Monday, July 16, 2012

Obama’s subtle class warfare may work

Seldom do I put my hand up to my gaping mouth and say, “Oh my God” following a television commercial. Almost never following a political ad. But President Barack Obama’s recent anti-Romney salvo, “Firms” made me do just that.

The television commercial features former Governor Mitt Romney singing America the Beautiful in a horrible off-key voice. A series of screen posts say that Romney had jobs shipped to Mexico and China, presumably while with Bain. It says that as governor, Romney outsourced jobs to India. And it points out that he keeps his money in Swiss bank accounts and offshore in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda. It ends with the tagline, “Mitt Romney’s not the solution. He’s the problem.”

Couple this with the Obama camp’s hammering Romney over his tax returns and it seems clear to me that the president wants to make sure everyone knows that Mitt Romney is not one of us. It is class warfare at its finest — or worst, depending on how you see it.

The genius in the ad, though, is that it’s designed not so much to make us fear what he would do as president, but angry over what he’s done to this point.

Romney’s people have said repeatedly that the economy is the issue and that no one cares about Mitt’s tax returns. I’d agree with them. Except …

If Obama can make people believe that one of the reason we’re in the dire straits we’re in is because of Mitt Romney (and people like him) then he can ensure that those people won’t vote for Romney. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll vote for Obama either, but in real logistical terms, any vote not for Romney is a vote for Obama and the administration’s guns know this.

Don’t be fooled — Barack Obama is not one of us, either. But he doesn’t need to convince you that he is. He doesn’t need to convince you to vote for him. Just not to vote for Romney.

When it comes down to it, the president is running against himself. This might not be the case if the GOP had found a stronger candidate, but they didn’t. The found Romney. And all the nose holding in the world won’t make him palatable with those on the far right. And it won’t make him any more likable with the left, either.

As much as I despise class warfare — I hope to be one of those 1 percenters myself some day — it can be effective. The GOP has used it effectively for years, essentially telling the middle class that any desire it has to get a bigger piece of the pie is an attempted theft from the wealthy.

For years, Democratic efforts to combat this attack has been feeble. For the first time in recent memory, they’ve found an effort that seems to work in the Obama ad.

Of course, for me the most interesting thing here is that Obama is playing offense. I’m not used to seeing Democrats play offense. Neither is the GOP.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the Romney camp responds.