Political Animal


October 05, 2011 2:05 PM The economic message the mainstream wants to hear

By Steve Benen

National Journal has a piece today arguing that President Obama’s new economic push is the wrong message — it’s just not what the American mainstream wants to hear. Obama excelled as a candidate in 2008 appealing to independents and disaffected Republicans, but Obama risks “chasing away” those votes with economic “populism.”

The evidence to the contrary is pretty overwhelming.

We talked earlier about the new Washington Post/ABC News poll, which asked the public about raising taxes on millionaires and billionaires. A whopping 75% support the idea, suggesting “class warfare” isn’t quite as scary as Republicans and reporters like to think. The same poll found most voters also support the American Jobs Act, and strongly prefer President Obama’s approach to the GOP’s when it comes to creating jobs and protecting the middle class.

Greg Sargent does a nice job delving deeper into the data today, highlighting previously unreported details, including the fact that the White House’s economic pitch is also resonating with self-identified moderates and independents. Greg noted the findings of Post polling guru Peyton Craighill:

He points out that the movement among independents is what has firmed up the turnaround for Obama on the jobs issue. If this doesn’t put an end to the ridiculous meme that Obama’s new populism is only about playing to Dems, then nothing will. In reality, this is also a bet about where the true middle of the country lies, and a bet that what indys want most is someone who will fight for them on jobs.

The shift is striking. A month ago, independents sided with the GOP by a five-point margin on creating jobs, but now we independents siding with Obama by 13 points. That’s a pretty dramatic swing in a fairly short period of time, suggesting that those arguing that the president is driving independent voters away with his new economic message have this precisely backwards.

As for raising taxes on the very wealthy, not only do 75% of Americans support a possible surtax on millionaires and billionaires, a majority of self-identified Republicans agree.

A handful of panicky conservative Dems don’t seem to care — the fear of attack ads labeling them a “tax raiser” leads to embarrassingly weak knees — but when this high a percentage of the public backs a tax increase, and an additional revenue is desperately needed, the position for sensible policymakers should be a no-brainer.

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.


Post a comment
  • c u n d gulag on October 05, 2011 2:18 PM:

    I much prefer "Conservative Democrats" to "Blue Dog Democrats," because there's NOTHING Blue about them.

    My second choice would be 'Red Dog Democrats.'

    But my favorite would be 'DINO Wall Street Ass-kissing Class Traitors.'

  • Josef K on October 05, 2011 2:19 PM:

    Its safe to say at this point that any publication with the word "National" in its title can be ignored and/or openly mocked, its coverage likely to be far, far short of 'national' in either scope, analysis or awareness.

  • J on October 05, 2011 2:24 PM:

    Should the folks who are now on Wall Street sway our politicians a little?

  • Larry Reilly on October 05, 2011 2:25 PM:

    The once great National Journal not too long ago brought in Ron Fournier as editor in chief. Fournier had last distinguished himself as a hack liberal basher with the Associated Press, especially as Washington bureau chief until last year. That's where he worked when emails came to light showing Fournier to be a liberal-hating good-buddy of Karl Rove.

    Is it any wonder that the National Journal now publishes an anti-Obama piece that goes against the facts and widely recognized trends? That was Fournier's trademark in his last job.

  • Stephen Stralka on October 05, 2011 2:29 PM:

    It helps that the Republicans have kind of distilled the whole discussion down to a simple, stark contrast: Obama wants to do something about the economy, and they want to do nothing. Given the choice between something and nothing, it's not surprising that most people will choose the former.

  • the_dan on October 05, 2011 2:32 PM:

    The problem with conservative Dems isn't that they get weak-kneed at the thought of attack ads, it's that they're genuinely conservative and don't want to raise taxes on their rich friends and allies.

  • SYSPROG on October 05, 2011 2:37 PM:

    This is how these publications roll. They make something up in their little pea brains, write an 'op-ed' on the fantasy, get the media to talk about it and pretty soon 'it's the message'....even though it has no basis in reality. What did Trump say today? That the people protesting on Wall Street are just looking for a date? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

  • ckelly on October 05, 2011 2:37 PM:

    ... strongly prefer President Obama’s approach to the GOP’s when it comes to creating jobs and protecting the middle class.

    I'm sorry. What was the GOP approach to creating jobs and protecting the middle class? I must have missed it.

  • Bartender on October 05, 2011 2:37 PM:

    Finally, Obama's message is reaching the independents who are beginning to take notice of the damage the do-nothing-one-term-mantra republicans are doing to this country. My only fear is that Obama's rallying support will peak too soon with no enthusastic follow-up and our country will once again be stuck in neutral. Nevertheless, the American Jobs Act may just turn out to be a bridge to somewhere.

