That Won’t Be Their Strategy

If this, reported by E. J. Dionne, is the pitch that Democrats deploy in the fall:

More than anyone, President Obama can expound on how much better things are now than they were when the economy was near collapse in 2009. But a campaign speech he offered at a Democratic fundraiser last week in La Jolla, Calif., nicely captured the party’s two-track argument.

Yes, he began by accentuating the positive. “When I came into office, the American economy was in a freefall that people don’t still fully appreciate,” Obama said. “And by most measures, what we’ve accomplished together as a country over the last five years has been significant: 9.2 million new jobs, an auto industry that has come roaring back, a financial system that’s stabilized, trillions of dollars of wealth recovered and restored because housing came back and people’s 401 pensions bounced back.”

it presents a significant problem. Just about everyone has a family member, neighbor, or friend who’s been out of a job for years. Car sales are still lower than they were in 2008.

The financial system has perhaps stabilized somewhat. Just how much we’ll know when the next cyclic downturn occurs as it will eventually. However, wealth has not so much been recovered as transferred. Wealth in the form of home equity has decreased over the last 7 years while wealth in the form of equities has risen. That’s a transfer from ordinary people to the financial sector rather than restoration. It’s a bit hard to complain about income inequality while praising policies that have produced more income inequality.

Finally, only 15% of Americans have 401Ks and those are mostly the richest Americans. That’s not a winning strategy for Democrats.

Consequently, that won’t be their strategy.

My own view is that Democrats should avoid a national strategy and concentrate on the head-to-head contests in the hope that their candidates are better than their Republican opponents. It’s a wild idea but it just might work.

11 comments… add one
  • ...

    Car sales are still lower than they were in 2008.

    When we were smack in the middle of the official recession, it should be pointed out.

    The financial system has perhaps stabilized somewhat.

    Easily done while pumping in $85,000,000,000 a month into the heart of the financial system. (That’s supposed to be 85 billion, but I get a little cross-eyed looking at all the zeroes, especially after a hard night playing nurse.) Fuck it, pump $85,000 a year into my family from the Fed and we’ll be nice and stable too!

    It’s a bit hard to complain about income inequality while praising policies that have produced more income inequality.

    Bullshit. They’ve been doing it for a generation. And they get rewarded for it, too.

  • Guarneri

    Oh, I don’t know. Throw in a couple more crowd pleasers like “the Koch Bros” or “GWB” to Dionne’s mix and you will get a significant following. After all, Eleanor Clift publicly humiliated herself by declaring that our ambassador was not “murdered in a terrorist attack,” but rather “died of smoke inhalation in a terrorist attack…………inspired by a video.” Alrighty, then. Is it such a stretch, especially with the media in your back pocket, to think Dionne’s whitewash would work? I bet there are a couple frequent commenters here who would recite it all verbatim.

    On more technical matters…..

    Wealth was not really “transferred” from ordinary people homeowners to the “financial sector” because of the behavior of two financial bubbles. The Fed restored the paper wealth of public equity investors through QE, along with the administration encouraging profit/cash flow optimization through low corporate capex and hiring incentives. All on the backs of savers, the unemployed and future generations. (Not really ordinary homeowners) Heard any howls of indignation from Obama or his acolytes? Of course not, just some gibberish about how a buck fifty and hour more for the lowest on the totem pole will fix things.

    Housing? Premium housing is doing just fine, courtesy of the stock market. Pedestrian housing? As they say, “not so much.”

    As for the “financial sector,” they have benefitted not at the expense of homeowners, but all manner of Average Joes who will have to foot the bill for QE. Obama was suckered in by the allure and promise of job intensive construction, campaign contributions from the financial sector and the notion of too big to fail, because his core competency is campaigning and politics, and nothing else. Throw in bailouts and subsidies to his buddies at GM or the latest latent solar company bankruptcy and there you have it.

    Now, these views will be castigated here, or, if I were some national figure, on MSNBC, CNN, ABC, NBC etc. Tell me again how EJ Dionne’s drivel won’t fly??

  • jan

    Good points, Drew.

    When I hear Obama speak, all I can hear now is “blah, blah, blah.” His words mean absolutely nothing in context of what is really happening in this country, truth or hard facts. Basically what our president utters are ideological interpretation of events. The past 5-6 years have been a juggled realignment of our standard of living, expectations etc. according to Obama and his followers. He glides right by falling employment participation rates, higher food stamps and disability recipients, the telling gloom and doom of public polling sentiments and goes right into a rhapsody of his so-called accomplishments.

