Friday :: Apr 25, 2008

Digby: It's The Economy, Stupid

by Turkana

Some of the geniuses in the shrillosphere have been attributing Hillary Clinton's continued dominance among certain demographic groups as being due racism. That some people have perfectly rational reasons to prefer her is unthinkable to those no longer capable of rationality. That liberal champions such as Paul Krugman and Elizabeth Edwards have been criticized, if not demonized, for having the temerity to suggest that Clinton's economic and health care plans are more progressive than those of Barack Obama pretty well summarizes the degree to which this particular self-styled class has creatively jumped the shark. But digby, in apparent agreement with Steve, offers an alternative rationale:

I heard an interesting passing observation from John Harwood on MSNBC in which he more or less characterized Senator Obama's campaign as a process "reform" campaign that may be losing a little steam as economic events overtake his theme of post partisan transcendence. I think there may be some truth in that. When Obama conceived of his campaign, political reform and ending the war in Iraq were the winning Democratic messages coming off of the 2006 election. (And it's not to say that they are no longer issues at all; Iraq is certainly likely to take center stage again simply because it's McCain's white whale.) But some people are starting to get seriously worried about their own lives and when that happens they become skeptical that abstract assertions about "fixing Washington" is the way to fix their problems.

When Obama won Wisconsin, I assumed he had pulled together the Democratic coalition and that Texas and Ohio would prove that. But since that primary, events have overtaken his thematic campaign. Gas prices are rising dramatically. The stock market has been volatile. The housing market just gets worse. Working people are starting to get nervous (they are always much closer to financial ruin than the professional class.) His "change" campaign may seem a bit distant and abstract in the current circumstances. Unlike Perot, who ran as a reformer in a recessionary climate in 1992, Obama doesn't have the decades of business experience to use as a proxy for successful economic stewardship, so he probably needs to be more explicit in his economic message now. (And while Perot got 20% of the vote, his reform message was never taken up --- it was his deficit message that penetrated. With the help of other rich powerful jackasses.)

The good news, going forward, is this:

This problem is correctable. Senator Obama probably needs to ramp up his personal energy, which has been flagging, (people need to believe the president is superhuman in times of stress) and start talking about bread and butter solutions with a touch of fiery populism. That's where the mood is leading. It's boring as hell to the media and the comfortable creative class types who are looking for something transcendent, but it's what's necessary at times like these.

It will almost certainly be necessary in the fall, no matter who wins the Democratic nomination. When the economy goes south, a lot of voters actually want a big helping of wonk with their inspiration. (Maybe it gives them reassurance that the people they are voting for know what they're doing.)

And whatever else is said about Hillary Clinton, she is, undeniably, a wonk. In many ways, she's been a lousy campaigner, and she's certainly allowed her campaign to be run into a ditch, more than once, by her horrendous campaign advisers. But when she talks issues, she shines. That's why, when debates focus on what matters rather than on trivialities, people respond to her. And Barack Obama needs to learn from that.

Digby remains optimistic that the political climate will sweep either Democrat into the White House, this November. I remain less so. But when people focus on the issues, they vote for the Democrats. Obama's a brilliant man. His campaign has focused on his charisma and eloquence, but it's well past time for him to show us his wonk. We only get it in bits and pieces. He's the likely, but not certain, Democratic nominee. He's capable of thinking circles around John McCain. Let him begin showing it.

Turkana :: 2:57 PM :: Comments (22) :: Digg It!