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Did “Class Warfare” Doom John Kerry?

By Matthew Yglesias on December 9, 2010 at 12:55 pm

"Did “Class Warfare” Doom John Kerry?"

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A selection from Noam Scheiber’s reporting on the evolution of the tax debate:

Within the administration, the split over whether to mount a tax-cut offensive broke down largely along wonk-operative lines. The wonks spent the last year mystified that the White House was ducking the fight when the substantive merits were so one-sided. The operatives brooded that the politics could abruptly turn against them, despite polling showing little public appetite for the upper-income cuts. “They view it through the class warfare stuff—Kerry in 2004, Gore in 2000,” says one administration official. “They worry that they’ll get painted as lefties, tax-raisers.”

The thesis here seems to be that “class warfare stuff” hurt John Kerry and Al Gore badly in 2000 and 2004. But where’s the evidence? True, Kerry and Gore both lost. But surely that doesn’t mean every single tactical decision they made went wrong. What’s more, not only did Al Gore win the popular vote in 2000 but when you consider the Ralph Nader factor it’s clear that Gore did a good job of getting the median voter to vote for him. What’s more, Kerry overperformed the fundamentals as measured by the Hibbs “bread and peace” model. On top of that, though Barack Obama’s 2008 platform differed from Kerry and Gore in a number of ways opposition to the Bush tax cuts was not one of those ways. So everything about this analysis seems arbitrary and suspect.

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