Many liberals think that John Edwards had the best message of any candidate in the primaries. The core of that message was that Bush’s economic values were askew. Bush, in line with conservative thinking on tax policy, has sought to end the tax code’s bias against saving and investment. So he has cut taxes on dividends and capital gains and sought to increase the amount of savings not subject to multiple taxation. On Edwards’s telling, Bush stands for taxing labor but not capital; he dishes out rewards to “wealth” rather than to “work.”
I don’t think that the Edwards message will be nearly as successful as Democrats think it will. It’s not as though this were 1980, and Bush had just decided to cut taxes on capital. Bush has been able to take the positions he has taken because of the rise of the investor class over the last 20 years. I know that some Democrats want to pit small investors against big investors and against management, and have a regulatory and redistributive version of an investor-class politics. To some extent, this agenda already failed in 2002–when the circumstances for it should have been good. Besides, an Edwards-style populist campaign has to denigrate the long-term project of wealth accumulation in which increasing numbers of Americans are engaged.
But I suppose we will all find out who is right soon enough.