Win Or Lose In 2012, Obama’s Got No Class

Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a freelance journalist and blogger. He considers Bob Dylan and Walter Sobchak to be the two great Jewish thinkers of our time; he thinks Kafka was half-right when he said there was hope, "but not for us"; and he can be reached through the twitter via @eliasisquith or via email. The opinions he expresses on the blog and throughout the interwebs are exclusively his own.

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39 Responses

  1. North says:

    Yep. Employment has been inching down. Various indicators have been flickering from red to yellow and from yellow to green. Obama doesn’t need low employment necessarily to win. He just needs a good solid trajectory to point at.Report

  2. Will H. says:

    I don’t think the Democrats want to harp on class too much because it shows the split in the party; the traditional blue collar/minority coalition and the white collar college educated “elites.” What they have in common (more than anything else) (so far) is that they are both anti-Republican.
    Class could be quite a divisive issue for the Democrats generally.Report

    • Kim in reply to Will H. says:

      lump ’em both together, and push on the people what don’t work for a living. Dat’s the key, after all — separating the “moneyed rich” from the entrepreneur. Cause we all know someone who started a business and did well. And we know what a hard worker they are…Report

  3. BlaiseP says:

    Give me a long enough lever and I shall move the world, said Archimedes.   If Obama’s going to have to face Millionaire Mitt Romney, he could do worse than put the fulcrum of Class underneath that lever.

    I like to fire people, too.Report

  4. Jaybird says:

    And with things looking tentatively on the up-and-up — and with a profound distaste for the GOP still prevalent — Americans are starting to think that maybe the President ain’t so bad after all.

    I’m coming to a different conclusion. It seems to me that we’re replaying 2004 as farce.

    We’ve got a very vulnerable president being challenged by a nominee that will have *NEGATIVE* coattails (assuming Gingrich, of course) and this will be interpreted by the machinery as a Mandate if not a Permanent Democratic Majority quickly followed by a “holy cow, what the heck was that?” election in 2014… and an Obama in 2016 (and 2020) worth about as much to the party as Bush was worth in 2008 (and 2012).Report

    • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Jaybird says:

      If Obama wins (I consider this likely), he’s not going to be able to pull a “Mandate” out of it, because he’s probably still going to lack the House and may lose the Senate.  GWB had both.

      Unless something really weird happens.Report

      • Mark my words: Gingrich will have negative coattails the way that Kerry did.Report

        • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Jaybird says:

          Oh, 2016 is going to be really goddamn weird, any way you slice it.

          The GOP still hasn’t figured out who they are, and the Democrats are spending too much time laughing at that to realize that they have their own identity problem.Report

          • Kim in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

            The democrats know who they are: it’s who they’ve always been, after all. The party of “everybody else.”

            Obama represents a strong push by the professionals, moving aside more “age-oriented” folks (people who like tenure, and other benefits accruing based on time spent, rather than merit)Report

        • Tod Kelly in reply to Jaybird says:

          I’ll be the first here to call this:*

          Newt not only isn’t going to win the nomination, he’s not going to win Florida.  In three weeks we’ll be looking back on him the same way we did with Bachmann, Perry, Cain and Paul.


          *Or the first to look like an idiot.Report

          • Kolohe in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            Newt’ll go the distance as long as Hillary did in ’08*. but Romney will ultimately win. (Newt isn’t even on the ballot in Virginia, to name just one obstacle).  But if Newt wins, Jaybird’s exactly right.



            *though I don’t think fighting over the delegate penalties of line jumpers will help him, because SC, for instance, isn’t penalized – though a big win in FL would change thatReport

            • Guy Webster in reply to Kolohe says:

              I don’t see the GOP going for Romney in a brokered convention for one reason: McCain. They’re still stinging from McCain’s crash-and-burn failure in 2008, when 2008 was supposed to be their “come from behind and retake the congress from those filthy dems and that traitor George” year. It took them until 2010 riding a wave that was not untainted by hefty bigotry and racism from the Tea Party, with heavy sprinklings of newly freshened bribery money thanks to the Citizens United decision, to take Congress back. Though oddly enough, no Tea Party candidate (except for pseudo-TP candidates who were already sitting Republicans running as incumbents) actually won an election.


        • Scott Fields in reply to Jaybird says:

          A few thoughts:

          1. I still don’t think Gingrich will be the nominee (sadly, as I’ve got lots of popcorn)
          2. At his current trajectory though, Romney could have negative coattails too
          3. Negative coattails could return House control to the Dems, but they won’t produce 60 seats in the Senate no matter what; so no “holy cow” moment and the TP uproar in 2014 will seem played out compared to 2010
          4. Obama is no Bush; if the economy continues to improve throughout his second term (as projected), Obama will take (and be gladly given) the lion’s share of the credit; Obama will be a hot ticket on the campaign trail in 2016


          • Jaybird in reply to Scott Fields says:

            I don’t think Romney is the negative coattails type.

