What I found myself thinking about, however, is the way the inequality debate illustrates some typical features of many debates these days: the way the right has a sort of multi-layer defense in depth, which involves not only denying facts but then, in a pinch, denying the fact that you denied those facts.
Think about climate change. You have various right-wingers simultaneously (a) denying that global warming is happening (b) denying that anyone denies that global warming is happening, but denying that humans are responsible (c) denying that anyone denies that humans are causing global warming, insisting that the real argument is about the appropriate response.
I’m not sure there are three levels (yet) on inequality, but we definitely have (a) right-wingers denying that inequality is rising and (b) denying that anyone is denying the rise in inequality, but attacking any proposal to limit that rise.
I also like the various fall-back positions: “even if global warming is happening, that’s not bad, ask people in Buffalo!”, “income inequality is good because it makes the lucky duckies want more than a gubmint hand-out”. And then “even if liberals are right, do they have to be so shrill about it, Real Murkins don’t like that kind of talk”. Then “liberals only believe this because they hate America/freedom/capitalism/Joos.”
Even the liberal Slate/New Republic say that sure, a five degree increase in world temperature seems like a problem, but once you get past the conventional wisdom of our hippie overlords, you may be surprised to learn that blah blah blah. My new favorite (an Easterbrook special) is that conservatives are poised to fix whatever the problem is (even though they deny its existence at various levels, as above) because only Nixon could go to China.
I defy you to name even one issue where this dynamic — multiple layers of conservative denialism, with a creamy name-calling filling, topped with the icy frosting of neo-liberal contrarianism and general smart-assery — doesn’t effectively dominate the national discourse.