Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Sullivan on the Schumer Consensus

Andrew Sullivan comments on the (Senator Chuck) Schumer (D-NY) take that Obama and the Democrats should have put the economy before health care on The Daily Dish.

I’ve heard this a million times now and I simply don’t understand it. In terms of chronology, Obama did put the economy first. With TARP and the stimulus and the auto-bailout, the key measures to shore up a flat-lining economy were taken in short order. You could plausibly argue, I think, that in retrospect, Obama should have gone bigger, and produced a much more ambitious stimulus. But, as someone who observed this close-up and in real time, the odds of that actually happening were close to zero. And if it had happened, the stimulus would have been even less popular – and more easily demagogued – than it actually was. The problem was not the timing or the seriousness of the response; it was the seriousness of the problem. When an economy has a near-death experience, on top of huge public and private debt, the recovery will tend to be exactly what this recovery was: long, sad at first, and later … well, we don’t know yet, do we?

My point is simply that this wasn’t because of Obama’s skewed priorities. And to blame Obama for the distortions and demagoguery of the ACA on the right is to cement the cynics’ victory twice over. But that’s what Democrats of Schumer’s era always tend to do. It’s the kind of defensive crouch that the Clintons perfected over the years. What Obama deserves criticism for is not the substance, but the inability to sell and explain and communicate the core principles and purposes of the ACA. He was so busy trying to get something through the Congress he took his eye off the ball in public opinion. And since there appears to be almost no one in Democratic ranks who can make the case except Obama, it turned into a political failure.

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