Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Brief Political Aside

This Donald Peck story about the new age of joblessness is about the scariest non-terrorism-related stuff I've read in many years. I don't have any insight on whether or not Peck's proposition is likely to be correct. But if he is right that we are now beginning a prolonged period where unemployment will not go much below 8 percent, then I think he will also turn out to be correct about this being a moment of massive cultural consequence.

And also, of political consequence. If I was a GOP campaign consultant, I'd go out and trademark this mantra for 2010 and 2012:

"It's time to get back to work."

This slogan both gives you a central theme and offers an implicit rebuke to the opponent. It lets you be both forward- and backward-looking. It's infinitely adaptable (jobs, defense, immigration, tax cuts--you name the issue) and it hints at a deep concern about the opposition which no one is willing to give voice to explicitly (that the election of Barack Obama was a deeply unserious act by the electorate). It lets you have both an affirmative mission and a catharsis.

If Peck is right, then unemployment is Obama's Iraq, which is to say that by 2012, even incremental improvements (say, a jobless rate of "only" 8 percent) will only serve to highlight a problem whose very existence voters find unacceptable. It will be the issue through which everything else is refracted.

"It's time to get back to work."

On an unrelated note, Obama reminds me of this great Churchill quote:

The loyalties which centre upon number one are enormous. If he trips, he must be sustained. If he makes mistakes, they must be covered. If he sleeps, he must not be wantonly disturbed. But if he is no good he must be pole-axed. But this last extreme process cannot be carried out every day.

In this sense, much of the loyalty shown to flawed politicians (which is all of them) is understandable. The question always becomes, if the big guy is no good, who is willing to pole-axe him? And what are the consequences of not doing so? Republicans found out the hard way in 2006 and 2008. On this particular subject, I wonder what lessons Democrats will take from the Bush years.

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