Friday, September 03, 2010

It's The Economy, Stupid

You’d think that Democrats would be campaigning on Obama’s popularity, wouldn’t you? You’d think they’d be campaigning on the “historic legislative achievements” of this session past. You’d think they’d be campaigning on these things and winning big and you be, of course, wrong.

Chris Matthews and various guests spent most of the program on Hardball yesterday discussing how Democrats should approach the fall elections and whether they should have “done nothing” instead of being so proactive on social issues; health care reform, financial reform and such. Chris Cillizza insisted that the only way that Democrats can salvage anything at all from the fall elections is to admit that Democrats aren’t very good and make sure that voters understand how much worse the Republicans are.

As to the value of the measures that Democrats have passed but are unable to campaign on, Matthews pointed out that Obama campaigned on these issues because during the campaign the economy had not yet gone in the tank; that it went sour during the transition. Fair enough, but politicians need to be dealing with what is, not what used to be, and Obama and Democratic leadership forgot one thing - James Carville's mantra in the Clinton era, "It's the economy, stupid."

Voters may be in favor of social reform in normal times, certainly such appeared to be the case during the presidential campaign, but when the economy tanks the voter's desire for social reform tanks with it. They don't care about social mores at that point, they want the economy repaired, and until it is restored they consider action on any other front to be a distraction, to be something which diminishes action on economic recovery effort. That's what all the anger is about right now, regardless of what words are being shouted. It's that Democrats spent a month or so passing the stimulus, and then they have ignored the economy and spent the last eighteen months flubbing around with other things.

Oh sure, those “other things” polled well in isolation. When voters were asked if they wanted the Wall Street robber barons punished they said that they did. On a list of things that the public wanted handled, however, punishing Wall Street robber barons was never anywhere near the top; the top four or five items all had to do with jobs and the economy and Obama and Congress just did not get that because they were too focused on social reform goals.

Health care reform, which preoccupied politics for a full year, didn’t even poll very well. It mostly polled negatively with the exception of the "public option" which never got any traction in Congress and which Obama never supported at all. Voters didn't dislike the form of the health care bill, they disliked the fact that it was being dealt with at all, rather than the economic matters that they wanted their leadership to be focused upon. The "public option" only polled favorably because that aspect was presented not so much as a social issue, but as an concept that would reduce voters’ costs.

Political success is not about doing what you think is important. What you think doesn't matter. It's about doing what the voters think is important, and when the economy is in the tank the voters do not give a rat's ass about anything other than the economy. Clinton knew that. Obama, for all of his vaunted intelligence, and for all the vaunted political genius with which he has surrounded himself, does not. Obama, politically speaking and from a leadership standpoint, could not find his ass if you gave him a mirror on a stick and a set of instructions. Even if you can’t “fix” the economy, you cannot portray the impression that you are ignoring it in favor of other issues, and Obama has done precisely that.

1 comment:

bruce said...

The health care reform thing was a two edged sword in the voters eyes... Yes, the public wanted change, but only because they either didn't have health insurance (through loss of a job -it's the economy, stupid) or they can't get insurance (ie, no job, no money, they can't afford it on the wages they do have or previous condition make them uninsurable). Some of the provisions made sense, but the whole thing ultimately was a cow turd on a stick.

If they had done a "everybody is covered regardless of employment, economic, social, or medical status" then that would have been a success and taken real load off peoples worries. Of course, that would have been horrendously expensicve in moth money and political capital - therin lies the rub.

If they had taken real measures to "fix" the economy, get some decent jobs back, then the health care issue would not have been a burning issue. Well, it was for progressive agenda politicians, but hey, we're just the peons here. Between election cycles, anyway.

I like Obama, but he has not really done much to inspire me. He has had some lofty speeches and goals, some of whch are semi-met. Not enough and poorly accomplished.

Blaming the opposition is a tired lame excuse. Yes, sometimes the opposition does crappy stuff and should be voted out. But then it is on you to get your s*t together and fix it. I don't think they have their sh*t together or even on the same page.

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