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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Third Way study and the issue “that dares not speak its name”

A lot of people have been weighing in on the new Third Way study that contrasts a “fairness” agenda with an “opportunity” agenda and — not surprisingly — comes down hard in favor of the latter.
Ed Kilgore has two posts up at the Washington Monthly about this poll today and Jonathan Bernstein has one at the Daily Plum cleverly titled “Beware of “Swing Independents” bearing deficit reduction.”
I’ll just add one quick point here that has not been made elsewhere: last year a vast amount of polling was concerned with the debate between “deficit reduction” and “jobs” or “job creation.” In that polling and the related discusssion, this dichotomy was seen as the critical policy choice and political issue.
In the new Third Way poll, however, the issue of jobs has disappeared. The dichotomy is between “fairness” and “opportunity” — and the “opportunity” side of the ledger includes “economic growth” which is as close as the study gets to raising the issue of employment.
So all of a sudden it’s as if the vast debate of last year never happened nor did Obama’s shift in the fall to a more populist focus on jobs. When progressives were insisting that the focus should be on jobs, they were challenged by those who said dealing with deficits was more important. Now that the employment picture is improving and Obama is gaining support on the issue, job creation suddenly disappears from the list of issues championed by progressives against deficit-prioritizing centrists.
It’s hard not to feel that the terms of the debate are being subtly switched in the middle of the argument and that when progressives prove to be right on a particular issue, it’s suddenly edited out of the debate.

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