Friday, February 22, 2008

It's the Missed Opportunities, Stupid

Paul Krugman serves up a double helping of economics and politics in his NYT column today. Here are the key 'graphs:

Can the next president do anything to avoid that outcome [being the next Jimmy Carter]? In terms of straight economics, the answer is a clear yes.

To this day, it’s not clear what Mr. Carter could have done differently: stagflation is a problem with no good solutions. But weak spending is a treatable condition. A serious fiscal stimulus plan — one that emphasized public investment and aid to Americans in economic distress rather than across-the-board tax rebates, which many people won’t spend — could do a lot to ease the country’s economic pain.

Politically, however, it’s hard to see this happening.If the next president is a Republican, he will be captive to the doctrine that tax cuts are the answer to all problems, and therefore won’t seek an effective response to the economy’s troubles.

And even if the next president is a Democrat, any serious stimulus plan would face intense, ideologically motivated opposition in Congress. Will the next president be prepared to fight for an effective plan? Or will we end up with a compromise like the one Congressional Democrats agreed to this year, legislation that assuages conservative objections at the cost of undermining the plan’s effectiveness?

Until recently, I thought the biggest political struggle facing the next president was likely to be over health care reform. But right now it looks as if the first thing on the next administration’s plate will have to be dealing with a weak economy.

And if effective action isn’t forthcoming, the next president will suffer the fate of Jimmy Carter, who began his administration with words of uplift — “Let us create together a new national spirit of unity and trust” — and ended up delivering America into the hands of the hard right.

Don’t Rerun That ’70s Show

Line drive right into Golden Boy Barry's noggin. I noticed the phrase "And even if the next president is a Democrat," which sends me a strong message that Krugman doesn't believe a GE victory for the Democrat nominee is entirely certain in the way that the triumphalist A-List Blogger Boyz seem to think.

A Democratic president is going to have to fight tooth and nail to get anything passed. It is going to require an ability to take anything thrown her direction and deflect it while doggedly pursuing the policy objectives that will, when enacted, cement real gains for ordinary people.

The start and end of Obama's campaign all along has been I'm a more likeable person than Hillary, so help me beat that bitch. He has ridden Clinton Derangement Syndrome out of the starting gate, along the backstretch and into the far turn. Obama does this even as he himself has a pattern of political behavior more centrist and conciliatory than Big Dog at his worst and even as he has surrounded himself with former staffers and appointees of Bill's administration.

What the campaign lacks, however, and why it cannot achieve what Bill Clinton did, is an unswerving dedication to bettering the lives of ordinary people. It is trading on the most shallow of all political impulses (Oh, please, stop arguing about stuff and making me feel uncomfortable! Stop with the partisan bickering! Won't somebody think of the children?) and deliberately sidesteps the tough work of coalition building. Saying that you will seek common ground with the right - who wants no such thing - builds no coalition to promote progressive causes. It just gets you an inside track with David Broder and the Blogger Boyz who all want to become the next Tim Russert. Getting a bunch of college students with free time to swarm caucuses is not building a coalition, either, btw.

Building coalitions involves getting the support of people who aren't personally enthralled by your awesome awesomeness, but who are looking for advantageous political and economic deals.

Movement Conservatism has been thoroughly discredited by the Bush II administration, but that doesn't mean the liberal cause has an open road ahead of it. The radicals on the right are entrenched in government, they command popular media, and they have no compunction against using the most crude and visceral attacks they can conjure up to sway public opinion. To take back the nation, the Democrats are going to have to mount their own concerted attack, doing right by ordinary citizens and insisting on accountable, rational government. That means deploying effective policies despite the entrenched right wing hacks, appointing liberal judges, and getting significant legislation passed over determined opposition.

I know Hillary can do that. The Precious has yet to show he can talk about it, even when someone else writes it up for him.



Anonymous said...

I've really enjoyed your arguments and articulation of those arguments. My brother is venture capitalist and republican living in Houston. He and his wife are eager to vote for Hillary. They said they were ready for a smart tough woman to "clean up the mess". I was shocked! He now says that if Obama is the nominee, we'll get another republican in the WH. In his opinion, Obama is the left's version of Bush.
Just an anecdote in the Hillary hate stream that's always blasting at us. Thanks again for your efforts.

Linda said...

"The Precious" - I love it!

Anonymous said...

I guess, like myself, a lot of Democrats will end up voting for McCain if Hillary isn't the Democrat's candidate. I see Obama as the Democratic version of Dubya too -- hardly any experience and a lot of words that feel good.