            To have negative coattails, you’ve got to pull off three things at once:

            1. A depressed base that “forgets” to show up to vote… not only for president but for the downticket folks
            2. An apprehensive independent vote that shows up to keep the incumbent/status quo and, while they are there, votes the same way down the ticket to mitigate “just in case” scenarios
            3. An invigorated opposition that successfully points out that if so-and-so wins, the living will envy the dead… and they vote straight ticket

            Romney won’t energize the Democrats the way Newt would. He won’t alarm independents the way that Newt would. He won’t depress portions of the base the way that Newt would (depress entirely different portions of the base).Report

            • Guy Webster in reply to Jaybird says:

              Top 10 reasons you’re wrong:

              #1 – Romney has earned over $20 million a year while getting away with a mere 14% tax rate.

              #2 – Bain Capital. The words “vulture capitalist” mean anything to ya? Romney put more Americans out of work, and outsourced more jobs, to the tune of an order of magnitude more than Bain supposedly ever created.

              #3 – All you need is one good ad juxtaposing Rush Limbaugh carrying water for Romney with Rush’s “I’m done carrying water for people who don’t deserve it” 2008 speech after McCain lost.

              #4 – Romney flip-flopper ads already. Combine that with some of the most hateful rhetoric Gingrich, Santorum, and the Tea Party can come up with and simply say “Romney: let him in and he’s a rubber stamp for these bigots.”

              #5 – Romney’s hairgel hairdo is almost as bad as Perry’s hairgel hairdo.

              #6 – The Birthers are back. They dug up a judge so racist he’s willing to try to call Obama in to a Georgia (yup, Georgia!) courthouse to “explain” the Tea Party fake birth certificate forgeries and “prove” that the sitting POTUS is a natural born US citizen. Really.

              #7 – You can make a convincing pro-Obamacare ad out of Romney and Gingrich quotes. Including quotes by both as to why the individual mandate is “the responsible way” and “the free market way.”

              #8 – Robert Taft, Harold Stassen, Estes Kefauver, Nelson Rockefeller, George McGovern, Scoop Jackson, Gene McCarthy, Terry Sanford, Gary Hart, Richard Gephardt, Jesse Jackson, Pat Buchanan, Steve Forbes, Lamar Alexander, Adlai Stevenson, Thomas Dewey, George McGovern. Not a single man to lose his party’s nomination has come back to win the Presidency in the next contest. Romney lost to McCain in 2008.

              #9 – The harder line Romney toes on immigration, the more he riles up the Hispanics. Same for Gingrich. On the other side, the more he softens on immigration, the more the Tea Partiers will stay home.

              #10 – Condense this to a 30 second ad and watch Romney squeal like a stuck pig.Report

              • <i>Romney put more Americans out of work, and outsourced more jobs, to the tune of an order of magnitude more than Bain supposedly ever created.</i>

                Of course this assumes that the firms Bain invested in would have thrived if Bain hadn’t gotten involved.  Of course nobody who actually thinks about how finance works would assume this.

                <i>Not a single man to lose his party’s nomination has come back to win the Presidency in the next contest. </i>

                LBJ, Nixon, Reagan, GHWB…maybe not the <i>next</i> contest each time, but still… Anyway you’re working with a really small sample, so it’s hard to draw firm conclusions.  After all, no sitting Senator had won since 1960, so it couldn’t happen, right?  Except it did in 2012, and would have regardless of which party won the election.Report

              • DarrenG in reply to James Hanley says:

                Many of the companies Bain bought *were* thriving before Bain got involved.

                Bain was never a turnaround firm. Their model was always “strip ‘n flip,” and if that fails, “plunder and bail.”Report

        • Ryan Bonneville in reply to Jaybird says:

          I think you’re right about this. In fact, I’ve argued that we appear to be entering a very weird cycle where Democrats will do well in “on”-years (presidential election years) and Republicans will do well in “off”-years. Something about the way the parties are becoming ever more sorted by age is the mechanism I’d cite for this.Report

          • James Hanley in reply to Ryan Bonneville says:


            That’s an interesting hypothesis.  If I read you right, the sorting by age mechanism will influence turnout, as older people are more likely to vote in off-year elections than are young people (because young people are less likely to vote in general)?  The question is, is partisan sorting by age prominent enough to have that effect?  (Off the top of my head, I don’t actually know.)Report

            • Ryan Bonneville in reply to James Hanley says:

              Yeah, I think the evidence is fairly strong that off-year electorates are white and old (relatively speaking) compared to on-year electorates. To the extent that the parties have sorted themselves, white + old = GOP and non-white + young = Democrat. I don’t think it’s strong enough to swamp other factors (economy, anti-incumbent rage, whatever), but I’m offering it as a possible way to think about future elections.

