It's getting harder and harder to be middle class. As a result of the Bush administration's relentless tax-cutting agenda -- designed to limit the ability of government to deliver services -- the lives of middle-class Americans are becoming more difficult and less secure, in areas from health care to pensions to public schools. But, in the immortal words of Bob Dole, "Where's the outrage?" Why have these attacks not provoked a greater political reaction? And what chance is there for a progressive middle-class response to these attacks in the future?
Although the ownership of stocks and bonds is more highly concentrated than ever, we've been hearing a great deal lately about the rise of an "investor class." This concept, used with much abandon by free-market theorists and political operatives, holds that the simple act of participating in the stock market, even if indirectly and in only small amounts, moves people into this new investor class -- a class that supports as little regulation and taxation as possible, because that benefits America's companies and therefore the stock market.
How plausible is this? Should free marketeers really be cheered? Should advocates of social outlay, regulation and progressive taxation be alarmed?
Where did the Democrats lose in 2002? A lot rides on this question; wrong answers will produce poor targeting and ineffective politics, and the Democrats can afford precious little of either. But right answers can set the stage for future gains in the 2004 election and beyond.
Perhaps the most common answer -- certainly among Democrats -- has been base mobilization. In this view, the Democrats' 2002 campaign failed to excite their political base, which consequently turned out at low levels and didn't offer the consistently high support the party has enjoyed in previous elections.
Some say the Democrats don't have the courage of their convictions. Could be. But what I worry about more is that they don't have the courage of the public's convictions. Take the issue of war with Iraq. Polls have consistently shown that the public is leery of unilateral action in Iraq and would prefer not to act in the absence of backing from the United Nations and our allies. The public also wants to give weapons inspectors a chance to do their job and does not see any compelling necessity for immediate action against Iraq. Sound familiar? That's Al Gore's position and Ted Kennedy's, but it is supposedly such a far-out, liberal position that those running for office must strenuously avoid it.