The 2008 presidential election was all about the middle-class. Americans worried about how the recession would affect the middle-class, whether or not the middle-class was in decline, and what could be done to revive the middle-class.
What’s strange, however, is that only one side was using the term “middle-class.”
Take a look at the debate transcripts.
In the first presidential debate, Democratic candidate Barack Obama says “middle-class” three times.
In the second presidential debate, Democratic candidate Barack Obama says “middle-class” six times.
In the third presidential debate, Democratic candidate Barack Obama says “middle-class” five times.
Republican candidate John McCain doesn’t mention the middle-class once.
This pattern isn’t just confined to 2008. Compare, for instance, Democratic Senator John Kerry and Republican president George W. Bush. Mr. Bush, like Mr. McCain, didn’t use the word “middle-class” once during his acceptance of the 2000 presidential nomination. On the other hand, Mr. Kerry spoke of the “middle-class” eight times during his acceptance of the 2004 presidential nomination.
The pattern continues today. In the most recent Republican primary debate, the word “middle-class” once again was nonexistent.
Republicans do seem to use synonyms for middle-class. Senator John McCain spoke about “middle-income” individuals three times during the debates. In the most recent Republican primary debate, former Senator Rick Santorum talked about the “broad middle” three times, and former Governor Tim Pawlenty used the term “middle-income” once. (President George W. Bush didn’t use either term in his acceptance speech, on the other hand.)
Nevertheless, there is a strange reluctance amongst the Republican Party to talk about the middle-class. Perhaps Republicans don’t like the word “class.” They might think it has a relationship to class warfare, even though the term “middle-class” is a very neutral word.
They should get over it. Refusing to talk about the middle-class opens the door to Democratic attacks that Republicans don’t care about the middle class. And of course the Republican Party cares about America’s middle class. Don’t they?