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Mon Nov 12, 2012, 09:28 AM

We Just Had a Class War - And one side won. - By Jonathan Chait

We Just Had a Class War
And one side won.
By Jonathan Chait Published Nov 11, 2012

Here it was, right before our eyes: a class war, or the closest thing one might find to one in modern American history, as a presidential election. The outcome was plain. The 47 percent turned out to be the 51 percent.


When President Obama took the stage at McCormick Place in Chicago well after midnight, we were all too wiped out with joy or depression or Nate Silver auto-refresh fatigue to pay careful attention to the speech the newly reelected president delivered. The phrase that lingered in most of our sleepy ears was the reprise of his career-launching invocation of the United States as being more than red and blue states. So soaring, so unifying. But those words were merely the trappings of magnanimity draped over an argument that was, at its core, harsher than the one he had regularly delivered during the campaign.

The telling phrase came when Obama turned away from the thank-yous and patriotic hymnals into the guts of his remarks. “Despite all our differences,” he transitioned, “most of us share certain hopes for America’s future.” The key term here is “most,” as opposed to “all”—“most” meaning less than 100 percent and possibly as little as 51 percent. He attributed to most Americans a desire for great schools, a desire to limit debt and inequality: “a generous America, a compassionate America.”

Obama then proceeded to define the American idea in a way that excludes the makers-versus-takers conception of individual responsibility propounded by Paul Ryan and the tea party. Since Obama took office, angry men in Colonial garb or on Fox News have harped on “American exceptionalism,” which boils our national virtue down to the freedom from having to subsidize some other sap’s health insurance. Obama turned this on its head. “What makes America exceptional,” he announced, “are the bonds that hold together the most diverse nation on Earth. The belief that our destiny is shared; that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations.” Obama invoked average Americans living out this ethos of mutual responsibility (such as a “family business whose owners would rather cut their own pay than lay off their neighbors,” the example of which stands at odds with the corporate ethos of a certain ­Boston-based private-equity executive). And even the line about red states and blue states began with the following statement: “We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions.”

Presumably more was at work here than mere uplift. The president was establishing the meaning of his victory. Even in the days leading up to Tuesday, clouds of dismissal had already begun to hover overhead. The election was “small,” in the words of one story in the conventional-wisdom-generating machine Politico, and “too narrow and too rooted in the Democratic base to grant him anything close to a mandate,” in the words of another. “I don’t think the Obama victory is a policy victory,” sniffed Romney adviser Kevin Hassett. “In the end what mattered was that it was about Bain and frightening people that Romney is an evil capitalist.”



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Reply We Just Had a Class War - And one side won. - By Jonathan Chait (Original post)
kpete Nov 2012 OP
Cal Carpenter Nov 2012 #1
Le Taz Hot Nov 2012 #3
Cal Carpenter Nov 2012 #4
sadbear Nov 2012 #2

Response to kpete (Original post)

Mon Nov 12, 2012, 09:45 AM

1. Winning an election =/= winning a class war

Until the real results of actual policies lead to improved conditions for the poor and working class, we can't even talk in those terms.

Campaign rhetoric is not victory.

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Response to Cal Carpenter (Reply #1)

Mon Nov 12, 2012, 09:53 AM

3. Excellent response.

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Response to Le Taz Hot (Reply #3)

Mon Nov 12, 2012, 10:32 AM

4. Thank you

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Response to kpete (Original post)

Mon Nov 12, 2012, 09:48 AM

2. That war ain't over.

We're still fighting it right now.

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