So how should Republicans approach this? We know that liberal redistributive populism and class warfare doesn’t work politically (let alone, in terms of policy). Aping the left wouldn’t just be a brand problem—it would also be a bad idea.
But there are some pretty clear examples where the tax code seems unfairly rigged to reward the rich. Why is earned income taxed at a higher rate than carried interest? Since we should want to incentivize both work and investing, lowering and flattening both tax rates seems wise. And taking a stand in favor of fairness would go a long way toward removing the image of the GOP as the “party of the rich.”
Mostly, though, instead of stoking envy and anger and engaging in demagoguery about the haves and have nots, conservatives should focus on a positive vision for restoring the American dream where anyone can get ahead if they work hard and play by the rules. So yes, Republicans should take income inequality seriously, acknowledging the harm that it does to our society, and backing populist conservative policies that eschew pandering and demagoguery. And maybe we are seeing the beginnings of that.