Wednesday, September 17, 2008

It's the economy, stupid, but... (how the Democrats have blown this election, and how they might be able to get it back.)

Like most Obama supporters, I have been aghast to see the national polls swing from a comfortable lead for Obama to an undeniable lead for McCain in just a couple of weeks. And it is beginning to look like more than just a post-convention "bounce": While we should not take the polls too seriously, nor panic as a result of them, something serious is clearly going on--something that could lead to Obama's defeat in November.

Of course, many of us are hoping, or even assuming, that the current Wall Street crash will wake voters up to the fact that it is the Republicans who drove the economy into the ditch over the past 8 years; and McCain's gaffes about "strong fundamentals" should, or could, help. And it is hard to believe that the majority of Americans would prefer the aging, fumbling, uncharismatic and Bush-tainted McCain to the young, dynamic, and future-oriented Obama. While some think that race is a factor, I somehow doubt it is playing much of a role--certainly not enough to account for the major mood swings in the American electorate.

No, I think something else is behind this. This is just a theory, and I can't prove it, but I suspect that many Americans are having doubts not just about Obama himself, but about the Democratic Party and its ability to lead and take strong action in times of crisis--including economic crisis.

Why might they think this? Because despite polls showing that the economy is the number one concern of voters right now, the Democrats have failed to pass the test voters gave them in November 2006 when they became a majority in Congress: The test to see whether they would really end the war in Iraq and bring the troops home. The Democrats failed this test, and they failed it miserably. Oh, there were plenty of excuses. They didn't have a big enough majority to cut funding, Americans were against a precipitous pullout, etc. And yet the great majority of Americans were in favor of beginning to withdraw troops two years ago--but the troops are still there, in greater numbers than before.

The Democrats could have ended the war by courageously refusing to introduce funding for it in the House of Representatives, where all spending bills must begin. They could have held firm, and explained their position to the American people; and then, when the Bush administration realized they were serious, the Democrats could have negotiated with the White House, from a position of strength, to provide enough money to support the troops with whatever they needed while the withdrawal took place. Why didn't they do this? Because Democrats got spooked by accusations that they would be willing to leave the troops abandoned in Iraq with no funds, a ridiculous idea with no foundation. And so what did they do? The Democrats abandoned the troops in Iraq to the whims of the Bush administration, and at the same time abandoned their own credibility. Let me repeat that: Because they were afraid of being accused of abandoning the troops, the Democrats abandoned the troops.

A Barack Obama and a Democratic Party that had successfully gotten us out of Iraq by the time of this election would have been a presidential candidate and a party that had proven it could take leadership at a time of crisis and get things done. Instead, we have a presidential candidate who is easily accused of being a great speechmaker, a talker rather than a doer. And it may sound crazy, and it may sound stupid, but John McCain, and even Sarah Palin, are successfully competing against that image and that reality--like it or not.

So what is to be done? It's time for Obama, and the Democrats, to talk about Iraq and the economy in the same breath--because the disastrous decision to go to war and the economic disaster we are facing are inextricably linked. Obama and the Democrats must stop avoiding the topic of Iraq, which they have been doing as much as possible during this campaign--perhaps realizing that their failure to end it is a strike against them--and make it an issue again. Starting with the presidential debate on September 26, if not sooner.

McCain's fundamentals: Michael Shear has a good history of his deregulation stance in the Washington Post, for those who want to be well-informed at the next dinner party. And the International Herald Tribune covers the international perspective on the AIG bailout; in essence, the U.S. is no longer in a position to preach to others about the free market.

Light relief department: Our gal Sarah (with thanks to PK for the link.)

Obama's new ad on the economy: It makes the link with Iraq very briefly at the end, and offers concrete proposals--but is too sedate and does not attack McCain head on for his Republican economic policies, which are directly responsible for the crisis.


Anonymous said...

It seems to me that the courage and will to change things come about usually because of one or two people who have the charisma and vision to unite others to get things done. It is very hard to imagine a group of representatives, or the people who voted for them, or "the Democratic Party" coming together and staying together long enough or well enough to accomplish much change without a strong leader. Obama could be that leader. I hope so.

Anonymous said...

Mr Balter,

Here...there is no why.

All the liberal bloggers keep trying to approach the jaw dropping spectacle of the Democratic party/power brokers pitch themselves--and the rest of us--over the cliff one more time with rational discourse.

The country is in the grip of the same psychic contamination that allowed Nazi-ism to gain traction.

Sarah Palin unleashed the inner goose step of the American collective.

It is useless to keep attacking the utter abandonment of reason and empirical evidence.

The country has been Goebbles-ized.

All one has to do is look at comments in posts in blogs. Its documented. Its viral. The ravings and defense of McCain and Palin all sound as if written by the same person. These people are no longer people, but bacteria...malaria that have become resistant to reality.

Its hunker in the bunker time. America must have its Reich. Its been itching for one --its going to be a right of passage.

terryt said...

"It is useless to keep attacking the utter abandonment of reason and empirical evidence". I agree. I think the Obama camp would be better to abandon attacks on McCain/Palin and just us extracts from Obama's speech at the convention, minus crowd noise and shots of it. I saw a tape of the speech again recently and there are many one and two liners that would make ideal soundbites for advertisements for the democrat presidential nominee.

Anonymous said...

Today marks one week of financial turmoil in the world markets, a fictitious and fabricated recession - only one problem with that specific wording - The only country that truly has any problems is the USA. These financial companies must get a grip on themselves - they are no different than our own households. When things go bad with household income – the leader of the house or the person that runs the household, makes decisions in order to curb the losses sustained. This is not evident with the US financial institutes – they have been mismanaged for years, and now it has reached to the point of no return. Yes, many will say that banks and lending institutes from abroad have also contributed to take a loss – this is only because these financial institutes took risks – it could have been profitable and non of us would have heard of any repercussions when earning billions of dollars – but now that they have lost, and they ask for hand-outs, we now hear of the problems related to hard economic times. – well ladies and gentlemen “Business is business”, and it is unfair for governments or countries (via the backs of tax payers) to bear the brunt and contribute in order to keep these companies afloat. If these financial institutes have made bad decisions – then they should be allowed to fail. Had any of us faced the same consequences – the banks and governments would have allowed us to go into bankruptcy – they should be no difference. These governments have absolutely no right in allowing any bailout programs.

The Canadian Government as well as the British, Italian, German, Iraqi governments should all stand and spell out that their counties do not have the same financial problems as the USA, and that these financial problems are solely the USA’s problems, and the USA should not drag other countries down with their financial worries

Stock markets around the world should not be reacting negatively, instead Canadian, Italian, British, German and most European countries should all be booming.

The media has done an excellent job securing fear in the world markets

Facts – the USA has more debt than any other country
The USA continually spends billions on a war that they should not be involved with
The USA will never be able to pay off its debt in our lifetime

These are the facts