Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Bad Memes, Bad Politics, Bad Policy - Updated

Still accepting rightwing memes, Robert Reich proposes a half-measure on the economy that cedes far too much ground.

Obviously, reviving the economy and lowering unemployment come first. They also come second, third and fourth. As Krugman has shown repeatedly, the deficit is not an urgent issue, in terms of actual economics. And as Reagan famously showed, it is never an urgent issue in terms of politics. Krugman has also shown how the GOP itself isn't serious about reducing the deficit, and never has been. It's pure theater for them. Well, we shouldn't go to that play.

Obama's frame from now on should be to redefine what it means to be "serious." That needs to be wrenched away from the faux VSPs, who have heretofore succeeded in equating it with fiscal austerity. Instead, seriousness should be equated with returning to reality, to data, to facts. Obama does have a mandate -- for a new, pragmatic governance based on facts. It is post-partisan, not bipartisan -- "post" in the sense that it doesn't organize itself around the opinions of partisans (or whoever is in the room), but around the evidence. This taps into the new Age of Nate Silver, of the Sandy-driven acceptance of climate change, of math education not just for our children, but for our politicians. The Democrats are now the party of reality, and the Republicans the party of fantasy. The election accomplished something really valuable in that respect, and it should not be pissed away.

Obama should paint the Republicans as the party of illusion and delusion. Central to those delusions are its memes -- like "entitlements," "job creators" and "fiscal cliff." These words should never be uttered or reinforced by our side. They should be relegated to the dustbin that contains "creation science" and its ilk.

Once again, Krugman lights the way: we bomb the cliff. The correct framing is to demonize "austerity" -- and calling it a "bomb" is a good way to do that.

Rhetorically, this should take the form of a polite but firm ignoring of the GOP. Obama should not treat this as a negotiation, but as work he is doing for the American people -- with the Republican House positioned as no more than an annoying obstacle. If that obstacle proves really persistent, no matter. Politically, the work here should never be framed as "compromise." The election was the arbiter between the two sides -- and one side won. That's over now. The facts are the facts, and the job of our government is to act on them. The American people have demanded that. If the House tries its extortionary bluff, Obama has to call them on it. They'll fold.

Update: Simpatico sentiments from the always piercing Charles Pierce, Esquire.

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