That is the question.
Were you better off four years ago?
Joe Biden says you weren’t. “Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.”
On Twitter, PourMeCoffee says you weren’t . “Jersey Shore has been canceled and Arrested Development is coming back.”
Paul Ryan says you were, (“GM isn’t alive in Janesville”) but ever since he gave that convention speech that enabled six factcheckers to feed their families and misstated his marathon time I am contractually obligated to conclude as a member of the media that everything he says is false, so, whoops.
“But Walter White was still a good man and the final episode of Lost had not disappointed anyone.”
In a nutshell, it depends whom you ask.
The neat thing about four years ago is that I was there for that. I have dim recollections. There were fewer iPhones. Barack Obama had a Blackberry and everyone was still impressed by that.
Democratic candidates such as Elizabeth Warren are suggesting that we need to be reminded how bad it was four years ago.
“Don’t you remember?” they murmur, catching us by the sleeve and dragging us off into a corner. “Things were AWFUL! You had to cut off all your hair and sell it, just to feed Cosette, and then after you lost your factory job you became a prostitute, and then all your friends died on the barricades--”
“You are just describing the plot of Les Miserables now,” we murmur.
“That doesn’t mean it isn’t true! And there was a dust bowl, and also you were forced to eat the cat and your phone was much less smart than it is now, and Twilight topped the bestseller lists, and — Try to remember, and if you remember, then vote!”
Nonsense, say the Republicans. “Four years ago, things were great. Miley Cyrus still wore pants. No one had heard of Honey Boo Boo Child. Hipsterdom had not yet metastasized. Michael Jackson was alive. Four years ago, you were in college, and now you are living in your parents’ basement. And as yet there had been no major news story about a zombie devouring a man’s face.”
And they do have a point. The trouble with the past is that people rarely say things were worse there. The weather, if I recall correctly, was better. The lighting was better. Our knees didn’t pop weirdly whenever we stood up. The fashion was better. Nothing strange had happened to music. We were so much younger then.
Besides, one of the fundamental assumptions of campaign season is that voters have the collective memory of a goldfish that has recently suffered a severe head injury. If we didn’t, we’d never elect anyone to anything.