Even conservative troll Dinesh D'Souza couldn't dream up anything as scary, at least for Republicans, as the reality of Obama's America in 2016.
That's because it's going to be pretty great, relatively-speaking. Unemployment could be around 4 percent. The deficit, which is already below 3 percent of GDP, could maybe, just maybe, be so small that it's actually a surplus. The uninsured rate should be at another recorded low, as long as the Supreme Court doesn't decide to kneecap the Affordable Care Act. Inflation will almost certainly still be below 2 percent. And, while nobody has any idea what will happen with oil prices, if they're anywhere in the neighborhood of where they are now, that's going to be a lot of money coming out of the pump and going into people's pockets.
If not morning, it should at least be sunrise in America.
What, as Jim Pethokoukis asks, will Republicans run on when they can't say that Obama's policies have killed the economy? Well, they could keep saying those policies have killed the economy even when they haven't—Republicans have plenty of experience with that—and keep talking about cutting taxes, cutting spending, and cutting regulations like they have in every election since at least 2004. The only flaw with that plan, though, is it probably won't work. Republicans need an actual agenda that deals with the actual problems that people face today, not the ones they did in 1980. The GOP, in other words, needs to run on something other than Ronald Reagan's greatest hits. So what will that be now that they can't just point at the other guy, and say he's failing?
Well, Jeb Bush has an unlikely answer: inequality. His Right to Rise political action committee isn't afraid to talk about the chasm between the haves and the have-nots no matter how loud a room might be. Indeed, it sounds almost ... Elizabeth Warren-y. It declares that middle-class people feel like "the playing field is no longer fair or level," that "while the last eight years have been pretty good ones for top-earners, they've been a lost decade for the rest of America" (although that was also true for the eight before that when somebody Bush knows pretty well was in the White House), and that "the income gap is real." And it puts all this front and center, with the de rigueur platitudes about "putting our fiscal house in order" coming after everything else. Austerity, in other words, is out, and social mobility is in.
But what does Bush want to do about it? Good question. It's hard to read between the lines when there are hardly any lines to read in the first place. There are some clues, though. Bush's PAC does say that "only conservative principles can solve" the income gap "by removing the barriers to upward mobility." That suggests he wants to focus on boosting longer-term opportunity by, say, pushing more charter schools and maybe making college more affordable. Whether it would include boosting incomes, like some conservative wonks want to, with wage subsidies is probably something even he doesn't know right now.
Republicans have needed a middle-class agenda for a long, long time now. And no, tax cuts for the rich that will supposedly trickle down to everyone else don't count. George W. Bush tried that, and it didn't work: real median wages stagnated even during the "boom," such as it was. Now, Republicans were able to win back the House and Senate without a real agenda just by running against the lousy economy that Obama inherited, but owned. That won't work in 2016, though. Republicans will not only be playing at a demographic disadvantage, but also a messaging one. That's because the economy shouldn't be lousy anymore. It should be the best it's been since Bill Clinton was in office.
In a year when there should be plenty of jobs, the question will be how to get people better ones with better pay. Not just the right to rise, but how to rise.