              2008 and 2010 appear to fit, but of course 2004 and 2006 do not. Arguably, it’s just the existence of Obama that’s forcing this kind of sorting, so there may be some omitted variable bias here.Report

            • Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

              Partisan sorting by age is kinda a stupid way to look at things.

              Greatest/Silent generations are fairly Democrat

              Boomers and Particularly GenX are Republican

              Millenials are STRONGLY Democrat (60/30, as opposed to 55/45 for the above)Report

              • Ryan Bonneville in reply to Kim says:

                Wha? The Greatest Generation is mostly just dead. These are people who are like 80+. The Silent Generation is people who are in the 60-80 range. This is the core of the Republican Party’s base.Report

              • Kim in reply to Ryan Bonneville says:

                they’re dead where YOU live. My county has one of the highest percentage of 80+ people in the country.

                (and apologies. my head apparently misplaced some of that info)Report

            • James in reply to James Hanley says:

              Old people vote in higher numbers in off years because having a job or being in school is a speed-bump to managing to get to the polls.

              In a presidential election year, more people go vote because they get reminded to do so, and because telling your boss “sorry I’m late, there was a line at the polls” tends to get you a bit of a pass. In an off year, the old racist fogies show up because they get a free bus to the polls, but the rest of the people are just trying to get through the week of classes or manage to get to their job on election day.

              You want to see people participate in elections and get out to vote, make voting day a national holiday and require that people be given time off work to go vote.Report

          • James in reply to Ryan Bonneville says:

            Calling it like it really is.

            A Presidential year brings turnout. Turnout is the LAST thing that Republicans want to see. In a Presidential year, enough of the general electorate turns out that the racism and fearmongering of the GOP doesn’t equate to a win.

            In a non-presidential year, Republicans get by on their fearmongering and racism. A bunch of old folks go to the polls, the hyperracists and hyperreligious go to the polls to vote Republican based on the “if you don’t vote for us the terrorists/gays/socialists/communists/brown-skins win” messages.

            I’d love to see election day be a federal holiday every year. Give everyone off work, kids have off school, school buildings and municipal buildings can be used as polling places if needed. But you’ll never see it happen because the truth is that the LAST thing the Republicans ever want to see is 90% or more turnout. They know if everyone actually voted, the Republicans would never get past 30% of the national vote and even their gerrymandered safe districts would turn into Democrat routs.Report

      • DarrenG in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

        Unless a near-mathematically-impossible miracle happens, the Dems won’t have 60 votes in the Senate, so yeah, Obama would be utterly foolish to claim a mandate regardless of whatever else happens.

        Even if he wins and the GOP implodes enough to give back the House, the Senate will still be able to roadblock everything the way they have for the last few years.Report

        • James Hanley in reply to DarrenG says:

          so yeah, Obama would be utterly foolish to claim a mandate regardless of whatever else happens.

          I don’t know about that.  As a practical matter a president seems to be able to semi-effectively claim a mandate no matter what, and seems to be more effective at getting his programs passed if he acts as though he has a mandate, compared to acting as though he doesn’t.

          Sure, we all know the claim of a mandate is false, but for the president making the claim seems to be all upside, with no real cost.Report

    • Guy Webster in reply to Jaybird says:

      I’ve been thinking quite a bit about this scenario and it seems you’re trying to insist that an Obama win plus House flip (with the Senate not breaking a 60-vote Democrat majority, though maybe a Dem 50+ majority if they have extreme luck or Obama’s coattails plus Gingrich’s negative coattails create a windfall year) will provoke the same sort of reaction that GOP donors like the Koch Brothers had and the immense effort the heavy-duty talk radio noise machine put forth in the run-up to 2010.

      I’m doubtful. Tea Party-ness is playing out fast, and the Tea Party, even with more support and more hidden money-laundering backers than Markos Moulitsas could ever put forth, has never managed to elect a single representative to office. Part of it is realizing the sorts of people (google the name Dale Robertson) who congregate in far too numerous ways in the Tea Party. Part of it is the fact that the austerity-based, “everything for me” based Tea Partiers are going to reject Romney out of hand and are quite iffy about Newt Gingrich, who’s about as Washington Insider as you can get. Part of it is the fact that in 2012, there are going to be some other races shining a very unfavorable light on the Tea Party and Republican Party; best example I can come up with is Scott Walker in Wisconsin, whose reelection campaign slogan may as well be either “but at least it’s honest graft” or else “pay no attention to the Koch behind the curtain.”

