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Hullabaloo


Saturday, June 04, 2011

 
Late Breaking Strategy

by digby

Politico is reporting that the Obama campaign is changing its strategy in light of the fact that the unemployment numbers are still so bad. It claims that he will make a hybrid pitch:

Democratic strategists say that means adopting an ungainly three-pronged political approach: Talking up economic gains since the darkest days of 2008 and 2009, highlighting a modest job-creation agenda blocked by Republicans and making the case that things would be far worse if the GOP were in charge.

Above all, he must avoid even the slightest hint of triumphalism on the economy — no missions have been accomplished — to avoid angering Americans still struggling to find jobs.
Gosh that sounds a lot more complicated than Hope and Change.

But this is not exactly surprising is it? The "Morning in America" strategy has been obvious for some time and there was always a huge risk it wasn't going to work. In fact, the unwavering belief in it is as faith based as that group who thought the world was ending on May 21st.

This is from eighteen months ago:

Atrios wonders the same thing I did this morning when I read that the unemployment numbers still suck hard:
I generally hate that kind of thinking, and certainly don't wish for things to get worse, but I do wonder just what level of job losses and unemployment might cause the powers that be to decide that maybe they should do something.
Probably it would take a stock market crash. That's the important thing
It's pretty clear to me that they think this will eventually iron itself out and that they don't need to do much of anything. At some point unemployment will start to come down, however slowly, and then just as it was with St Ronnie, it will be Morning in America. It's faith-based. And it ignores the very real suffering and lost opportunities that a long period of unemployment or underemployment causes as well as vastly underestimating the political and social upheaval such long periods of economic stress can cause. They're playing with fire.

I'm guessing they believed, as about half the policy wonks in DC apparently do, that the US presidency is a very weak office and that there was never much of anything he could do about the economy anyway. And maybe that's right, however absurd it seems to me. But they certainly could have left themselves some room for argument. Politico spells out the problem:

By ceding the argument to Republicans that the deficit is the problem, Obama helped steer the focus in Washington to cutting government spending, robbing the White House of its ability to argue for more stimulus measures. At the same time, the rise in fuel prices over the past six months has offset efforts late last year to boost consumer spending and job creation.
Maybe he couldn't have gotten any stimulus anyway, but by succumbing to deficit fever they sure as hell lost their argument that the Republicans are the ones obstructing job growth with their insistence on austerity. After all, nowadays the only people who aren't arguing for austerity are dirty hippies and liberal economists.

This was a very risky strategy that only seemed like the easy way out. When you are presiding over an epic economic meltdown policy substance matters. And if you can't get the right policy it's equally important that you don't get blamed for the wrong one. Depending on "the cycle" or "the markets" to magically fix things just in time for the re-election campaign while you give lip service to your opposition isn't a serious way to govern. I know it's hard and that this lunatic opposition makes almost everything you try to do futile. But by failing to make the case, to prepare people for the worst because of it, they're now left holding the bag.

I don't doubt that President Obama will be re-elected. The Republicans are offering no reasonable alternative and the Tea Party faction led by Paul Ryan is certifiably nuts. I'll be shocked if they even come close. But that doesn't absolve the administration of responsibility for coasting on the economy because Larry Summers assured them that everything would be fine by 2012. This economy has been going sideways for some time now and the no-drama Obama team should have awakened from their slumber and recognized it.

.