Political Animal


October 21, 2011 11:30 AM Class warfare sure is popular, redux

By Steve Benen

Karl Rove’s attack operation, American Crossroads, above all wants to win. It exists to help Republican candidates defeat Democratic candidates, and to that end, Rove’s group can’t operate the way Rove’s White House operated: they need to care about reality. It does them no good to pretend, for example, that popular ideas are unpopular, or vice versa.

With that in mind, it’s good to know even these guys know the polls are correct.

American Crossroads, the big money GOP group founded by Karl Rove, is warning Republicans that President Obama’s new campaign to raise taxes on millionaires is a political winner.

“It may be the result of larger environmental conditions, or he may be moving the needle himself, but Obama’s ‘tax the rich’ mantra is getting traction,” the group’s director, Steven Law, wrote in a memo. “Our poll found that 64% favor raising taxes on people with incomes above $200,000.”

Law recommended Republicans try to rebut Obama by citing quotes from prominent Democrats, like President Clinton, that taxes shouldn’t be raised in a recession.

Clinton, by the way, already agrees wholeheartedly with the Obama plan — which, incidentally, pushes off tax increases to 2013. Using Clinton’s line out of context is a lie.

But the larger observation does help explain why Republicans are so hysterical about Democratic economic ideas: voters actually like them. Class warfare, it turns out, is far more popular than the right would prefer to believe.

For what it’s worth, my expectation is that Republicans will simply reframe their same regressive agenda as being populist — Eric Cantor is set to give a speech on “income inequalities,” of all things — and hope voters just don’t understand the difference. If recent history is any guide, this will probably work.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • Fr33d0m on October 21, 2011 11:39 AM:

    It isn't Class Warfare thats popular, it's Dems engaging in the fight.

  • Josef K on October 21, 2011 11:46 AM:

    If recent history is any guide, this will probably work.

    If it does, more the fool Cantor and Boehner. They'll win elections, and face ravenous mobs once they fail to improve things.

    Someone should remind them there are 300 million people in this country (at least at the last available census), several million of whom are unemployed and/or becoming desperate, and an estimated 200 million firearms in circulation. Match, meet fuse.

  • T2 on October 21, 2011 11:49 AM:

    "Using Clinton’s line out of context is a lie." Karl Rove lying? Nah, not Karl. He's a straight shooter. Some would say a genius.

  • ifthethunderdontgetya����� on October 21, 2011 11:52 AM:

    But the larger observation does help explain why Republicans are so hysterical about Democratic economic ideas: voters actually like them.

    If recent history is any guide, the Democrats will drop those economic ideas like hot potatoes right after the election.

  • c u n d gulag on October 21, 2011 12:00 PM:

    Cantor's speech:
    "Who is John Galt?"

    Why, he's just like you and me!

    He's a taxpaying Dad, like you are. You are a taxpayer, aren't you?

    He's a Soccer Dad - he has his kids chauffeured to the soccer games of the team's he owns.

    He worries about his homes and castles.

    He worries about air traffic, and whether he'll be late for work?

    He worries about his money, and can he provide enough jobs to pay for his private security forces?

    And who's going to inherit his money? Better his drug and alcohol addled heirs than the damned greedy Government!

    So you see?
    John Galt is just like you and me!

  • FRP on October 21, 2011 12:00 PM:

    I am pretty sure that despite the unanimous effort to end Gaddafi's rule , or slay him , ended that unanimity right at the moment of his demise .
    You don't need to be M. de Nostredame to predict Bugs Bunny will get the upper hand , or that if the "Versailles Redux Playtime Opera" manage another Potemkin structure , built on the sturdy sand comprised of the last remaining penny in the middle classes purse , the little doubt concerning the remaining standing structures not being the ones standing now .


  • FRP on October 21, 2011 12:03 PM:


  • Joe Friday on October 21, 2011 12:26 PM:

    "Class warfare, it turns out, is far more popular than the right would prefer to believe."

    That's not "class warfare". As Warren Buffett said:

    "There's class warfare all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning."

    What's popular is reversing it.

  • dsimon on October 21, 2011 12:33 PM:

    I'd just like to remind people that when people claim that we're in a fiscal crisis that endangers the very foundation of the nation, and demand sacrifice of everyone except those that make the most and have the most, that's class warfare.

    Calling on those who have the most and make the most to help by paying a little more--which is really the only thing they can do to help deal with the crisis, since program cuts don't affect them--isn't class warfare; it's shared sacrifice.

  • QuestionEverything on October 21, 2011 12:39 PM:

    Remind me of how much the uber-rich are squabbling over?

    They should have taken the tiny 'hit' and moved on. Now that there's pushback building against them (hopefully expanding the Democratic control in Congress in a year), see OWS, and all of the press coverage of these silly, unnecessary discussions, if you want to call them that, they may end up losing more in the end (I'm not optimistic but just maybe it'll happen).

    I hope that this turns into a bigger deal that will cost the uber-rich more than 0.5% on any money earned over one million dollars or the 3-5% over $250,000 that they think is too much sacrifice in a major recession and high unemployment.

    Not to mention putting the burden on the backs of the poor and middle class shows how arrogant and insensitive they (the people pushing back, not all rich people) are.

    I'm pessimistic that, in the end, the rich will pay more than if they had just 'done their part' to bear part of the burden in the first place, but we'll see.

  • MuddyLee on October 21, 2011 2:06 PM:

    More taxes on the rich - yes. And tell them if they don't like it, then we'll tax dividends and capital gains at the same rate wages are taxed - and allow the home mortgage deduction only on one house at a time. If Rove thinks taxing the rich is a popular idea, we need to promote the idea. After all, it's not 1000 pages long and even Sarah Palin can understand it.

  • Kathy on October 21, 2011 2:35 PM:

    Just FYI, Cantor turned chicken and canceled his speech when he found out that occupy Philadelphia was going to picket. A "profile in courage" if ever there was one.

  • Robert Waldmann on October 21, 2011 4:55 PM:

    Law is facing some facts which cause him pain, but he isn't facing all of the facts which cause him pain. He has no reason to ascribe strong support for higher taxes on rich people to the current environment or Obama moving the needle. That's just about where the needle has been for the past two decades (at least).

    OK so 64% and $200,000 might correspond to some movement (probably sampling error) but majorities on the order of 60% have said that the rich pay less than their fair share of taxes in every Gallup poll with that question starting in 91.

    Somehow Rove et all managed to convince policians and pundits that this wasn't true during decades when it was true. But class war has been popular in the USA since a wave of anger at the low taxes rich people pay helped send Bill Clinton the White House (his campaign had an internal poll in which a plurality supported higher taxes on the rich to fund more "waste fraud and abuse").

    I have been pointing this out for years
    I think that Law is sincere (always a risky bet with those guys). Republican operatives just knew in their hearts that real Americans reject what they call class warfare and managed to avoid all of the proof that Americans support higher taxes on the rich.

  • Joe Friday on October 21, 2011 5:30 PM:


    "Just FYI, Cantor turned chicken and canceled his speech when he found out that occupy Philadelphia was going to picket. A 'profile in courage' if ever there was one."

    Speaking of Little Ricky, has anyone noticed he's starting to sound more and more like Blanche DuBois from 'A Streetcar Named Desire' ? Particularly his recent speech to the Values Voter summit in DC.

    Really weird.

  • square1 on October 21, 2011 6:43 PM:

    Hmmm. That's interesting. I recall that when Clinton made the comment I said that it was completely stupid and served no political purpose.

    Now Karl Rove plans to quote Clinton in order to push back against tax increases. Who could have imagined...?