Jonathan Chait, in NYMag, “We Just Had A Class War. And One Side Won“:
… Like every president, Obama won for myriad reasons, important and petty. But his reelection was hardly small and hardly devoid of ideas. Indeed, it was entirely about a single idea. The campaign, from beginning to end, was an extended argument about economic class.
It began last December, when Obama delivered a trademark Big Speech in Osawatomie, Kansas, where Teddy Roosevelt once spoke, on government’s place in mitigating income inequality. It was, in a sense, an extension of his failed budget negotiations with House Republicans. Obama had decided that his reelection effort would be an attempt to go over Speaker of the House John Boehner’s head and bring to the voters the proposition he couldn’t get the opposing party to accept: that both moral decency and plausible budgeting required an end to George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the rich.
If there is a single plank in the Democratic platform on which Obama can claim to have won, it is taxing the rich. Obama ignored vast swaths of his agenda, barely mentioning climate change or education reform, but by God did he hammer home the fact that his winning would bring higher taxes on the rich. He raised it so relentlessly that at times it seemed out of proportion even to me, and I wrote a book on the topic. But polls consistently showed the public was on his side…
Of course, what the people want is all fairly beside the point now. What matters in Washington is power and leverage—two things that accrued dramatically in Obama’s favor last week. But it’s not irrelevant that American voters had a chance to lay down their marker on the major social divide of our time: whether government can mitigate the skyrocketing inequality generated by the marketplace. For so many years, conservatives have endeavored to fend off such a debate by screaming “class war” at the faintest wisp of populist rhetoric. Somehow the endless repetition of the scare line inured us to the real thing. 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.