Ideally the economy would recover quickly and voters would heavily support Obama for reelection. While desirable, this is not much more likely than another scenario: voters embrace science and reason over superstition and abandon the Republicans now that they have become dominated by a party which promotes the use of government to impose fundamentalist religious views upon others. Neither is likely to happen. Conservative Voodoo economics have messed the economy up too badly to recover in only four years and we have a country where, according to a recent Gallup poll, forty-six percent of Americans believe in the creationist view that God created humans in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years. Naturally those who believe this tend to vote Republican: “While 58% of Republicans believe that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years, 39% of independents and 41% of Democrats agree.”
This week’s poor jobs numbers just might be the wake up call that Democrats need and we are fortunate that this came early enough in the election year for the Obama campaign to alter strategy. It is not safe to wait and hope that the economy will improve. As Dan Baltz wrote, “the election remains primarily a referendum on his record and that their path to victory may lie less in trying to discredit Republican Mitt Romney and more in winning a battle of ideas with their Republican rival.”
Challengers always prefer to frame elections as a referendum on the incumbent. Obama needs to convince voters that we have two competing views of the role of government, and demonstrate that his view is better for the country. He must do so before Romney succeeds in repeating the usual Republican lies mischaracterizing Democrats as supporting big government and the welfare state. In reality it is Republicans who have been responsible for increasing the size of government and the deficit. Voters must be shown that when Republicans promise smaller government they wind up creating bigger government, except with cuts in infrastructure which promote economic growth, and cuts in the programs that actually help them, such as Medicare, Social Security, and education.
If Romney disagrees, press him to show where he will cut the budget. Debunk the other common Republican canards. When Republicans talk about freedom, they mean freedom to impose their religious views upon others. When Republicans speak of getting government off of people’s backs, they are not referring to freedom for the individual. They are speaking purely of reduced regulation of Wall Street, polluters, and other areas where some degree of regulation is necessary.
The jobs numbers are bad, but increasing jobs too slowly is far preferable to the tremendous job losses of the Bush years. Under the best of circumstances it was not realistic to correct this in four years. Matters are made worse by an irresponsible Republican Congress which set defeating Obama as its major priority, over improving the economy. If Obama is to be measured by the unemployment rate, we must consider how much lower unemployment would be if not for cuts in government workers. Despite these cuts, Obama’s record for creating private sector jobs is far superior to Bush’s record.
In the column I noted above, Dan Baltz also pointed out:
Romney has not broken with broad outlines of the tax-cutting policies of former president George W. Bush’s eight years in office. He wants to go further, with deeper tax cuts. Bush’s policies did not produce economic growth or job creation to match Clinton’s record in the 1990s, and his term concluded with the collapse of the economy.
Obama demonstrate that it makes no sense to respond to a sluggish recovery by voting for Romney and the same policies which caused the collapse of the economy to begin with. Baltz argued that Obama must both make his first term record more clear and provide a clearer explanation of his second term plans:
What Obama hasn’t yet done is offer any clear idea of what his second term would be about. He argues that the country should not go back, but what his real goals are for a possible second four years in office remain cloaked largely in campaign generalities.
The meager jobs report puts additional pressure on him to do more than bemoan the possible consequences of turning the White House over to the Republicans. If he is campaigning on a new agenda to lift the economy, most voters couldn’t describe it. If he hopes to come out of the campaign with a mandate for particular policies, he hasn’t talked much about them.
Obama must also attempt to get voters to look at a bigger picture than how the economy is doing today. Do we have policies which strengthen the middle class and promote economic growth, or do we return to Republican economic policies which encourage the concentration of wealth in a tiny plutocracy and stifle the economy? Do we preserve our social safety nets with Medicare and Social Security, or do we elect Mitt Romney who will rubber stamp the Ryan budget which destroys these programs as we know them.
The campaign has extended into social issues recently. While the economy will dominate the election, Obama must also point out that voting for Romney means the entire conservative Republican agenda, extending government control over the private lives of individuals. Preventing the Republicans from controlling all three branches of government is essential to preserve reproductive rights as well as to preserve the middle class.