The Obama campaign’s attacks on Mitt Romney as the Dark Lord of Bain (in the word of a Brit reporter) aren’t having that much impact, according to a report in the National Journal.
But the president persists. Yesterday in Iowa, for example, making the case for a tax hike on the most affluent, President Obama contrasted Romney, who opposes raising taxes, with “patriotic, successful Americans who want to make this contribution.”
Peter Foster, Washington correspondent for the U.K. Telegraph, explains why this pitch could be a big mistake:
Even the word “contribution” is ill-chosen. It hints at charity, at the need for the rich to reach down and throw pennies to the poor middle classes. But that’s not what the middle classes want. They want the chance to join Mr. Romney in the millionaire’s club.
Obama’s mantra about a “fair shake” America is anathema to a nation that believes in the virtue of self-reliance and rewarding the successful, and if gut instinct and commonsense doesn’t tell the Obama campaign this, then the research surely does.
Class warfare is ugly, but it has rarely been effective in the United States. That is partly because, as Rep. Paul Ryan observed in a speech last year at the Heritage Foundation, “Class is not a fixed designation in this country. We are an upwardly mobile society with a lot of movement between income groups.”
President Obama apparently doesn’t view the world this way. Michelle Obama, who shares her husband’s philosophy, once summed up the Obama view this way (as quoted in a story by Byron York):
“Don’t go into corporate America. You know, become teachers. Work for the community. Be social workers. Be a nurse. Those are the careers that we need, and we’re encouraging our young people to do that. But if you make that choice, as we did, to move out of the money-making industry into the helping industry, then your salaries respond.”
Romney went into corporate America, sin # 1, and got rich there, sin #2.
This election is really about whether the U.S. will return to being a country that honors competition and upward mobility through commerce, or whether it will become a country that urges its young college graduates to refrain from such distasteful things as going into the corporate world and the government doles out goodies in the name of equality.
Obama pays lip-service to the notion that America “has never been a country of people looking for handouts”, but that sounds unconvincing – or even worse, patronising – when your campaign reads like a list of handouts: Obamacare, tax breaks and New Deal-like infrastructure spending for the “trades in the house” who want to “put a hard hat on” and work. (Patronising again).
Even if American middle class virtues are more myth than reality, no-one wants to be described as a member of a class that’s down-trodden and disadvantaged. It insults both intelligence and ego to suggest the middle classes are helpless casualties of a vicious, unfair system which has Mitt Romney, the Dark Lord of Bain, at its apex.