      There’s also the fact that the most difficult things for the Obama administration have already been done. Healthcare is a done deal, and for all the demagoguery from the right wing noise machine, it’s still supported by a majority of the USA. Gay rights may still stir up the GOP base, but they also rile up a very sizable group on the other side to counteract the surge, so that’s a limited issue. The sight and sound of Tea Partiers daring to boo outright a gay serviceman, the sound of GOP candidates forgetting the all-important words “thank you for your service”, speak loud and clear to those in uniform that the GOP really doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the military.

      Obama’s not shifting very far to the left to insist that the Bush tax cuts expire on the high end. He’s really not shifting far at all to the left to insist that income is income, that income should be taxed the same rather than letting capital gains get a special rate that only the extremely wealthy can abuse, and that Mitt Romney getting away with paying around 14% when millions of Americans making far, far less than $20 million per year are paying 35%. This isn’t left wing politics, this is center or maybe slightly center-left if you push the issue. The only way you can claim it is “left wing” politics is to miss the fact that the GOP’s gone off the cliff from being the “right wing” party and gone down into the gorge of cuckoo, tinfoil hat reactionary land.


    • Burt Likko in reply to Jaybird says:

      The pollster who I think gets it right the rightest and the mostest, Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight, is giving Gingrich a 75% probability to win Florida. He points to two demographic advantages Gingrich enjoys over Romney:

      Still, Mr. Gingrich is not without advantages in Florida. He has generally polled well among older voters, which will represent a large fraction of the Florida electorate.
      Mr. Gingrich, who has a more moderate stance on immigration than Mr. Romney, could also potentially exploit vulnerabilities that Mr. Romney has among Latino voters. In the Florida Republican primary in 2008, according to exit polls of the state, Mr. Romney beat John McCain 34-33 among white voters. However, Mr. McCain’s large advantage with Latino voters — among whom he defeated Mr. Romney by a margin of 54 percent to 14 percent — helped to swing the victory to him there.

      Getting down into the nuts and bolts, the delegate count as of right now is: Gingrich 25, Romney 14, Paul 10, Santorum 8. One delegate may switch from Romney to Santorum based on certification of the Iowa caucuses. Florida has 50 delegates on offer on a winner-take-all basis. After Florida comes Nevada (February 4) and Maine, with its week-long (February 4-11) caucus, both of which should be healthy wins for Romney — Maine for moderation and geographic proximity, Nevada for a heavy Mormon population. On February 7, there’s Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri, which I think are harder to call because these are larger and more diverse states — but larger states, three of which will be going on the same day, seems to favor a more well-financed and well-organized campaign, and that’s Romney. In terms of total number of votes, Romney has 294,813 and Gingrich has 282,907, out of just under a million total cast so far.Report

      • James K in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Intrade give Gingrich 58% and iPredict 56%, so I don’t think his odds are quite that good.Report

        • DarrenG in reply to James K says:

          Intrade has consistently been a trailing indicator since the primary season started. Nate’s model performed pretty well.

          Either way, Gingrich is a pretty significant favorite for Florida right now. I don’t see him getting the nomination, either, though. For one, Florida lost half their delegates when they moved their primary date up, so they’re not the prize they were. As mentioned, Newt isn’t even on the ballot in Virginia (and one other state I can’t quite remember; Missouri?).

          I also think his act will start to wear very thin or he’ll make some very Newt-like blunder on the campaign trail before too long. He plays best when fighting from behind without too much attention. He’s shown no sign that he can play with a lead, though.Report

    • North in reply to Jaybird says:

      Pessimism is certainly a better bet Jay, but maybe the Dems are close enough in time to Bush’s re-election to remember it and avoid that mistake? God(ess?) knows I’m hoping for a Newt victory but I still think it’s unlikely. Even if Newt somehow got the nod and rammed his party into a wall couldn’t that be a Goldwater like moment for the GOP?Report

      • Jaybird in reply to North says:

        Was 2004 a Goldwater moment for the Democrats? They had to put up with such arguments as “permanent Republican Majority” (which were baloney at the time but must have had some sting associated).

        Did the Democrats learn anything or were they merely poised to be the replacements for the bums who were just about to be thrown out?Report

        • Nob Akimoto in reply to Jaybird says:

          I think they learned the wrong lesson to some extent. In many ways I think 2010 – 2011 is being more instructive to Dems. We can’t get by as being “not-Republicans” any more.

          Liz Warren’s a great example of that post 2010 mindset, IMO.Report

  5. Scott Fields says:

    Elias –

    Do you have any data to back up the premise that Class ISN”T a “monster that cannot be named in US politics”?

    As much as I’d like it not to be the case, railing against “class warfare” seems to be an extremely effective way to manipulate the debate.Report

  6. joey jo jo says:

    it all depends on how you define the classes.  the normal upper-middle-lower dividing lines are not as easy to deal with as the 99%-1%.Report

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