Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Democrats did this to themselves

There are a couple of comments at TPM which are worth your consideration. The first is by " JM," a liberal Democrat:
What really scares me is political consequences of this recession. Republicans have perfected an electoral strategy in which they almost never seem to be blamed for obstructing the economy to achieve their party’s electoral goals. That is terrifying. With no discussion of their role (or lack of it) in returning the economy to normal employment, the American electorate seems to have conceded that they just don’t care if one party tries to damage the economy for their own electoral gain. ...

I’m a cynic, but even I am stunned by this possibility. But it probably says a lot about what national decline might look like. I’ve never subscribed to those notions of decline that have been tossed around since the beginning of the Great Recession, certainly not of economic decline. The United States is richer than ever, and has been growing fairly rapidly for an industrialized economy going through a fiscal crisis. What scares me, though, is the possibility that Republicans have figured out an electoral strategy in which they are never held accountable for the results of their economic policies. The American people just assume they are the craven dissolute son of the family and still rejoice when the prodigal returns (to power that is).

I am hoping that the widespread demographic shifts over the next fifteen years will make this electoral strategy extinct. But that’s still the best case scenario. The worst case scenario is an America dominated by the Republican party even when they’re in the minority, even when voters have picked the other team, as it were. This seems wildly out of line with what’s happened in American politics over the past century. I’m worried this is the real change brought about by the Great Recession.

I have similar worries. And re. that last paragraph, polls do show that Americans are generally progressive in their views,... but still vote Republican, many of them. Well, Republicans have a great propaganda machine.

But "JB" has a different perspective. And while he's not a Democrat or a liberal, he makes a very good point:
You know enough political history to recall that Roosevelt generation of Democrats hung the name of Herbert Hoover around the necks of their political opponents for a generation after 1932. Reagan-era Republicans did the same, for a shorter period of time and less dramatically, with the name of Jimmy Carter after 1980. It’s not the Republicans’ fault — or the product of any Republican “strategy” — that the President who was more unpopular for longer than any President since the invention of modern opinion polling was allowed to vanish without a trace by January 22, 2009.

George W. Bush’s invisibility, and the profoundly Bush-like Mitt Romney’s lack of any public identity as a “Bush Republican,” were the product of Democratic choices. So was the inadequate stimulus package at the beginning of 2009 that ensured a crushing recession that began under a Republican administration would not draw an effective government response under a Democratic administration. So was the disappearance from memory of the politicized, demoralized Justice Department of Alberto Gonzales, and the inept, crony-laden FEMA leadership that had let New Orleans drown. ...

Choices made by Obama and his Democratic allies were what they were. It is perhaps evident that I regard most of them as mistakes with respect to policy substance, but for our purposes here what matters is that they were political mistakes. In the simplest English I know: the United States does not make a black man President of the United States unless Americans have decided a huge change from what they had before is necessary.

I don't agree with everything here, but I do agree with most of it. After running a masterful campaign for the presidency in 2008, Barack Obama became an almost unbelievably inept politician once in office.

Oh, sure, he meant well. He tried to take the high road. He wanted to end our partisan gridlock. He wanted to bring us together as a nation again. He wanted to work with Republicans. Indeed, he needed to work with Republicans, in order to bring us out of this economic collapse.

But you can't work with people who are determined to see that you fail no matter what it does to our country. Obama meant well, but by ignoring George W. Bush, by letting Republicans sweep all that under the rug, he lost our one big chance for change.

A skilled politician would have investigated the disasters of the Bush administration, holding people accountable for the Iraq War, for torturing prisoners of war, for politicizing the Justice Department, for the disasters at FEMA, and for the policies which led to record-breaking budget deficits and the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression.

This might not have destroyed the Republican Party, not completely, but it could have kept them a small minority for the next generation, at least. But we just let all that slide.

And then, the president who ran on "hope and change" was too timid to actually change anything. Oh, he tried, in many cases, if tepidly. He did try to close Gitmo, for example. But Democrats are never bold - certainly not congressional Democrats! - and Obama didn't kick butt the way he needed to.

This was not just a wasted opportunity (likely our only opportunity to hold Republicans accountable for eight years of unmitigated disaster). It also left Republicans free to play offense, deliberately keeping our economy in the toilet - and, with unbelievable gall, hold the Democrats responsible).

Look at this chart of government spending the past 12 years:


During the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, we actually slashed government spending! That's actually anti-Keynesian! It's the exact opposite of what we needed to do.

Instead of increasing government spending, which we've done in every other recession for 80 years or more - including all Republican presidencies, since even Republicans know what needs to be done during recessions to get the economy moving again - we did just the reverse. Is it any wonder the recovery is faltering?

Of course, most of these cuts were done by state and local governments, but that's because they didn't get any help from Congress. Well, Republicans have been filibustering everything. (And, as I say, Democrats are none too bold even in the best of  times.)

And on top of all this, Republicans have tagged Barack Obama as a big spender! It's just incredible, isn't it?

Yes, Democrats brought much of this on themselves. Barack Obama tried to take the high road. But that's not what we needed. We needed - we desperately needed - to change course from the disastrous right-wing policies of the past thirty years. That didn't happen.

And now, we'll be lucky if the party of George W. Bush doesn't take power again and put us right back on the same course that started the 21st Century off so very, very disastrously for us.

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