

One of what Harwood calls the “consequences of Occupy Wall Street that linger after the removal of tents from Zuccotti Park,” may well be that the Tea Party, which picked up its own trash and led to no arrests, is actually gaining in popularity. It's looking good by comparison.

Occupy is making many points (such as that these people are thugs and brats), but I doubt if they are the points Schumer hopes they are making.

Most people care intensely about jobs and whether they are doing well enough to meet their needs and take care of their families, not the abstraction of inequality.