10/25/2010—I am enough of a political partisan to be unhappy that the Democrats are doing so badly. I am satisfied with most of President Obama’s policies insofar as they went: healthcare reform, financial regulation, preventing a second Depression, and trying to nudge Israel on the settlements. Obviously many Americans do not agree with me. I am particularly unhappy that people who deny global warming can still win elections.
But in terms of lessons, it is important to figure out why the Democrats are in trouble. The conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer believes that the reason is ideological. He sees this midterm election as a referendum on government spending and regulation. Since the Democrats are doing badly, that means the country does not want these things.
But, to me, this election could not be less ideological. And I think Krauthammer will find this out when he tries to repeal healthcare reform. Let’s go back to denying people insurance based on pre-existing conditions. There’s a rallying cry.
This election is a referendum on a 9½% unemployment rate that the voters were not prepared for. The Democrats have failed to get the economy moving again in 2 years. Worse, the Democrats were doing other things during that time, as if they thought healthcare reform was more important than jobs. Even worse than that, no one said to the American people at the beginning, that large-scale deficit spending was only designed to hold things in status quo and that the recovery would take a number of years.
The Democrats are going to lose seats because their economic policies have seemed to fail according to the goals they themselves set. (If they had set the goals lower, they would still be losing seats, but not so many). Only signs of economic growth will help the Democrats. Next time you listen to Sarah Palin, you will hear about spending and regulation. But mostly you will hear about jobs. There is nothing ideological about it.
Ironically, if Obama had actually been a socialist and had gotten the economy moving through public ownership of the means of production, the Democrats would be doing just fine.