Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Greg Sargent: "Obama framing 2012 election as a contest of values"

Greg Sargent:
With Obama’s push to sell the American Jobs Act intensifying yesterday — even as Democrats in Congress are now moving to change the bill — it’s becoming clearer that his aggressive new populism is part of a larger strategy: One that’s designed to frame the 2012 elections as a contest of values and moral visions.

As I noted the other day, there’s a connection between Obama’s call for tax hikes on the rich and his criticism of the crude conduct of some audience members (the “let him die” moment, the booing of the gay soldier) at GOP debates. Both are strands of argument in a larger case Obama is making about the broader, values-based choice voters will face next year. Obama continually rebuts the charge that his push for tax hikes on the rich is about class envy and division, instead arguing that “we’re all in this together,” an effort to frame the case for tax fairness as a referendum on national unity and the social contract.

This morning brings fresh signs that Obama’s jobs bill won’t pass as is, in particular over his push for tax fairness. But this is now about more than just the jobs bill and taxes, which is why Obama will continue this push. By linking his taxes-and-jobs argument to the crude outbursts at GOP debates, Obama is trying to build a larger contrast between the charitable, inclusive vision he’s fighting for and a fundamentally mean-spirited, exclusionary one he’s implicitly accusing the GOP of harboring.

Today David Nakamura and Paul Kane weigh in with a good piece fleshing this idea out in detail. They tally up the different ways Obama is making the “values” argument, in the context of his jobs push and other areas, and add this key nugget:

Senior administration officials said the president will continue his jobs tour through year’s end in a calculated effort to force Republicans to negotiate or be painted as a party unwilling to address the economic crisis.

Obviously, the Obama team hopes that the larger case about values will broaden the election beyond being a referendum on the economy, which remains extremely dangerous turf for him, by rendering the GOP candidate an unacceptable choice. And the economy and unemployment very well may trump all in the end. But this is the playbook Obama and his team have written, and they’re sticking with it at least through the end of the year.

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