How's this for some perverse, twisted irony? On Tuesday, voters cited worry about the economy as their primary concern. Throw away the conflicting ideologies battling for supremacy: The simplest explanation for yesterday's results is that incumbent parties always suffer when the economy is down.
But on Wednesday, a batch of new economic indicators offered more scope for optimism than we've seen all year.
- Reports from car manufacturers indicate that October was the best month for auto sales since August 2009 -- when sales were goosed by the Cash for Clunkers program. If you skip Cash for Clunkers, it's the best performance in more than two years.
- Factory orders rose 2.1 percent in October, the sharpest rise since January
- Service companies expanded at the fastest rate in three months.
- ADP Employer Services, the largest private sector payroll processor in the U.S., reported that private companies added 43,000 new jobs in October, more than double what economists had been expecting.
It's not enough, but it's real. Whether this is just the proverbial dead cat bounce or if this is really the glimmer of a beginning of a recovery remains to be seen, but it's definitely there.
The problem that the Democrats face now, and it's hard to have any confidence in their ability to frame it to their advantage, is that if the economy continues to improve, the Rand Paulite teabaggers who now control the Republican Party will take the credit and say it's because of THEIR policies -- despite the fact that for the last three decades, pee-on-the-poor economics have never, ever been shown to result in economic growth over the long term.
We are a nation of babies: id-dominated creatures who want everything we want and we want it now, and when we don't get everything we want RIGHT NOW we scream bloody murder and throw a tantrum. However, we're highly selective about the things for which we demand instant gratification. We gave George W. Bush eight years of war and demanded nothing in terms of resolution -- or how much it cost. We gave him the ability to squander the surplus that was left to him by Bill Clinton and turn it into a deficit of over a trillion dollars. We arguably allowed him to steal not one but two elections. Americans looked the other way because the media told us he was a great guy, one of us, the guy you'd like to have a beer with, the guy who did the equivalent of puttering around his lawn when he went on vacation. He was the war president; the guy who stuffed the crotch of his flightsuit and strutted around like he was the biggest swingiest dick in the universe. He made Chris Matthews go all weak in the knees. But it was OK, because ENOUGH of us were OK.
Then in the fall of 2008, it all fell apart, and Barack Obama was swept into office. Had John McCain chosen one of the colorless white men he wanted, he might very well have been elected, but he didn't, and when push came to shove, the smiling black guy seemed like a better chance to take than the aging high school mean girl who couldn't put together a coherent sentence. We'd already had eight years of that. Too many people pinned a paper suit on Barack Obama and turned him into something he never was. He was the guy who DIDN'T feel "icky" about Teh Gays...except that he did, but he just never said it (until recently). He was the smart guy, the anti-Bush, the guy who pushed all our buttons and promised that he would make it all go away. The problem was that he was never what anyone thought he was.
He was never the progressive champion. This was a guy who chose Joe Lieberman to be his senior mentor in the Senate. This is a guy who as a new Senator sat on his hands when Stephanie Tubbs-Jones asked for a Senator to stand up with her and protest the vote in Ohio in 2004. But he's not a secret Musliim terrorist communist either. This is a very cautious, centrist guy, who is the living embodiment of Wanda Sykes' comedy bit about her mother always telling them as kids, "White folks are looking at you." The problem is that he was elected and ran straight-on into the brick wall that is today's Republican Party -- so-called "patriots" who would rather see this country die a slow, painful death rather than work together with those who don't see the world the way they do.
I've been in Florida this week -- a state that went about as hard to the right on Tuesday that it's possible to go. Florida has been the receipient of a shitload of Federal stimulus funds, but not one Democratic candidate in this state made note of that. And Florida is just one example. Fox News has shown that you can sell people a shit sandwich through fear. Apple shows that you can sell people products they don't need though sheer coolness. I see an iPad, and despite the fact that I have a desktop PC, two notebooks and a netbook, all I can thing of is WANT. SRSLY. NOW.
Marketing is everything, and the Democrats have shown absolutely no ability to do it. We have an awful health care reform bill that for most Americans who already have insurance is resulting in huge premium increases NOW -- no matter how it helps later on. And it has the Democrats' name on it because they capitulated to Republicans and the insurance industry in an effort to be "bipartisan." We have a defanged Wall Street reform bill. And now we have a just-maybe recovering economy -- but it's going to have the Republicans' name on it. Not because of their policies, which will cause collapse in the long term but keep them in power in the short, but because the Democrats were too damn lame, too damn lazy, too damn afraid of Glenn Beck, or too damn inept, to even tell Americans about their own achievements.