A party 
divided


Who’d have thought Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Sarah Palin would be effective drivers of Democrats’ economic message in a way that would benefit both President Obama and congressional Democrats? Their recent attacks on Mitt Romney not only undermine the central argument that his business acumen makes him the best choice against Obama in the general election. Questioning claims of job creation versus job destruction and profit increases for companies like Bain Capital directly contradicts and undermines congressional Republicans’ argument against Democrats and their support of tax and regulatory policies that protect millionaire and billionaire “job creators” like Romney and Bain. 

Romney, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner have repeatedly made the argument that in their version of a free-market system, some succeed and some fail. They insist tax breaks for wealthy investors, a.k.a. “job creators,” not the middle-class workers in companies that Bain did help turn around, must be protected at all costs. They say companies like Bain should be trusted to do as they please, with no need for regulations that balance public health or workers’ rights, and no role for government to promote some degree of fairness and oversight. Congressional Republicans and their allied groups like the Club for Growth have also attacked Democrats’ (and the Occupy Wall Street movement’s) call for fundamental fairness as anti-capitalist, anti-American class warfare.

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Yet, with language less harsh than Perry’s “vulture capitalism,” Democrats have argued that, like the majority of Americans already making great sacrifices, millionaires and billionaires (like Romney, Gingrich and Santorum) should be willing to do their part to help our economy. That capitalism in America and the preservation of the American Dream rely on a fairness creating more opportunity for more people to do well, not as a finite resource where only a small group of deserving investors does well. Obama has focused on targeted tax breaks for small businesses to help hire or increase wages, for middle- and working-class Americans and help for veterans and rebuilding America’s infrastructure to create jobs, not “reorganizing” companies and laying people off to increase bonuses.

Newt Gingrich made similar arguments on Fox News when defending his own comments against attacks from the Club for Growth: “If we identify capitalism with rich guys looting companies, we’re going to have a very hard time protecting it. … This is why you have this underlying anger about the financial class. Because people look over and they go, ‘Wait a second, how come I lost my mortgage and you stayed a millionaire? How come I lost all my savings and you stayed a millionaire?’ ”

If Democrats keep the pressure on, they could be poised for legislative and electoral gains. Polls consistently show that a majority — including Republicans — favor Democrats’ approach on the economy and job creation. In a September 2011 survey, Gallup found that just more than half of Republican and Republican-leaning voters support eliminating tax deductions for corporations to pay for a jobs bill and 41 percent of Republicans support raising taxes on millionaires. And as Priorities USA recently noted, 53 percent of South Carolina Republicans have doubts about Mitt Romney after learning more about his private-sector “vulture capitalism.”

 Assuming Romney survives to become his party’s presidential nominee, he will do so as a GOP-labeled job-killing corporate raider at the top of a ticket that will be forced to defend corporate vulturism in an election year defined by growing economic disparity in America.

Karen Finney is a political analyst for MSNBC and Democratic consultant.