Thursday, July 22, 2010

Oy, Bai

Matt Bai has another fantasy analysis piece.  Brendan Nyhan takes it apart.

The only thing I'd stress a bit more than Nyhan does is a relatively minor, but factual, point.  Bai claims that Barack Obama ran a content-free campaign focused on a vague slogan of "hope" and "change."  Look, I understand that Republicans want to spin things that way, and I certainly understand that most of the inattentive public doesn't pay much attention to the campaign and probably heard little more than "hope" and "change."  But in fact, Obama had lots and lots of very specific campaign proposals -- health care most certainly included -- and he did, in fact, campaign on those proposals.  In fact, it's hard to see how anyone paying even minimal attention to the campaign could believe that
The stimulus bill and the health care law may or may not have been good policy, but the sheer scope and cost of those agenda items seemed to jolt a lot of the independent voters who had conditionally supported Mr. Obama. Having failed to establish a rationale for such expansive measures during the campaign, Democrats were easily caricatured by their adversaries as a bunch of 1970s liberals who would spend money wherever they could. 
Stimulus?  Sure, although as always don't forget that a large chunk of that consisted of the tax cuts that Obama certainly campaigned on.   But health care?  Nonsense.  The "easily caricatured" conclusion has nothing whatsoever to do with anything that happened in the campaign.  And, by the way: all bill are easily caricatured.  (One might argue, although I wouldn't, that Bill Clinton spent more time talking about health care in 1992 did than Barack Obama in 2008 -- did that prevent his plan from being "easily caricatured"?). 

Really, just an awful use of extremely valuable NYT space.  Go read Nyhan for the rest of it. 

5 comments:

  1. Agreed! Hope and Change dominated but they were all backed up by policies that were messaged into one or two sentences to really connect with voters.

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  2. Oh, there's no doubt that Obama's campaign was full of substance. But both you and Nyhan bury the lede -- that chart of Reagan/Obama's ratings is amazing! Could someone send that to Richard Cohen, please?

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  3. How salient were 'issues' during the campaign? In the primaries Obama and Hillary had very similar positions on substance; I made my primary choice purely on campaign strategery, and I suspect this was true of most politically engaged Dems. (In the general there was no question of voting for anyone but the Dem nominee.)

    And to the degree that 'issues' were salient in the primaries, they were largely different issues - no one in 2007 was talking about an economic stimulus.

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  4. Well, two different questions. Were the candidates talking about health care in 2007? Absolutely. Did people choose based on issues? Probably not, and almost certainly not in the general election -- but that's not because the candidates weren't talking about issues.

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  5. Certainly I was voting for health care reform - not Hillary's specific plan in the primaries, nor Obama's in the general, but broadly for a world view that includes health care reform. (Actually getting it is an unexpected bennie!)

    Likewise I was voting for a world view that includes the stimulus, even though it was not an issue on the table in 2007. Health care reform, and a stimulus if the economy tanks, are the sorts of things I expect Dems to attempt, and that world view is why I am a Dem.

    Bai is disingenuous in ignoring that broad world-view bundling. Obama is keeping his major promises, both explicit (health care reform) and implicit (a stimulus). He has attempted what Generic Dem is supposed to attempt - and unlike Generic Dem, has actually delivered.

    Isn't this why the hysteria on the right is so intense? They're always hysterical when Dems get elected, but even more so when Dems succeed in enacting substantial parts of the Dem agenda.

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