Fie on conventional wisdom. What if the "consensus of all reputable economists" is wrong and things actually do get better? Not good, but at least enough better that the White House and the New York Times can make the "it took longer than we expected, but we are now on the right track" argument. The current 75% wrong track opinion will change if unemployment somehow gets below 8% and foreclosures slow down - and a billion dollar campaign will affect fickle voters.
So, what is the President's palaver line?
1. He inherited the problem. There is some expansion from the "it's Bush's fault" argument to include all past presidents and Congresses. There's no point in getting bogged down in the fact that much of the financial deregulation happened under Clinton, or that Pelosi controlled the House from 2006 until 2010. In fact, if Clinton gets some of the blame, that's not all bad for the Obama wing of the party.
2. Recovery has been slow because Congress got in the way. In recognition of the fact that the House has passed 15 jobs related bills which Harry Reid refuses to consider in the Senate, the villain is "Congress", not just the "Party of No" in the House. In fact, Congress' 13% approval rating includes the most disliked politicians in America, Nancy Pelosi, and her Senate counterpart, Harry Reid, as well as Boehner and McConnell's Republicans. Be ecumenical, blame them all.
3. Times have been tough - the earthquake in Japan; the financial system problems in Europe; the oil spill in the Gulf; the unexplained die-off of honey bees. Maybe an asteroid.
4. There's been a lot of good stuff - the use of TARP to bail out the auto industry; the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to protect the masses from the unscrupulous bankers; fighting for extended unemployment benefits, mortgage restructuring, protection of teachers, etc. etc. etc. All good talking points for a stump speech that amps up spending to buy votes.
5. And if all else fails, he can resort to class warfare and racism. And if that doesn't work, perhaps an 11th hour announcement of an Afghan withdrawal.
The Republican challenge must not be a point-by-point rebuttal, or something dependent on short term trends. Trust the public to understand that the decline of America can be reversed.
1. The Democrats have mortgaged the future. Obama's multiple trillion dollar deficits are the largest in history; he accumulated more debt in three years than Bush did in eight. (Bush's unpaid Medicare prescription drug benefit, Iraq war, and No Child Left Behind ripped the budget. No excuses, but that doesn't mean that it is OK to triple down.) Trust that it is not in our genes to dump the bill on our grand-kids.
2. It is time that the country had some adult supervision. Pelosi's House Democrats, Reid's Senate Democrats, and Obama's White House have all avoided the requirement for budgets. Whether or not one agrees with specifics, every individual and family understands that it is necessary to make trade-offs; the Democrats have instead refused to make the choices domestically that we are critical of Greece and the other Europeans for not making. We are not exempt.
3. America's greatness comes from its belief in the individual and the power of the free enterprise system, not from the government's ability to provide for everybody's employment, housing, diet, and health-care. If we have lost this, the game is over for the U.S. of A.
4. And if all else fails, Solyndra, Fast and Furious, and the defeatist "leading from behind" international strategy.
Unfortunately, the guy handing out candy frequently wins in a democracy, so a clear Republican message is needed. The election cannot be a lesson in economics, an argument about a different tax code, or just a negative critique of Obama's failures. The Republican candidate must exhibit a true belief in the power of the free enterprise system, enough experience to demonstrate that he knows how to get it back on track, and a believable moral and political commitment to open the opportunity to all citizens. Mitt Romney can make this sale; perhaps others can also, but I'll go with the sure thing.
This week's video is an interview with Dick Durbin of Illinois, one of the Senate's most powerful liberals, who agrees that Obama would lose a referendum on the performance of his administration.