Democrats set to play their only card: Ex­trem­ism

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

It isn’t quite panic yet, but the sounds em­a­nat­ing from Oba­ma­land are cer­tainly ner­vous. If you are David Ax­el­rod, chief strate­gist for Pres­i­dent Obama’s re-elec­tion cam­paign, you are well aware of your idol’s fall and doubt­less less than thrilled to get this ques­tion from CNN’s Candy Crowley:

“Some­thing that the pres­i­dent said this week struck me . . . he said it’s not as cool to be an Obama sup­porter as it was in 2008. . . I think he’s right. I think it’s not as cool to be an Obama sup­porter now. How do you get cool back into this?”

Gee, how do you com­pare a cam­paign that was based en­tirely on va­pid prom­ises and va­porous sen­ti­ment with a ref­er­en­dum on ac­tual job per­for­mance? Ax­el­rod de­nied (un­con­vinc­ingly) that the 2008 cam­paign had been a “cult of per­son­al­ity” and as­sured Crowley that once the cam­paign gets “fully en­gaged and the choices be­come clear, you are go­ing to see a great deal of ac­tiv­ity out there on his be­half.” In a sig­nal of just how fee­ble the case for Obama’s re-elec­tion is, Ax­el­rod fell back on the bo­gey­man:

“I think one of the things that’s go­ing to in­form that cam­paign is whether that Repub­li­can can­di­date is go­ing to yield to some of the forces within his own party or her own party that is driv­ing their, their party fur­ther to the right.”

For the record, there has never been a time in the past 50 years that the Democrats have not claimed to de­tect a fright­en­ing right­ward tilt in the GOP, even as the party has nom­i­nated such wild-eyed rad­i­cals as Ge­orge H.W. Bush, John McCain and Ge­orge W. (“com­pas­sion­ate con­ser­va­tive”) Bush.

Crowley pointed out that sup­port for the pres­i­dent among in­de­pen­dents has de­clined from 52 per­cent in the 2008 elec­tion to 42 per­cent to­day, and that even among staunch lib­er­als, 89 per­cent of whom voted for Obama in 2008, sup­port has dipped to 64 per­cent. How does the Obama team re-cre­ate a vic­tory in light of these num­bers?

She might have added so much more to that ques­tion. She might have asked how an in­cum­bent re­quests re-elec­tion when the un­em­ploy­ment is at 9.1 per­cent. Even more wor­ri­some, ac­cord­ing to the Bu­reau of La­bor Sta­tis­tics, fully half of the job­less are now long-term unem­ployed, mean­ing they have been with­out jobs for 27 weeks or longer. That is the high­est per­cent­age of long-term unem­ployed since the La­bor Depart­ment start­ing keep­ing

When the econ­omy is strong, elec­tions can turn on a va­ri­ety of is­sues. But when the econ­omy is poor, elec­tions are sel­dom about any­thing else.

such records in 1948.

She might have asked how an in­cum­bent achieves a vote of con­fi­dence when com­mod­ity prices on food and fuel are ris­ing and, re­lat­edly, the value of the dol­lar is plung­ing; when the hous­ing mar­ket has yet to re­cover from the crash de­spite (or, more likely, be­cause of) the pres­i­dent’s Home Affordable Mod­i­fi­ca­tion Pro­gram, which has pre­vented mar­kets from clear­ing; when a record one in seven Amer­i­cans now re­ceives Food Stamps; when one out of six Amer­i­cans is on Med­i­caid; and when a whop­ping 62.5 per­cent of re­spon­dents say the nation is on the wrong track.

When the econ­omy is strong, elec­tions can turn on a va­ri­ety of is­sues. But when the econ­omy is poor, elec­tions are sel­dom about any­thing else. The 1980 race was il­lus­tra­tive.

Though the Carter/Rea­gan race is re­mem­bered now as a land­slide for Ron­ald Rea­gan, the con­tours of the vic­tory were not ap­par­ent dur­ing the cam­paign. As late as Oc­to­ber 29, Gallup had the race as a dead heat, with Rea­gan at 44 per­cent and Pres­i­dent Carter at 43 (it was a three-man race). Other polling showed larger mar­gins for Rea­gan but noth­ing like the 10-point mar­gin of vic­tory he achieved. At the time, the con­test was per­ceived as close.

It was af­ter the first and only de­bate, a week be­fore Elec­tion Day, that vot­ers defini­tively moved into Rea­gan’s col­umn. At the time, in­fla­tion was run­ning at 13.5 per­cent, un­em­ploy­ment was 7 per­cent and in­ter­est rates were 21 per­cent. Amer­i­can hostages re­mained in Tehran. Carter’s ap­proval rat­ings hov­ered in the 30s dur­ing the fi­nal year of his ten­ure.

Why wasn’t Carter per­ceived as hope­lessly weak? Per­haps be­cause as bad as things were, vot­ers needed to be con­fi­dent about the chal­lenger’s fit­ness. Carter had suc­ceeded to some de­gree in fright­en­ing vot­ers about Rea­gan’s (you guessed it) right-wing ex­trem­ism. Rea­gan’s re­as­sur­ing de­bate per­for­mance al­layed those fears. And Rea­gan’s sum­ma­tion drilled to the heart of vot­ers’ con­cerns. Ask your­self, Rea­gan ad­vised, “Are you bet­ter off than you were four years ago?”

The econ­omy to­day is in some re­spects worse than it was in 1980. Bar­ring a catas­tro­phe, lit­tle else will mat­ter in 2012. Any cred­i­ble Repub­li­can can de­feat Obama, which is why Ax­el­rod is al­ready smear­ing as “ex­trem­ist” a per­son whose name he does not know.

Mona Charen is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.