Saturday, April 19, 2008

Breakthrough Election? (III)

Over the broad course of history, Democrats gained from the Depression, when Roosevelt successfully rallied northern working class voters behind the New Deal. Since 1932, Democrats have hoped economic issues will keep the population voting Democratic.

The 1960’s battles over civil rights and Vietnam brought the national elite into the Democratic Party, with national media holding open the door. The media played a key supporting role in the civil rights revolution, then media led the effort to use Vietnam to rid the country of Johnson and used Watergate to unhorse Nixon.

By 1974, the media had replaced the presidency as America's power center. Democrats since that time expect media control of the national agenda will keep power in Democrats’ hands. And from 1954 to the present, except for 2002-06 (and a few months in 2001), Democrats have successfully held the presidency or at least one house of Congress.

But divided control represents incomplete victory. Democrats now want it all—the presidency and both houses of congress. In the last 40 years, Democrats had full control only in 1976-80 and 1992-94. Today, the media are working to make Iraq (which they treat as Vietnam 2), the economy, and Bush’s ineptitude at home (Katrina) the basis for a Democratic breakthrough win in November.

While the table is set for Democratic victory, the outcome may depend on distorted reporting about the economy and Iraq. As this blog has noted, on both topics the media paint a bleaker picture than the actual reality.

Conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks, observing Wednesday’s debate, pounced on the unreality of Obama pledges on the economy and Iraq. The pledges threaten Democratic reliance on the economic and Iraq issues in November, if McCain is able to turn Obama’s words back on the Democrat. As Brooks wrote, Obama:

 made a sweeping read-my-lips pledge never to raise taxes on anybody making less than $200,000 to $250,000 a year. That will make it impossible to address entitlement reform any time in an Obama presidency. It will also make it much harder to afford the vast array of middle-class tax breaks, health care reforms and energy policy Manhattan Projects that he promises to deliver.

 Then he made an iron vow to get American troops out of Iraq within 16 months. Neither Obama nor anyone else has any clue what the conditions will be like when the next president takes office. He could have responsibly said that he aims to bring the troops home but will make a judgment at the time. Instead, he rigidly locked himself into a policy that will not be fully implemented for another three years.

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