"It's the Middle Class, Stupid!" by James Carville and Stan Greenberg (Blue Rider Press/Penguin Group)
James Carville, a longtime Democratic political consultant, and Stan Greenberg, a strategist, have written a recipe for President Barack Obama's re-election in their book, "It's the Middle Class, Stupid!"
Neither is working directly for Obama. But their credentials are immense, and it was Carville, as an adviser to Bill Clinton in 1992, who led the charge with "It's the economy, stupid!" — the campaign come-on that the book's title apes.
Essentially, they're saying that the vast majority of Americans identify themselves as members of the middle class, and Americans are both savvier than politicians realize and more disaffected than ever. So, whether you believe the middle class is shrinking statistically or not, it's up for grabs. And Democratic candidates are risking everything unless they immediately — and repeatedly — tell voters how they will cut the deficit, heal the economy and guarantee the long-term health of the middle class.
Carville's and Greenberg's recipe includes raising the tax rate on the highest incomes, but in line with what they see as a deep-seated American respect for financial success, not going after wealth itself; investing in education, research, infrastructure and innovation; and getting out of Afghanistan and similar conflicts. All this must be done, they say, with equal parts deficit cuts and tax increases.
They present pages and pages of quotes from focus groups and numerous charts of demographic data, economic trends and survey responses. But Carville and Greenberg largely omitted the guideposts that readers need to get from one point to the next. And much of the impressive evidence they marshal gets obscured by the book's format, in which they mimic the frothy back-and-forth of the TV talk shows where Carville appears regularly.
Greenberg comes the closest to a conclusion: "We'll be honest with you: Only if Obama and the Democrats run on the principle that 'it's the middle class, stupid!' do we have any chance as a country to address the state of the middle class and their dreams. … The deep problems at the heart of this book have to be at the heart of our politics."