Thursday, September 06, 2012

It's The Economy, Stupid

(Editorial cartoon by Jim Morin / Miami Herald (September 5, 2012) and featured at McClatchy DC. Click on image to enlarge and then be so kind as to return.)

So the Democratic Convention has opened, and eyes are focused on Charlotte. Tuesday's activities and speechifying were refreshing, I must admit, and I don't much like conventions in their present form. I liked them better when there were some real issues to be resolved, like who would be the nominee and who would be tapped for the VP slot. Most of the real issues are now decided before the gavel falls to open the convention and there really aren't any surprises. National party conventions have become mostly pep rallies with a soupcon of showcases of up-and-comers.

But the Democrats have shown some moxie in the first day and evening of their convention, something I've really appreciated. They haven't run away from their heritage (via Eschaton, which you should also check out for Atrios' pithy comment).

Stop us if you’ve heard this one: A major political party, trying to rekindle the flame of enthusiasm that died down to the embers after a presidential term that didn’t live up to expectations is turning to social issues — and fear of radical social change — to rally its base back to the polls.

No, it’s not the Republican Party of 2004. It’s the Democrats in 2012. With the establishment GOP and its nominee, Mitt Romney, trying to keep a lid on its social views, Democrats see a window of opportunity on same-sex marriage and abortion rights. And on the first night of their convention here, they hammered away at social messaging in a way that the conservative right could only dream about last week in Tampa. ...

In speech after speech, Democratic heavyweights took the stage to laud their party for backing marriage equality and slam the other side for continuing to oppose it — all to wild enthusiasm from the crowd. In the stands in the convention hall and the streets in the city around it, same sex marriage has become a rallying cry for Democrats and something they’re ready to put right out in front during a closely contested election. ...

Abortion got mentioned on the Tampa stage, but the GOP clearly wanted to talk about something else. Not true for Democrats, who proudly put the president of NARAL, Nancy Keenan, before a roaring crowd in Charlotte.

“We believe in funding family planning because it helps to prevent unintended pregnancy. We believe that a woman considering an abortion should not be forced to have an ultrasound against her will,” she said. “We believe that rape is rape. We believe that a woman should make health care decisions with her family, her doctor, and her God. And we believe that there’s no place in that room for politicians — especially politicians who don’t know how women’s bodies work.”

To which I say a hearty "YES!".

But let's get back to reality. Yes, the Democratic Party has got to get the attention of people like me, but it also has got to get the attention of the rest of the electorate, and, frankly, gay marriage and abortion rights are not at the top of most people's agenda. The economy is. And rightly so. What the Democrats, especially Barach Obama and Joe Biden, have to do is assure the electorate that they in fact recognize the problems of the 99% and they will do something about it.

David Horsey's column of 9/5/12 deals with just that issue.

Republicans not only have to compete with the star power of Michelle Obama, it just may be that they have set a trap for themselves by making the central question of the 2012 presidential campaign, "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" At their convention in Charlotte, N.C., this week, the Democrats, from the first lady on down, are responding to that question with some pretty sharp answers.

Here's the most succinct one: "GM is alive and Osama bin Laden is dead."...

Of course, the question is posed in a personal, not a collective way. Are you better off than you were? Though many people are doing just fine and have sailed easily through the economic doldrums, those who have lost jobs, have not found new jobs or have taken work that pays less are likely to answer no. That is no small number of people.

Still, I am reminded of something a Republican congressman told me years ago during another election when unemployment was a big issue. Yes, 8% unemployment is high, he said, but that means 92% of the people have jobs. So, the real question is whether a big number among those 92% are feeling like they might be next on the layoff list. In other words, it is not so much the anguish of the jobless that drives an election, it is the extent to which the employed majority feels secure or insecure about the future.

For a lot of folks who have seen their incomes stagnate for years while doing more and more work, the sense that something is wrong is nothing new. The beleaguered middle class has been treading water for two decades or more. For them, the question is not whether things are worse than four years ago, times have been tough for much longer than that. They cannot blame Obama for their predicament, but they can ask what he has done to lift them out of their economic rut in his first term and what he intends to do if given a second chance to run the country.
[Emphasis added]

To which I again say "YES!".

And both nominees and the party have to spell out exactly what they intend to do and why they weren't able to do that since 2008. They must point to Mitch McConnell's now famous pronouncement that the goal of the GOP after Obama's election was to make sure he didn't get re-elected, and the ways in which the Republicans in Congress obstructed more than just appointments to the federal bench. And, more importantly, they must be specific, detailing what the goals are and how the Democrats intend to achieve them. That in itself will draw a stark line between the two parties, which will give people some sense that at least one party is paying attention to reality.

Having Bill Clinton ("It's the economy, stupid") as the main speaker on Wednesday will hopefully set things up. I don't have television, so I'm going to have wait to see what the MSM and utube have to say later this morning as far as his speech goes. But with luck, he'll do the job.

And that just might make me appreciate the new form of conventions.

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