What Obama needs to do more forcefully is make the next step of the argument by answering the questions: Why must fairness be restored? What will it lead to? To liberals, it’s enough that it will lead to a fairer society. Therefore, it doesn’t even occur to many liberals that the “What will it lead to?” question even needs to be answered. A fairer society is enough. But for many Americans, it’s not enough. A fairer society is fine, they think, if we can afford it. But what these Americans want is a society where there are lots of good jobs. A prosperous society. So what Obama and his speechwriters should be hoping people summarizing his speeches would say is something like: he’s for building up the middle class and making the rich pay more because things are out of whack and unfair, and because doing so will create a more prosperous society. That’s the missing piece.
I'm afraid that the missing piece is a chimera. Democrats cannot get it out of their heads that Obama just is not saying the right things. Perhaps he and his administration don't drive them home with the right sound bytes or repetitiveness -- or perhaps a populace just will not hear when unemployment is north of 8%. Perhaps, too, Obama went semi-mute for a few months in 2011 (May to September at most) on the broad economic themes he's been repeating throughout his career on the national stage. But as long as I've been listening to the man (and reading his books and speeches), Obama has insisted that fairness and prosperity are hand-in-glove -- and that prosperity that is not broadly shared, that accrues mainly to a wealthy minority, has repeatedly (1890s, 1920s, noughties) proved unsustainable.