BARACK OBAMA's TURN
The President and his Party will now have to
well demonstrate why he should be re-elected
Monday, September 3, 2012
by Richard E. Berg-Andersson
When the Democrats convene in Charlotte, North Carolina for their 46th quadrennial National Convention this coming week, they (and, more than anyone else amongst that number, the candidate for re-election himself) must well make the case as to why President Barack Obama should be re-elected this coming November. This simply can't be done with faux Greek temples behind a mock presidential podium or a rain of confetti as fireworks are launched (as was the case back in Denver inside that stadium at 'Mile High' a little over four years ago now) or any equivalent of same.
The economy is just too sluggish- seemingly growing (albeit slowly) on one front while it yet lags behind on another: the national unemployment rate is, statistically, just about where it was after President Obama's first full month in office (though still well down from its peak at the start of the last quarter of the calendar year in which Obama first took office); Investment is, indeed, up (if one accepts the Dow Jones Industrial Average as an at least "ballpark" indicator of overall investment activity) significantly from its most recent nadir back in 2009 (6547 as "the Dow" at the close on 9 March of that year), but it has been hovering around (and, right now, just [barely] over as I type this) 13000 for several months now and this is not much higher than the 12928 the Dow had reached back on 2 May 2011 [!!]... meanwhile: its record high closing of 14164.53 nearly five years ago now (9 October 2007, to be exact) seems but a distant happy memory now.
But economic stats, however accurate (or not), can be deceiving in any event, depending on the way they happen to be viewed (such as: over the short-term versus the long-term)-- for instance, the (current) record high DJIA number just cited above was reached exactly two months after that 9 August 2007 387-point drop in the Dow I myself mentioned in my own piece of this past 13 August for this website and, indeed, 9 August 2007 is now seen- by many a financial analyst- as the true beginning of the current economic crisis we are still trying to do our utmost to yet crawl out of. It is not an at all unfair thing to wonder if so hitting that record high Dow not all that long thereafter produced such short-term financial myopia that it only delayed responding to the crisis until nearly a year thereafter (with TARP [the Troubled Asset Relief Program], signed into law by then-President George W. Bush on 3 October 2008); it is often all too easy to see the glass as half-full (while the well outside is still running dry) or, conversely, the glass as half-empty (when, in fact, the water is once again so free-flowing).
Yet, when the Republicans finally stopped the "tote board" at their own 'Telethon' of a National Convention as U.S. House Speaker John Boehner banged the gavel formally adjourning that gathering sine die, the amount of National Debt (however much this be but an estimate) showing on their admittedly gimmicky "Debt Clock" as having been accrued just during the life of that Convention stood at $8,539,526,343.07 (that's 8.5+ billion [with a 'B'!] American dollars, folks-- over a period of merely some 81.5 hours!)... and there is no question but that the National Debt is something that has been gathering long-term.
(Actually, very long term: for the Bank of England was first chartered in 1694, not all that long after events in the aftermath of the 'Glorious Revolution' had completely placed control of government revenue in the hands of Parliament and away from the Crown: it is only then that the very concept of 'National Debt' [as it came to be understood in the United States of America that the nascent British Empire, however inadvertently, produced less than a century thereafter] first appears; what became the earliest version of the modern "central bank" would accept loans from legal persons [corporations as well as individuals] in return for shares in the bank itself which would thereafter "service" the National Debt, reducing- or so it was hoped- a reliance on increased taxes and customs duties that would otherwise harm the national Economy [this also fortified the so-called "power of the Purse" within legislative assemblies as so spreading the burden of this debt meant that the People as a whole (however 'the People' might be constitutionally defined at a particular time in History [for instance, please see my own comments on the late Ted Kennedy's notion of Massachusetts' founding as a 'Commonwealth' as contrasted with the reality of that founding in my piece of 1 September for this website]) would, at least in theory, have a hand in determining the disbursement of government revenue].
