This year inequality became the issue driving democratic politics. 2012 will be the year when voters in America have to decide what to do about it.
The economic battle will be about whether to increase taxation on top earners. The cultural battle will be about what government should do to protect the American Dream for a disillusioned middle class. The ideological battle will be about the role of government as guarantor of equal opportunity.
The election of 2012 will be about class – and devilishly complex for both parties. Republicans have to oppose higher taxation on the rich without appearing captives of a business elite; Democrats have to support higher taxation without appearing to threaten the middle class. The rhetoric will alternate between rousing appeals to the base and moderate appeals to the middle, but there is no doubt that this will be the most ideologically polarised election in a generation.
The victor in November 2012 will inherit both an economic mess and a crisis of faith in the fairness of society. The new president will discover that societies where millions feel the deck is stacked against them are tough to govern.