Two thousand twelve is all about the economy, as new Post poll results underscore. Nothing else comes close to motivating voters as much. But President Obama appears to think that he can hide from the issue — at least for a while.
The president’s engagement with economic policy appears to be limited to traveling around, giving rhetoric-filled speeches about the virtues of spending more and taxing the rich. I’ve seen no reports of the president having had any real participation in Congress’s debt-reducing supercommittee process. I don’t know when the president last had the bipartisan congressional leadership meet with him and his economic team. It’s alarming that there doesn’t appear to be any serious behind-the-scenes efforts to agree on some bold initiatives.
As I wrote last week, the president’s economic adviser can give a speech about the administration’s economic policy and never mentioned the words manufacturing, energy or housing. But he can single out House Republicans for blame.
If nothing else, Obama and his team should offer some clarity. The public should always know what a president would do if he were a dictator. Instead, Obama generally acknowledges the benefits of more exports, he laments that the few have too much, but beyond just borrowing money and spending it on ill-defined programs, he is turning voters off. He should start by admitting that shovel-ready projects are harder to come by than he thought, that there is almost no such thing as a green job, and that union wishes are less important than business vitality.
If the president would admit mistakes, he would earn himself some patience with voters and could buy time to try something new.
Similarly, Insiders reader Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, reminded me that it has been over 900 days since the Senate passed a budget. If Democrats in the Senate would pass a budget, they would begin to have a plausible case that they are serious about governing. An overwhelming majority in the Post poll — 8 in 10 — are dissatisfied with the way that the federal government is working. When the Democratic majority who runs the Senate can’t get 50 of its members to perform this basic function, it is no wonder people are disgusted.
So Democrats are desperately trying to avoid blame for the economy, big deficits and necessary spending cuts. In politics, you can run and you can hide. But not forever. Voters will notice who is trying to maintain the status quo and who is trying to turn things around.
The one thing that Occupy Wall Street demonstrators, Tea Party activists and independents in the middle have in common is that no one wants more of the same. As the Post poll shows, the voters have made that decision already, and we still have a year to go.