14 April 2011

The President must now sell the values he expressed in his speech

I have expressed my apprehensiveness about the likelihood, as Paul Krugman noted, that the positions the president took in yesterday's speech would be like a "left pole," from which very negative motion to the right was inevitable.

But after noting the reaction of the Republicans, and Paul Ryan in particular, I'm convinced that the more serious problem is that the other side is totally insane. 

What the president laid out was, by the standards of Depression and postwar America up to and even including the years of the 2d Bush administration, entirely reasonable and even moderate fiscal and social policy. Nothing to see here, business as usual; even a little bit fiscally conservative (which is actually more typical of Democrats than Republicans... when they have the White House.

I hope the president realizes that he must not just pursue a strategy of splitting the difference to reach a "compromise." He needs to get out there and convince the American people of the essential rightness of what he said. Of course, as a Progressive, I have many differences of opinion even with the president's scheme. (Why $3 in cuts for each $1 in tax increases ? Should be the other way around. Why nothing about unemployment? A stronger case for public investment as an essential priority? Etc.)

But I believe, and polling consistently shows, that, shorn of the propaganda halo the Republicans seem to be so good at, most of the ideas in the Ryan "Cause Not a Budget" are deeply, deeply unpopular in this country. Now it is the job of the President and the Democrats across the board to communicate this to the American people, boldly and relentlessly. 

Paul Ryan has said that the president's speech was "so partisan" that a budget deal is impossible. I say, take him at his word. Forget about a negotiated budget deal. Appeal directly to the people. Even encourage Wisconsin style demonstrations, in Washington. We need to make it clear that the 2010 election was pure reaction, pure unfocused anger, and the reality is that the great majority of Americans do not want what the Republicans are selling. 

If the president does this, I will be behind him. This speech should be the first klaxon of a great campaign to win over the American people, that seques into his re-election campaign and a great effort to target the most vulnerable House Republicans and work like hell to try to take back the House in 12.

But if he just triangulates and deals with these Radical Rightists, I will focus my energies on gradually rebuilding a real opposition, which I can only hope and pray will one day amass enough political power to undo the Rightist Coup D'Etat which we have seen unfolding in various ways since 2000.

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