  • Gov't Mule on October 05, 2011 2:38 PM:

    President Obama could eliminate income taxes and the GOP would STILL campaign that the Democrats raised taxes. BTW, being afraid of what the GOP MIGHT do is why the Democrats balked at even scheduling a Senate vote to raise taxes on millionaires in 2010. How did that work out for the Democrats?

  • Fr33d0m on October 05, 2011 2:40 PM:

    "suggesting "class warfare" isn't quite as scary as Republicans and reporters like to think."

    How about "suggesting that its about time the left engaged in the decades long class war."

    There,fixed that for you.

  • JJM on October 05, 2011 2:45 PM:

    Thanks to @Larry Reilly for explaining what's happened to NationalJournal. I have been completely taken aback by its new (very anti-Obama) direction, and stopped reading it after they refused my posts most of the time.

  • square1 on October 05, 2011 3:27 PM:

    The inability of Obama and Reid to keep caucus members from filibustering key pieces of legislation is the single greatest factor in the repeated accusations that the President and Sen. Majority Leader are weak.

    It's very simple: Senators should be allowed to vote for or against legislation as they see fit. But Democratic Senators shouldn't be allowed to block up or down votes on jobs bills without a getting a boot up their asses from the party "leaders."

  • Disgusted on October 05, 2011 3:40 PM:

    FU Dems, you deserve to lose.

  • kindness on October 05, 2011 3:59 PM:

    Somehow, National Journal doesn't strike me as 'Main Stream'. When I read the comments under the article you link to I am even more inclined to think they are just another right wing organization.

  • Bonnie on October 05, 2011 4:09 PM:

    Who at the National Journal socializes with mainstream America? Let alone knows what mainstream America really thinks.

  • Robert Waldmann on October 05, 2011 6:07 PM:

    "an end to the ridiculous meme that Obama’s new populism is only about playing to Dems, then nothing will. "

    Nothing will.

    I really don't have much to add, but I do have a request. Can you try to figure out why people write articles as clearly incorrect as that national journal article ? You were a pioneer in presenting a plausible explanation of the actions of congressional Republicans (economic sabotage). Do you think that the elite is influenced by the economic self interest of its members ?

    OK the not much to add at excessive length.

    The National Journal article is a fascinating example of a widespread cognitive pathology. As you note, the evidence that Obama's new approach and populism generally appeal to moderates and independents is overwhelming. Yet commentator after commentator insists that they must repel independents and moderates and the only political logic is that Obama aims to fire up the Democratic base.

    As you note, the most populist aspects of Obama's new program have the support of a majority of self identified Republicans (also in the same poll a majority of self identified conservatives said they support higher taxes on millionaires).

    It has long been clear that the journalistic and policymaking elite are out of touch with the US public. Also that they consider their role to be explaining what the public wants to each other. It would be pathetic if it hadn't done so much damage.

    This isn't a new phenomenon. Polls have show solid majorities in favor of higher taxes on the rich and businesses and lower taxes on the poor for two decades. But somehow, the fact that these proposals is far to the left of those supported by median member of the elite has convinced many people of apparently normal intelligence that they must be rejected by independents even though they are supported by most Republicans.

  • Robert Waldmann on October 05, 2011 6:19 PM:

    Also Reid has just gone public with a proposal to let oil companies off and tax carried interest as capital gains and impose a surtax on incomes over $1,000,000,000 (as supported by a majority of Republicans). I'd guess he wouldn't have done this without lining up at least 50 votes, so no more than three conservadems object.

    In the decades long US class war, this isn't the beginning of the end, but it is the end of the beginning.

  • arsenalroo on October 06, 2011 4:26 AM:

    I guess wide strata of citizens have finally come around to the idea of rebuilding a broken nation. A return to simple fairness and an understanding that U.S. without a middle class is doomed to become a 2nd world country.

    I would hate to swap roles with China. Or become Mexico.

  • RalfW on October 06, 2011 9:22 AM:

    "If this doesn’t put an end to the ridiculous meme that Obama’s new populism is only about playing to Dems, then nothing will."

    Well, memes are started these days by highly paid flaks at GOP HQ, and supported by Fox, CNN, etc. So no, the meme about playing to Dems is not going away. It's about all they have to fight this off ~ make independents feel sullied by liking a Democratic idea.

    Silly, and not likely to work, but it will persist.