Saturday, January 10, 2015

I can't find the exact quote...

...anywhere, but I remember reading once that John F. Kennedy said that Richard Nixon, his rival for the presidency in 1960, made the mistake of "talking down to voters." And I agree with the 35th president; it's never a good idea to insult people's intelligence. (They don't like it.)

I'm reminded of this by a front-page story in the Times this morning, "Economy Up, G.O.P. Wants a Little Credit." Jonathan Weisman writes (all emphasis mine): 

After years of finding the dark lining in every silver economic cloud, Republicans are facing a political quandary that is dividing their leadership even as it buoys the nation: The economy appears to be achieving liftoff. 

To some Republicans, a strategic shift is in the offing: Obama’s economy is still a failure, they argue, but welcome to the McConnell economy. 

“We’re finally starting to see some economic data that can provide a glimmer of hope,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the new Senate majority leader, said this week. “The uptick appears to coincide with the biggest political change of the Obama administration’s long tenure in Washington: the expectation of a new Republican Congress.”

Huh? Is this the same guy who said back in 2010:

The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.

Or what about Rush Limbaugh, who famously said before President Obama was even inaugurated, "I hope he fails"?

(And, by the way, before you point out that Limbaugh is only a radio talk show host, I don't recall any Republican officeholders disagreeing with him or even saying something like, "We need to give the new president a chance." Not even that great "statesman" John McCain.)

So how do you make President Obama "fail" or be a "one-term president"? Oh, I don't know, maybe by obstructing all of his policies and holding back the recovery? Do you think that would work? How about withholding any support from the stimulus, the auto industry rescue or the Affordable Care Act? (In fairness, three Republican senators voted for the stimulus, but not one GOP House member.)

Now back to that article in the Times. In regards to Sen. McConnell:

“Key statistics show that the economic recovery was underway well before September, which is our best estimate for when the ‘expectations’ of a G.O.P. Senate solidified,” PolitiFact wrote.

And in a link to a related piece, “The G.O.P. said Obamanomics would kill the economy. It didn’t. Now what?,” conservative columnist James Pethokoukis summed up the Republican challenge:

The party's messaging is built around blaming President Obama's progressive policies — the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare), the Dodd-Frank overhaul of the financial regulatory system, energy regulation, tax hikes on the rich — for the weak economic recovery. Some Republicans have gone even further in the past six years, predicting just-around-the-corner catastrophe — soaring interest rates, rocketing prices, a collapsing dollar — due to "Obamanomics." 

Such apocalyptic forecasts look silly in retrospect. The dollar is at a nine-year high, interest rates remain low, and inflation is still well below the Federal Reserve's 2 percent target. The only thing that has collapsed is the annual U.S budget deficit, from nearly 10 percent of GDP in 2009, to under 3 percent last year. One reason: Non-defense discretionary spending is headed toward its lowest levels in modern history.

“Rule No. 1: Acknowledge reality,” Mr. Pethokoukis advised.

And to that I would add, Rule No. 2: Don't talk down to people; it only hurts your credibility.

So where do the Republicans go from here? I'm not sure, but I would recommend first: come up with a positive economic agenda. (Saying "no" to everything and hoping the economy would crash didn't work out so well.) Absent a recession, I don't see how they beat Hillary in 2016, but that would at least be a good start.

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