    Yes, Obama has achieved much during his terms in office. But I wouldn’t put those accomplishments necessarily in the column heading of ‘positive.’ He has divided this country in ways I would never have predicted, setting back racial harmony/civility/understanding to almost pre-civil rights days. His excessive regulations are not only gutting the marketplace, but are dismembering people’s desire to even risk such ventures. Statistics now indicate more businesses are disappearing than being created. How can that be a good thing?

    On one side of his mouth he touts energy production, without supplying an asterisk saying it’s all happened on private and state lands, not federal. No, his administration is only in the process of eliminating or making energy more difficult to access unless it has ‘green’ before it’s name. If it’s ‘green’ then it becomes more expensive, which ironically puts another dagger in the pocketbook of the middle class — the people he’s hurting the most in this economy, as he publicly espouses to be their advocate.

    Basically the Obama administration and it’s policies are a bundle of contradictions, obfuscations, and distortions (aka lies). Even the liberal press is saying this administration is the most secretive and non-transparent of any they have covered. Nonetheless, the Washington liberal elites continue to paint their adversaries as evil contrarians, when, if the truth be known, the current seats of power in DC have only accelerated the obnoxious discord there, creating a stand-off where there is little positive policy collaboration for the people, because everything is disputed and discredited for the sake of political advantage in the next election cycle.

  • ...

    Obama was suckered in by the allure and promise of job intensive construction, campaign contributions from the financial sector and the notion of too big to fail….

    You assume far too much good will on the part of that bastard. He didn’t give a fuck about jobs, and in fact none of the Democratic big shots do. They prefer high unemployment and high levels of poverty because it favors them at the ballot box.

  • michael reynolds

    They prefer high unemployment and high levels of poverty because it favors them at the ballot box.

    That is the single dumbest thing ever written about electoral politics.

  • ...

    That parties might pursue policies that will help them win? Sure, completely stupid.

    I note that this economy of low employment and falling median wages is one that you have claimed is a success, so successful that you wanted more of it in 2012 and will no doubt want more of it in 2016. Hmm, I wonder how that works?

  • ...

    Note the priorities the Democrats emphasized in 2012’s election cycle: The war on women, dogs in crates on top of station wagons, funny underwear, abortion, etc. In late spring/early summer, Obama proposed a job program designed to create one million jobs. (Far short of what was needed then, or even now.) He pretty much mentioned it once, and didn’t bring it up again. Even Schuler accused the President of just doing it to check off an item on a list, as I recall.

    Therefore one can reasonably assume that Democrats didn’t give a fuck about Americans out of work.

    They’ve only brought up income inequality NOW because they think by offering an extra couple of bucks an hour to people on the bottom they can buy more votes. (Sadly, they can and will.) Meanwhile they are proposing adding tens of millions of Third World peasants to the labor force to keep wages down on the low end.

    I’m supposed to interpret that as concern for people being poor and out of work? Riiiiiiigggghhhhhtttttt….

  • steve

    1) Dave is more correct on the transfer of wealth. Everyone contributed to making the financial sector whole, which includes ordinary people. The benefits were much more unevenly distributed. The equity surge that has resulted has not benefitted ordinary people as much as it has the finance sector.

    2) I would agree that Obama deserves a fair amount of criticism here. As has been noted, while the financial sector owns the GOP, it leases the Dems. Obama has sold out too much to the finance sector. I am on record as saying, and will stay with this, that the finance sector is now too powerful to do much about it. Barring major social upheaval, it will continue to dominate both parties.

    3) Always remember that it is not a choice between Obama and perfect management of the finance sector. The alternative is a group who went to court to make sure banks could continue to offer liars loans. A group that thinks if you just deregulate banks, everything will work out fine.


  • Ben Wolf

    The pitch that Democrats initiated a recovery doesn’t play even among Democrats. The best solution for the party is broadly what Dave is suggesting: pointing a finger at the nearest Republican and screaming he’s waaaaay worse.

  • My key point is that unless you think there’s a Democratic wave forming—something I think is very far-fetched—nationalizing the election is exactly the opposite of what you want to do. In the states needed for Democrats to hold the Senate many issues poll differently than they do on national polls, either in the reverse direction or with very different numbers.

    In that case the thing to do is to run on local issues or just plain being better than your opponent.

    Simply stated if Mary Landrieu runs her re-election campaign based on the PPACA, the recovery, global warming, and the vileness of the Republican Congressional leadership, she’ll be looking at the Senate in the rearview mirror.

  • Andy

    Agree with Ben and Dave.

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