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Dems continue class-warfare rhetoric

| Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

After 14 months, one Pittsburgh businessman still wonders: If everyone like him had voted in 2012, how differently might 2013 have turned out?

The lifelong Democrat, who runs a five-man machine shop, regrets not voting for president in 2012.

He admits President Barack Obama's assault on Mitt Romney's character cast just enough doubt in his mind that he believed the Republican nominee would favor Wall Street over Main Street, put Washington into political deadlock and keep the economy stubbornly at a standstill.

He also believed he could keep his health-care plan — the one he liked — under Obama.

“For me, the class-warfare slogans were just enough to keep me at home,” he explained, adding that he'll never do that again.

“Wall Street boomed under Obama, Washington is still at a stalemate, and the economy is still at a standstill. It was all a crock.”

Class warfare has been a potent campaign tactic in the Obama era, a great motivator to keep voters at home in big elections. Approximately 6 million eligible white voters and 1.5 million eligible nonwhite voters didn't vote in 2012, calculated by the baseline of 2008's turnout. (The 2008 election was about inspirational “hope and change,” while 2012 was divisional — “us” versus “them.”)

Midterm elections historically are a referendum on the party in power. You saw that in 2010, when Democrats and independents joined Republicans to vote out majority House Democrats. Republicans would have swept the Senate, too, if not for a few fringe GOP candidates who lost what should have been easy races.

That election served as a message to Obama that Americans wanted to put the brakes on his policies, specifically ObamaCare (unpopular from the get-go) and federal overspending on economic stimulus and bailouts.

Today, Democrats deride the Republican-led House as a “do-nothing Congress.” That may be true to an extent. But people voted Republicans into power to do exactly that, not to allow the White House to do any more to hurt their pocketbooks or the economy. In short, to do nothing.

Congress is a reflection of the national mood — divided, polarized, unhappy with the status quo, but lacking a majority to do a thing about it.

As we head into the 2014 midterm elections, one thing is certain: Class warfare will be the campaign stage again — it is the only way this president knows how to win, by dividing and conquering — with the tea party, Main Street and businesses large and small cast as the villains.

Democrats and the media have done an effective job of demonizing the “tea party” brand and detaching its followers from their original aspirations.

So have some Republicans, notably moneymaking strategists who co-opted the movement by running untested, unvetted candidates with no business running for anything, and hard-line egocentric elected officials who care more about their own political gain or cable-news stardom and less about their grandstanding impact on people and the party.

Income inequity will be 2014's attack line for Obama and Democrats, this election cycle's class-warfare rhetoric. The first example is their pledge to rebuild the middle class with a minimum-wage increase.

According to Keystone College political science professor Jeff Brauer, the major difficulty of relying on such a strategy is one word: demographics. “While raising the minimum wage is popular with several segments of the population, many of these segments simply do not come out to vote in midterm elections — youth, minorities, and low-income populations,” he said.

Brauer argues that Democrats have a host of unpopular things to defend, such as health care, government intrusion into personal privacy, taxes, overregulation and the federal debt.

Republicans always get pegged for their supposed fidelity to the rich and to Wall Street. But the irony is that income inequality between Wall Street and Main Street has flourished under Obama and the Democrats.

The true political story today is the disconnect between the interests of working-class Americans and the Democrats' devotion to the interests of certain extremely wealthy segments of society.

It will be a tough sell to harp about income inequality when the rich got richer and the poor got poorer under this administration.

Besides, such sloganeering sounds an awful lot like income redistribution.

Salena Zito covers politics for Trib Total Media (412-320-7879 or szito@tribweb.com).

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