Democrats are withering under an endless barrage of rightwing attacks on jobs. Everything -- stimulus, deficits, rising taxes on the wealthy -- is mixed in a heated cauldron of rhetoric, lies, innuendo. The point is not to make a point. It is to keep the cauldron stirring until it bubbles over. The media inhales the fumes for cheap, high ratings.
And, the Democrats, feckless as ever in their inability to respond, cannot find even a cup of cold water to pour on it.
Switching metaphors, the Democrats need to provide a psychological anchor that people can latch onto, so they do not feel they are just being tossed about on stormy seas. They need to diffuse the anger the Republicans delight in ginning up -- they are very good at it. The Republicans are so good at provoking anger, that they can argue, with a straight face, that the policies that were in place when the Bush/Cheney economic disaster struck are what we should be doing again.
Isn't that the rightwing version of the story about a child who killed both his parents and then pleaded for mercy because he was an orphan? The rightwing is to politics what the Menendez brothers were to family life.
They scream that all we need to do is adopt Reagan's policies and everything would be much better. Right? Well, wrong. But, do not try to argue policy or economic theory, give people an anchor, some concrete proof that current policies are better than Reagan's.
Let us face it, neither Reagan nor Obama had a prayer of restoring the economy in 21 months from the depths of the recessions they inherited. But, we can ask this: under whose policies did job growth start to rise earlier?
To find out compare Reagan's record on jobs to President Obama's, mano a mano, at the same point in their Presidencies. How could the rightwing shrink from that contest?
Under Ronald Reagan, unemployment did not begin to tick down until summer-1983 -- that is summer 2011 in Obama-time. Under President Obama, who inherited a much worse recession than Reagan, jobs are slowly being added, and unemployment is beginning to tick down in 2010 -- 1982 in Reagan-time when unemployment was still climbing.
This provides Democrats an opening so wide they could drive a November victory right through it.
Repeat over-and-over-and-over-and-over-and-over again. Obama beats Reagan on the pace of job recovery by a year. Forget about arguing policy, just provide a metric. Obama beats Reagan on job recovery...by a year. Unemployment under Reagan was still going up for an entire year after, under Obama, it began going down.
And, they can quote St. Ronnie himself: "stay the course".
Why would anyone want to go back to policies that took a year longer to show progress than these? Oh, the deficit. Really? Mr. Reagan ran some pretty good deficits; in fact, under Reagan the country's debt/GDP ratio (a more important measure of indebtedness) grew for the first time since World War II, and then the 2 Bushes grew it even more. So, if you want something to be afraid of, it's the Reagan program. Oh, I see, it is raising taxes in a recession. Hmm, then why St. Ronnie enact the largest tax increase in American history in 1982, right in the teeth of the recession?
[Oh, and one more thing Nancy...bring Paul Ryan's budget proposal to a vote. Call their bluff on the deficit. The Ryan budget changes medicare into a voucher program (with shrinking values over time) and privatizes social security--let's see if Republicans really vote for those measures, or prove they are not serious about the debt--either way, they lose!].
But, do not get distracted. Obama's job recovery beats Reagan's by 1 year. From a deeper recession. With 2 unpaid for wars. 1 year ahead. Not good enough, yet. I know it doesn't feel good, yet, but it felt worse under Reagan*. Better than the alternative.
By 1 year.
Not bad for a Presidency that is not 2 years old.
Better stay the course.
*Reagan's January 1983 approval rating = 35%. That's January, 2011 in Obama-time.
Follow Paul Abrams on Twitter: www.twitter.com/pabrams2001