May 10, 2015


In Britain, an electoral earthquake shatters pre-election assumptions (Dan Balz, May 9, 2015, Washington Post)

Cameron successfully made central to the debate the fear of rising deficits under a prospective Labor government vs. allowing his party to finish the job of restoring the economy. To soften the edges of his own party against charges that it favored the rich at the expense of others, he also offered a variety of new spending initiatives -- though without fully explaining how he would pay for them.

Labor under Miliband had moved left from its Blairite domestic policy moorings, with a sharper critique of capitalism. But the message attacking rising economic inequality and insensitive Conservative policies proved less effective with voters than Cameron's emphasis on rising overall growth.

Public opinion polls and other signs before the election suggested that the fairness issue could cut against the Conservatives in the short and long term -- and I wrote a week ago that the Republican Party might have to take a lesson from that. The election results suggest something different, at least here and now.

Some Republicans, former House speaker Newt Gingrich among them, think Cameron's victory proves that if Democrats follow the wishes of the Elizabeth Warren wing of their party, the GOP will have a major opening to exploit in 2016, if they can present a strong, and positive vision for the economy and the middle class.

It will take more time to understand all the reasons for what happened here and the parallels for U.S. politics. But the Conservative victory here should be read by Democrats as evidence that their own economic messaging will need work heading into 2016, that it might not be as simple as claiming the deck is stacked, calling for an increase in the minimum wage and expecting voters to follow.

Labor suffered as well from the deficit in how many people judged the leaders of the two main parties. At a time of deep disaffection with politics and politicians, neither Cameron nor Miliband was especially admired. But in comparisons between the two, Cameron generally came out ahead -- somewhat better liked and generally preferred by a decent margin as the next prime minister. That no doubt is a lesson that translates across borders.

Economic Mobility Trumps the Income Gap as Bigger Worry -- WSJ/NBC Poll (NICK TIMIRAOS, 5/10/15, WSJ)
Americans are more concerned about moving up than they are about how much more, or less, their neighbor might make. JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGES
Presidential candidates, take note: When it comes to class differences, Americans are far more concerned about moving up the economic ladder than about the rich becoming richer.

The debate over rising income inequality jumped into high gear last year when French economist Thomas Piketty's book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, became a surprise bestseller.

By a greater than 2-to-1 margin, however, Americans said they're less worried about the income gap, per se, and more worried about how middle- or working-class Americans can get ahead financially, according to the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

Posted by at May 10, 2015 8:49 AM

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