The United States has always had a culturally-enforced taboo: don’t speak ill of the rich. If anyone thought or said that the rich don’t play fair, they were simply a sore loser. This taboo lasted much longer than it should have, owing mostly to the Republican practice of using “class warfare” as a bludgeon. “That’s class warfare!” they’d scream. How un-American.
Then Occupy Wall Street arrived, spoke the unspeakable, and shattered the glass wall. In fairness, the stage was set the day we were presented with the ridiculous premise of Citizens United. But tents in town squares broke the long prohibition on asking why – in a land founded on equality – the wealthy are so pampered and coddled.
A new poll from Pew Research Center confirms that Americans are thinking a lot about class disparity. And now that they are talking, it turns out that most Americans think the deck is stacked in favor of the rich. Liberals and socialists, you might be thinking? Sure Democrats and Independents weighed in with equal and broad majorities, but more than half of Republicans also agreed.
The numbers look good for an Obama election strategy focused on representing the middle class. They look bad for the Romney’s “corporations are people” strategy. According to Pew’s research, a solid two thirds of Americans might be inclined to think that the so-called “job creators” are actually self-dealing pricks. “I like to fire people,” plays right into this, not because of the context, because of the “like.”
If President Obama can win the case that he represents middle-class families and workers, a solid two thirds of Americans will support him. In fact, the “class conflict” between the rich and middle class (according to Pew) is now thought by most Americans to be much more severe than racism, ageism and nativism.
The view cuts across all common economic strata from incomes below $20,000 to incomes above $75,000. Even those who realistically aspire to cross class lines are likely to believe that the upper-income class will conspire to keep them out. In three years, Pew found, the majority who believe that middle and upper earners are in conflict has risen by 24%.
This should be an earth-shattering bit of data to anyone planning to run on the “pamper the rich for your own good” platform. When Mitt Romney defines success by how much money you amass, he ignores the contributions of firemen, teachers, nurses and the guy who makes sure your car’s wheel stays on. Those folks are now openly questioning his greed-logic.
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