Talking of wankers, the NYT’s Bill Keller has an atrocious op-ed today in which the punchline is that Obama shouldn’t be pushing the Buffet Rule so assidiously because it makes him look too leftie to rich, white folks like Bill by comparison to rich, white, full-time Etch-A-Sketch Mitt Romney.
Even with pro-Obama super PACs painting him as a mean-spirited zealot, Romney should be able to recapture the old campaign aura of a moderate Mr. Fixit. He will certainly try. On entitlements and immigration, as Thomas B. Edsall has said, Romney has already incrementally adjusted course toward the middle.
In the Democratic Party, a battle for Obama’s teleprompter is now under way between the moderates and the more orthodox left. The president sometimes, as in his last two State of the Union addresses, plays the even-keel, presidential pragmatist, sounding themes of balance and opportunity. Then sometimes lately he sounds more as if he’s trying out for the role of Robin Hood.
The problem isn’t that the Buffett Rule is necessarily a bad idea. It isn’t that ”œsocial Darwinism” is a slander on Republicans. (Heck, it may be the only Darwinism Romney believes in.) The problem is that when Obama thrusts these populist themes to the center of his narrative, he sounds a little desperate. The candidate who ran on hope ”” promising to transcend bickering and get things done ”” is in danger of sounding like the candidate of partisan insurgency. Just as Romney was unconvincing as a right-wing scourge, Obama, a man lofty in his visions but realistic in his governance, feels inauthentic playing a plutocrat-bashing firebrand.
Let’s leave aside the fact that, as Greg Sargent notes, a plethora of polls show the middle is just fine with the Buffet Rule. Let’s even leave aside the ludicrous notion that someone who only believes in social Darwinism could or should ever be described as a moderate in any modern civilization. There’s a deeper malaise here that Sargent’s ignoring just as hard as Keller is: why should we have to care about what folks like Bill think? Keller writes (emphasis mine):
It has been a truism of modern politics, at least since ”œThe Real Majority” was published in 1970, that elections are usually decided by voters who are not wedded to either party, who don’t stay in any ideological lane. These voters are thought to constitute roughly 15 percent of the electorate, give or take a few points. Add enough of them to your loyal base, and victory is yours.
…Bruce Gyory, who studies voting trends at the State University of New York at Albany, says the swing voters are predominantly white and suburban, have at least some college, and have decent incomes. In this time of precarious jobs, devalued homes and shriveled retirement savings, they are more anxious than angry, more interested in fixing the future than in affixing blame for the past.
The true malaise is that this well-off 15% are the deciderers – ensuring a bipartisan core agenda that is moderate, middle-class and corporate – while the overwhelmingly poor 30% who don’t vote in presidential elections, because they have no-one speaking up for them on the biggest political stage of all, are ignorable.