Almost from its very inception, the National Debt- especially as it increased in order to fund various government projects and adventures- was ever decried; as one historian once wrote:
At every stage in the growth of that debt the nation has set up the same cry of anguish and despair. At every stage in the growth of that debt it has been seriously asserted by wise men that bankruptcy and ruin were at hand. Yet still the debt went on growing; and still bankruptcy and ruin were as remote as ever.
The above was written by an historian of British History more than a century and a half ago now-- but that which he described above has often been a common theme within the political battles on this side of the Atlantic over time as well. A core problem for President Obama and his Party is that, especially during tough economic times, "bankruptcy and ruin" on a national scale do not seem so remote to so many: at the same time, however, there has been a rather long history of 'The Boy Who Cried "Wolf" ' about the National Debt and, therefore, the National Debt is- in some ways- for conservatives precisely what Climate Change is for liberals: that is, something vehemently decried by its detractors while [at least for the most part] various and sundry proposed solutions to the problem are put forth, yet many "out there" simply do not necessarily see it as an impending problem.)
Many speakers at the most recent Republican Convention, frankly, stated quite a lot of crap (to which the Democrats will- perhaps unavoidably- add their own, by the way)- such as, to take just one example, GOP vice-presidential nominee and designated wunderkind Paul Ryan declaiming- in his own Acceptance Speech- that the President had created a bipartisan debt commission: they came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing. But Congressman Ryan was a member of that debt commission (in his capacity as House Budget Committee Chairman) and then voted against this resultant report (so what exactly is Ryan's argument here? 'The President was provided with a solution so urgent for the Nation that I myself didn't even bother to support it'?!-- yet more evidence of a serious "disconnect" between Ryan's wing of the Grand Old Party and the mind of Mitt Romney himself [for Ryan saying what he said, as quoted in this very paragraph, makes little sense unless we all assume he was advancing an argument best put forward by the head of the Republican National Ticket, not himself!], a "disconnect" that the Democrats- but only if they themselves are unified [as "a true federation and thus a true accommodator of all the interests of a continent"]-might yet be able to exploit this coming Fall)...
but, at the same time, the Democrats- in their own Convention- cannot afford to get too hung up on deflecting all rightful or wrongful Republican criticism of them: for, if the Convention now about to get underway gets far too bogged down in "tit for tat", their own message is going to become all too blurred and, thereby, less well attract the average American voter in that very Center which generally the more determines the outcome of national elections and about which I have already written many times in recent pieces for this website.
By the same token, there can also no longer be this incessant blaming of the George W. Bush years for the economic situation we are still in as I now type this-- and Europe is not the main issue here either (Europe's own financial woes are, in large part, due to its trying to operate a single currency with several central banks in charge-- as if the American dollar were being regulated [though most likely, not] under such as the old Articles of Confederation in a more modern setting!). In truth, Europe's own problems should, instead, be America's own best economic and financial opportunity-- as these once were, under still far more dire circumstances, in the aftermath of World War II.
Above all else, Barack Obama and his Vice-President, Joe Biden- along with other major personages within their Party- have, as we here in Jersey are wont to say, "some 'splainin' to do"!
So, right from the start, the Democrats have to- somehow- make the case that their vision of how best to deal with the economic issues of the day is still better for the Nation as a whole, as well as over the foreseeable future, than those policies proposed by the Republicans and accented at their own Convention so recently concluded. And quite a lot of this (as I have already opined elsewhere on this website) is going to be centered around "who is going to the more bear the economic and financial pain?" as we slog ever onward- in 'three steps forward, two steps back' style- towards that still distant "light at the end of the tunnel"! (I remain convinced that, whoever is in power when the American Economy so noticeably improves [someday!] will- by default- gain credit for having done, or not done, a great many things that, in truth, will have had nothing at all directly to do with that very result).
If, indeed, Americans are not better off than they were four years ago, how will a second Obama Administration make things better- over the next four years- for most Americans than a potential Romney Administration will? (Or, conversely, how would a potential Romney Administration be worse than what we already have now?)
In the main- and no less than the Republicans, then- the Democrats, too, have to avoid "allow[ing] themselves to feel, and preach, that the opposition is not only mistaken but wicked"!