Paul Krugman’s advice for Barack Obama
From the NY Times:
Barack Obama recently lamented the fact that “politics has become so bitter and partisan” – which it certainly has. But he then went on to say that partisanship is why “we can’t tackle the big problems that demand solutions. And that’s what we have to change first.” Um, no. If history is any guide, what we need are political leaders willing to tackle the big problems despite bitter partisan opposition. If all goes well, we’ll eventually have a new era of bipartisanship – but that will be the end of the story, not the beginning.
Or to put it another way: what we need now is another F.D.R., not another Dwight Eisenhower….
It was only after F.D.R. had created a more equal society, and the old class warriors of the G.O.P. were replaced by “modern Republicans” who accepted the New Deal, that bipartisanship began to prevail.
Krugman goes on to argue that we are in a similar era to that which proceeded the New Deal and that similar politics (and policies) to FDR’s is what is needed to change our reality of accelerated income inequality and all the ills that come with it.
Interestingly, this is exactly what Jim Webb touched on in his SOTU response on Tuesday:
When one looks at the health of our economy, it’s almost as if we are living in two different countries. Some say that things have never been better. The stock market is at an all-time high, and so are corporate profits. But these benefits are not being fairly shared. When I graduated from college, the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the average worker did; today, it’s nearly 400 times. In other words, it takes the average worker more than a year to make the money that his or her boss makes in one day.
And John Edwards has been campaigning on this “Two Americas” theme for 5 years now. So some Democratic politicians do “get” it.
Blogger “Big Tent Democrat” explains (in a post from over 6 months ago) the problem with politicians like Obama who don’t get it and peddle this “why can’t we just get along” malarky:
FDR’s lesson for Obama [is] Politics is not a battle for the middle. It is a battle for defining the terms of the political debate. It is a battle to be able to say what is the middle. . . . FDR governed as a liberal but politicked like a populist….
(This, by the way, explains why (to archpundit’s dismay here) I am leaning towards Edwards (if Gore does not enter the race) and not Obama, despite Edwards’s less-progressive Senate record: Edwards “gets” the most important economic issue of our time and its full implications. Obama so far has not shown that he does not, and the kind of people he is surrounding himself with (http://www.mydd.com/…) are not likely to help.)
In a follow-up post today, Big Tent quotes blogger Brad DeLong’s own thoughts on a discussion with Paul Krugman:
while I [Delong] am profoundly, profoundly disappointed and disgusted by the surrender of the reality-based wing of the Republican policy community to the gang of Republican political spivs who currently hold the levers of power, I do think that there is hope that they will come to their senses and that building pragmatic technocratic policy coalitions from the center outward will be possible and is our best chance. Paul, I think, believes otherwise: The events of the past decade and a half have convinced him, I think, that people like me are hopelessly naive, and that the Democratic coalition is the only place where reality-based discourse is possible. Thus, in his view, the best road forward to (a) make the Democratic coalition politically dominant through aggressive populism, and then (b) to argue for pragmatic reality-based technocratic rather than idealistic fantasy-based ideological policies within the Democratic coalition.
He may well be right.