Opinion: White House 2012 – The politics of class

by Osita Egbubine

US presidential campaigns are always roller coasters. One moment, Candidate A is leading, then a seed falls from the sky and the other candidate steals ahead. Pollsters have a field day polling people in every possible constituency- gays without siblings, blonde Negroes, adults under 18- trying to find out where they stand on every issue. And the campaign teams are left to ponder what to make of the results and what steps to take. It’s almost like a Formula 1 race over 365 days.

It does get dizzying at times, given the frenetic pace these things go at. So it helps to back off some times, if only to clear one’s mental space and get a new perspective. That was the case for me when I got off the campaign trail for about a month with Obama struggling to explain that he wasn’t a Socialist, the new label the Republicans had given him following his tax-on-the-rich comments. Seeking to remove the Bush-era tax cuts on those making over $250,000 per year, he pushed to end those cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Then, the Buffett Rule was the newest economic theory on the bloc, and the middle and lower class seemed to agree that in trying to raise more cash for the country, they should pay less and the rich, more.

The Republicans accused him of seeking to bring the French model of economic theory to the very-free and capitalist United States. In other words, Obama was anti-Rich and trying to create a class war, pitching the poor against the rich. Of course, in the middle of all this were the American people, trying to make sense of the verbal tomahawks. While most Americans fall in the middle economic category and would love to pay less taxes, they also don’t like the idea of weakening the strong by strengthening the weak. At least, that’s how the French system is viewed.

Anyway, I got back to the trail and found an interesting new development. Obama had turned the “class warfare” argument on the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney. Now, Mitt has always touted his business background as a key reason why he is better placed to get the dismal unemployment numbers down from their current high of about 8%. Mitt worked in private equity firm, Bain Capital for a while before entering politics. The Obama campaign, with a bit more experience in presidential campaigning, dug into his tenure at the firm. They have highlighted that Mitt was one of the pioneers for outsourcing, helping companies move jobs overseas. Now that, for a man hinging his campaign on the promise to create jobs at home is a hit.

Recent polls show that the new attacks ads by the Obama campaign using the Bain connection is having an effect on swing voters. Some people have begun to doubt whether this very rich “outsourcer” can indeed bring jobs back to America. The Democrats were quick to lampoon the American Olympic committee when it was recently released that the uniforms to be worn by US athletes at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, though designed by American label Ralph Lauren, were manufactured in China. Again, the Dems may highlight this as another consequence of the outsourcing practice, made popular by the Bain Capitals and by extension, Mitts of this world.

Playing the class game has changed the argument from Obama the Socialist to Romney the “Vulture Capitalist”. While it remains to be seen how this strategy would work in the long run, it is a bug the Romney campaign will have to deal with. In the world of political campaigns, just as in the world of business, strategy or better yet fluid strategy makes winners. It helps to be able to see where you are going and what you are up against. With this in mind, one may then ride to the goal, making pit stops and leveraging whatever advantage may be gained. The Obama campaign took a losing position and has seemingly turned the tide on that front. If Romney can’t make a pitch to Americans on jobs, then he can’t win the presidency. Well, except of course another seed falls from the sky showing Obama to be a Somali spy.

However things turn out, one thing is certain. The 45th President of the United States would be a true Sun Tzu disciple, able to lead a successful strategy over the long haul through varying circumstances on all nine grounds. The race is on.

This article was first published in BoardroomNG.

 

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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