--Thomas Donohue, U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO
"growing jobs is not Obama's real priority. Growing government is."
--Nolan Finley, Detroit News
Being president is always about the economy. Except when the president’s economy is bad. Then it’s never about the economy.
Twice before, we have quoted the Weekly Standard’s Jay Cost writing:
The modern press is at times sycophantic of the incumbent president and at other times trying to mimic Woodward and Bernstein; it all depends on which party is in office. With a Democratic president cut from the same cloth as they, many journalists have done everything in their power to set the national conversation in ways that favor Obama.In deference to the importance a strong economy plays in insuring a healthy America, we have rewritten Cost's quote to read:
The modern press is at times sycophantic with “It’s the economy, stupid!” and at other times trying to hide economic performance; it all depends on which party is in office when the economy is bad. With the economy underperforming under a Democratic president cut from the same cloth as they, many journalists have done everything in their power to set the national conversation in ways that ignore the economy.The U.S. before the Civil War was an agricultural country divided between free farmers in the North and West and slave-owning plantations in the South. Slavery split the nation, killed off the Whig Party, gave birth to the Republican Party, and led to war.
After the Civil War, Republicans dominated the victorious North and West, nurtured an increasingly powerful industrial state, and supported liberal immigration that both populated the West and filled Northern factories with cheap labor.
Progressives came to power under Democrat Woodrow Wilson 100 years ago to check capitalism’s excesses, but government failed to sustain economic growth after the Great War concluded (1918-20), leading first to depression, then under Republicans to “return to normalcy” limited government and “roaring twenties” prosperity.
The Crash of 1929 brought Democrats back to power, creating the big government mixed economy we know today. Big government, big business, and big labor shared power under largely Democratic control (the “Blue Model,” blue as in Democrat “blue states”), and presided over post-World War II prosperity that lasted to 1968.
National security (Vietnam/"9.11"/Iraq), social issues (civil rights/busing/fair housing/affirmative action/welfare/crime/equal rights for women/abortion/religious secularization), and government growth/taxes have divided the parties since. If the economy does well, incumbents generally retain power. If not, incumbents turn to non-economic issues, often without success.
Parties ignore the economy’s importance at their peril. Since 1968, the economy has been a leading issue in 15 out of 23 elections, and a winner in 11--or 73%--of those (see chart below).