As everyone in politics struggles to discover the historical analogy that fits their preconception of what's going on, many Democrats have latched on to Ronald Reagan's first two years as a way of holding on to the hope that political equilibrium will restore itself naturally and President Obama will emerge after November in fairly good shape for re-election.
Superficially, Obama's first two years do bear resemblance to Reagan's -- really bad economy at first, but one that recovers slowly, with the majority party losing seats to an energized opposition party that becomes ideologically incapable of building a national governing coalition.
One theory as for how Reagan was successful is that
he had a consistent message that conveyed that a) the bad economy wasn't his
fault, and b) he had a plan for fixing it. Thus, when things turned
around, he was able to harness the wave of support and ride his way to an easy re-election. But as even the Obama White House concedes, getting this year's messaging right has been tough.
The presumed economic message would involve financial, education, health care, and energy reform as the foundation of longer-term prosperity. Is that too complicated to get across? Well, maybe. That's what Obama talks about. It's hard to imagine that if Democrats only found new words or new metaphors to use, that message would somehow be more digestable.