E.J. Dionne: Find Your Inner Reagan

Filed in National by on January 20, 2010

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne gave excellent pre-emptive advice to Democrats regarding the outcome of the Massachusetts Senate race. His advice is simply really, communicate. It seems like strange advice for a man with such great communication skills, but it is still needed. The message is just not getting through.

But the success of the conservative narrative ought to trouble liberals and the Obama administration. The president has had to “own” the economic catastrophe much earlier than he should have. Most Americans understand that the mess we are in started before Obama got to the White House. Yet many, especially political independents, are upset that the government has had to spend so much and that things have not turned around as fast as they had hoped.

It’s also striking that most conservatives, through a method that might be called the audacity of audacity, have acted as if absolutely nothing went wrong with their economic theories. They speak and act as if they had nothing to do with the large deficits they now bemoan and say we will all be saved if only we return to the very policies that should already be discredited.

The reason conservatives have gotten away with this is because the media repeats their talking points unchallenged.

Yet the truth that liberals and Obama must grapple with is that they have failed so far to dent the right’s narrative, especially among those moderates and independents with no strong commitments to either side in this fight.

The president’s supporters comfort themselves that Obama’s numbers will improve as the economy gets better. This is a form of intellectual complacency. Ronald Reagan’s numbers went down during a slump, too. But even when he was in the doldrums, Reagan was laying the groundwork for a critique of liberalism that held sway in American politics long after he left office.

The Great Recession is the culmination of the Reagan era of slashing taxes for the wealthy and lax regulation. However, his ideology still holds strong with many people. Obama and the Democrats need to forcefully sell a counter-narrative if he wants to succeed. A lot of people want change. They know they want it but they need to understand why it’s needed. Change is always harder than the status quo but history tilts towards progress.

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Opinionated chemist, troublemaker, blogger on national and Delaware politics.

Comments (4)

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  1. anonone says:

    Exactly, UI. Obama hasn’t even tried to dent the right’s narrative because he wants his mythical bipartisanship and to be buddy-buddy with all the corporate lobbyists. If he doesn’t change and start fighting the right and telling the truth and living up to the promises of his campaign, then he is likely a 1-termer.

  2. In fact A1, Republicans often repeat (unchallenged) that the lack of bipartisanship is Obama’s fault. Broder even wrote a column to that effect. Mike Castle is also saying this.

  3. anon says:

    Obama and the Democrats need to forcefully sell a counter-narrative if he wants to succeed.

    I’m OK with a straight class warfare narrative. Lay out the lack of wage growth and lack of opportunity for our children, while the rich get richer. There is a huge appetite for populism, which Democrats used to be good at.

  4. anonone says:

    anon, the great assumption here is that Obama actually truly cares about the middle and lower classes. So far, I don’t see that he really does. The rich getting richer is pretty much his agenda so far.