Would Better Economic Speeches Have Saved the Democrats?



Against the headwind of a terrible economy and a bloated majority in the House and Senate, Democrats were due for a major correction, no matter how beautiful their economic prose.

That's my take anyway. Steven Pearlstein has a 90 percent wonderful and 10 percent confusing column in which he explains, with the detached composure of a political science professor, that Democrats were fated to lose big and pundits should avoid beginning sentences with the phrase, "The Democrats should have done this". His conclusion is that we should file all explanations of the midterm elections under It's the economy, stupid...

The simple truth is that Obama and the Democratic Congress were dealt a lousy economic hand, and they've played it about as well as anyone could.

Sounds reasonable. But then Pearlstein abruptly changes direction, claiming that Obama didn't play his hand well, and that the White House might have kept its governing majority if the president had talked more about "shared sacrifice"...

What voters needed was a broader vision of where the country needed to go and how we could get there, a credible story of how shared sacrifice today could lead to shared prosperity tomorrow. The inability of President Obama and Democratic leaders to articulate such a vision and tell that story now threatens their governing majority.

But no! Steven Pearlstein, you are totally doing that thing that Steven Pearlstein said people shouldn't do: blaming the Democrats' bad polls and likely losses on some minuscule explanation like 'his speeches lacked a broader vision.'

Moreover, what about the president's economic agenda is shared sacrifice today for shared prosperity tomorrow? The White House's Keynesian economic policy is the opposite: low taxes and high spending now, higher taxes and lower spending later. That means expansion today, sacrifice tomorrow. That's his stimulus theory. If it doesn't work, then it doesn't work. But running a stimulative economic program and calling it "shared sacrifice" would only confuse Americans into saving government transfers under the banner of sacrifice, thus stalling the economic recovery.