Friday, September 02, 2011

Whistling Past The Graveyard

Lawrence O’Donnell is desperate for Obama to win reelection, and the more bleak his chances look the more bizarre are the scenarios which O’Donnell trots out to prove that Obama has a second term in the bag. On Wednesday he brought us a Professor Allan Lichtman with a thirteen point analysis to predict presidential elections. He didn’t list all thirteen but did say that all of them carried equal weight and that, for instance, the plus of Obama having had no scandals neatly cancelled the negative of the economy being in the crapper, which proves that Obama will win reelection.

Yesterday he informed us that Obama’s presidential campaign staff held a secret meeting of some sort and invited a presidential historian to speak to them about how FDR and Ronald Reagan won reelection in years when the economy was in poor shape. They were thrilled by what he had to say and have decided to run Obama's reelection campaign on that model, so everybody relax and breathe easy. Obama will win in a landslide by running the same campaign that FDR and Reagan did.

Can anyone visualize Obama crooning “It’s morning in America” as Reagan did, or raising his fist and declaiming that “They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred” FDR style? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

The problem is that this plan comes from the Obama camp itself, and they actually think it’s going to work. The plan as Beschloss, the historian mentioned earlier, laid it out was in two parts. Part one was to convince the voters that the state of the nation was getting better, and to do that there has to be some evidence that it actually is getting better. In Reagan’s case that was pretty easy; the economy was growing at a significant pace and unemployment, while still quite high, was dropping rapidly.

FDR had to make a slightly different case and was far and away the more skillful campaigner. “For four long years instead of a government twirling its thumbs you have had a government which has rolled up its sleeves.” While conditions were struggling to improve, the steps that had been taken to create improvement were highly visible and were directed at the lives of the working man. FDR was not touting bank bailouts, or financial reform, or “confidence fairies” which would create jobs. He was pointing to huge programs like the CCC and the WPA which had already put millions to work. He wasn’t counting on business to create jobs and thereby dodging responsibility; business was the enemy who had created unemployment and “I welcome their hatred.”

Contrast that with Obama who has joined the Republicans in the mantra of, “We must create the opportunity for businesses to hire people.” He doesn’t get it. Businesses laid those people off to begin with. Instead of welcoming their hatred, he’s taking their money for his reelection campaign.

The second part of the campaign is to tell voters that turning government over to the opposition would be a step backward. Is that going work if you are unable to show any positive progress being made by your own time in power? Bad mouthing their opponent wasn’t a major part of the game plan for either Reagan or FDR in any case.

Reagan barely mentioned his opponent, the majority of his campaign was the “morning in America” theme. For FDR his campaign was about having his “sleeves rolled up” and the opponent was not the political opposition but the “malefactors of great wealth” whose hatred he welcomed. In either election, do we even remember who his opponent was?

I’m not saying Obama will lose, but merely going negative on the opponent, and using money from the “malefactors of great wealth” to do it, no less, while not having any accomplishment from his own “rolled up sleeves” to point to is not going to keep the reelection campaign ship off of the rocks.

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