During his Labor Day remarks in Milwaukee, Wisconsin today President Barack Obama took aim at the Republican Party’s November election strategy by labeling it no, we can’t. Obama said, “Remember when our campaign slogan was “Yes We Can?” These guys are running on “No, We Can’t,” and proud of it. Really inspiring, huh?”
Obama first jab at the GOP took aim at their trickle down economic theory and attacks on the middle class, “Well, anyone who thinks we can move this economy forward with a few doing well at the top, hoping it’ll trickle down to working folks running faster and faster just to keep up – they just haven’t studied our history. We didn’t become the most prosperous country in the world by rewarding greed and recklessness. We didn’t come this far by letting special interests run wild. We didn’t do it by just gambling and chasing paper profits on Wall Street. We did it by producing goods we could sell; we did it with sweat and effort and innovation. We did it by investing in the people who built this country from the ground up – workers, and middle-class families, and small business owners. We did it by out-working, out-educating, and out-competing everyone else.”
The President later brought out the big hammer, and labeled the Republicans the party of no we can’t, “But there are some folks in Washington who see things differently. When it comes to just about everything we’ve done to strengthen the middle class and rebuild our economy, almost every Republican in Congress said no. Even where we usually agree, they say no. They think it’s better to score political points before an election than actually solve problems. So they said no to help for small businesses. No to middle-class tax cuts. No to unemployment insurance. No to clean energy jobs. No to making college affordable. No to reforming Wall Street.”
Obama continued to call out the GOP’s cynical non-solutions based strategy for 2010, “Even as we speak, these guys are saying no to cutting more taxes for small business owners. I mean, come on! Remember when our campaign slogan was “Yes We Can?” These guys are running on “No, We Can’t,” and proud of it. Really inspiring, huh? To steal a line from our old friend, Ted Kennedy: what is it about working men and women that they find so offensive?”
The President framed the GOP as the party of the failed past, “Bottom line is, these guys refuse to give up on the economic philosophy they peddled for most of the last decade. You know that philosophy: you cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires; you cut rules for special interests; you cut working folks like you loose to fend for yourselves. They called it the ownership society. What it really boiled down to was: if you couldn’t find a job, or afford college, or got dropped by your insurance company – you’re on your own.”
He highlighted the contrast between his own forward looking vision, and the GOP’s pushing of the same old agenda, “Well, that philosophy didn’t work out so well for working folks. It didn’t work out so well for our country. All it did was rack up record deficits and result in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. I’m not bringing this up to re-litigate the past; I’m bringing it up because I don’t want to re-live the past. It would be one thing if Republicans in Washington had new ideas or policies to offer; if they said, you know, we’ve learned from our mistakes. We’ll do things differently this time. But that’s not what they’re doing. When the leader of their campaign committee was asked on national television what Republicans would do if they took over Congress, he actually said they’d follow “the exact same agenda” as they did before I took office. The exact same agenda.”
Obama defined the Republican election strategy as, “So basically, they’re betting that between now and November, you’ll come down with a case of amnesia. They think you’ll forget what their agenda did to this country. They think you’ll just believe that they’ve changed. These are the folks whose policies helped devastate our middle class and drive our economy into a ditch. And now they’re asking you for the keys back. Do you want to give them the keys back? Me neither. And do you know why? Because they don’t know how to drive! At a time when we’re just getting out of the ditch, they’d pop it in reverse, let the special interests ride shotgun, and hit the gas, careening right back into that ditch.”
A poll released by CNN yesterday which revealed that 53% of Americans blame Bush and the Republicans for the current economic mess, which is why Obama is swinging away at the GOP on the issue of the economy. The Republicans are extremely vulnerable on the economy, and the problem that they face is that America still has not forgotten either the Republican control of Congress or the Bush administration. Republicans have not offered up any ideas, because their entire strategy is based on capitalizing on voter anger. They want this campaign to be about emotion, not ideas or a path forward for the future.
Democrats are going to try to reorient this campaign to be a referendum on direction and vision. If Democrats have their way, the central question of the campaign will be who do you trust to revive the economy? With each passing week, Obama is laying out the campaign themes for Democrats all over the country. If Republicans refuse to discuss issues and ideas and instead want to rely on buzz words like constitutional conservative, and speaking in glorious tones about the Bush years, they will be playing with fire.
Obama is gambling that treating the American voter with a degree of intelligence will pay off in 2010, just as much as it did in 2008. The 2010 mid-term elections may turn on whether reason can overcome anger and fear. Obama and the Democrats will continue to stress their competency, but as the fall election campaigns move into full swing we will see which of these divergent appeals to America’s collective heart and mind will triumph.