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This Was the First Class Warfare Election of Our Gilded Age — and the Middle Class Won Big

“God, guns and gays” didn’t work this time. The tricks used to divide working people and counter populist appeals backfired.

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America’s growing diversity and its increasingly socially liberal attitudes played a big role in this election. But looking back, we are likely to see this as the first of the class warfare elections of our new Gilded Age of extreme inequality. A besieged middle class is increasingly aware that the rules are rigged against them. They are increasingly skeptical of politicians and parties, and believe — not incorrectly — that Washington is largely bought and sold. But they are looking for champions.

For years, conservatives in both parties have warned against class warfare. Americans, we’re told, don’t like that divisiveness. They see it as the politics of envy. Inequality should, as Mitt Romney said, only be talked about in back rooms.

Nonsense.

More and more of our elections going forward will feature class warfare — only this time with the middle class fighting back. And candidates are going to have to be clear about which side they are on. Politicians in both parties are now hearing CEOs telling them that it is time for a deal that cuts Medicare and Social Security benefits in exchange for tax reform that lowers rates and closes loopholes. Before they take that advice, they might just want to look over their shoulders at what will be coming at them.

Robert L. Borosage is the founder and president of the Institute for America’s Future and co-director of its sister organization, the Campaign for America’s Future.

 
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