Obama's new populism could sink his campaign

Let me start with a Gallup survey released on December 15, which showed that the number of Americans who see American society as divided into haves and have-nots has decreased significantly since the 2008 election. Back then, 49 percent saw the country as divided along those lines, and 49 percent didn’t. As of this week, only 41 percent see the country as divided between haves and have-nots, while 58 percent do not. (The share of Americans who consider themselves to be “haves” hasn’t budged: 59 percent in 2008, 58 percent today.)

Significantly, most of the reduction in those seeing the country as economically divided has occurred in the middle of the political spectrum. In 2008, 48 percent of independents saw an economic divide; today it’s 37 percent. In 2008, 51 percent of moderates saw a divide, versus only 38 percent now. Liberals are the only group that has become more likely to see a divided society—63 percent in 2008, 66 percent today. While invoking sharpening divisions will thrill them, it may have the opposite effect on the moderates and independents without whose support national Democratic candidates will fail.