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Hullabaloo


Friday, April 29, 2011

 
Hoping For Future Change

by digby

Boy does this ever say it all:

Many of the groups that Obama needs to turn out most enthusiastically in 2012—particularly young people, African-Americans, and Latinos—are still suffering the most as the economy crawls back from the Great Recession. That dynamic looms like a crack in the foundation for Obama’s reelection, which relies on those groups surging to the polls in 2012 after their participation sagged even more than usual in the 2010 midterms.

The continued strain on the groups at the core of Obama’s coalition underscores the political stakes in his recent turn toward deficit reduction. Obama’s pledge to reduce the deficit by about $4 trillion over the next 12 years has allowed him to shift the debate from whether to reduce the deficit to how. That’s much stronger terrain for Obama and Democrats—as demonstrated by the sharp backlash many congressional Republicans faced in town halls this week over the GOP’s proposal to convert Medicare into a voucher (or premium support) system.

But many liberal strategists fear that Obama could win this battle and lose the war in 2012. These critics argue that the tactical benefits of embracing greater deficit reduction come at a high cost: By agreeing that Washington must tighten its belt, the president has essentially precluded additional large-scale government efforts to stimulate growth and create jobs. “You are really conceding whatever the growth we have is the growth you are going to run with—and maybe even a little less, because you are going to start cutting spending,” says veteran liberal activist Robert Borosage, codirector of the Campaign for America’s Future.


It turns out that the base Obama needs to mobilize is composed of the very people who are hurting the most in this economy, particularly in light of the probably defection of some of the blue-collar whites who may have voted for him in 2008.

The Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank, recently analyzed the trends in greater detail. Its findings should chill the White House. Unemployment among workers younger than 25 with only a high school diploma averaged almost 23 percent in 2010—nearly double the level in 2007. Even among workers that age with a college degree, unemployment has averaged nearly 10 percent over the past year. There are enough Latinos in 15 states for the Bureau of Labor Statistics to track their job status; in 12 of them (including such battlegrounds as Colorado, Florida, and Nevada), the Latino unemployment rate exceeded 10 percent last year. In all 23 states in which there are enough African Americans to reliably measure unemployment, the average rate last year exceeded 10 percent; in 17 of them, it exceeded 15 percent.

The pain in these communities extends beyond unemployment to a historic liquidation of wealth. Census figures, for instance, show that homeownership rates have declined significantly faster among both African-Americans and Latinos than whites.


So, how are they going to deal with the fallout? Brownstein points out that African Americans are unwavering in their support, so he can count on that. But Latinos and young people are less enthusiastic. Their support is dropping rather precipitously and they are unreliable voters generally. But apparently they have figured out that they are gettable with the right message even if their own lives are grim:

Against those warning signs, the White House is betting that these young and minority voters will mostly look forward, not back, as they choose in 2012.


Oh boy. Apparently, polling shows that these groups tend to be more optimistic about the future than other groups and they think this indicates a residual faith in Obama. But I think that may be wishful thinking. Most young people assume they are going to be successful and many Latinos have a recent immigrant experience to draw upon and feel they have nowhere to go but up. I'm not sure they think Obama has anything to do with it, but maybe they do.

Perhaps more tellingly, they are counting on drawing a contrast between the administration and the other side showing that the Republicans want to close the borders and end Pell Grants. (In other words, they have nowhere else to go.) That may work, but in the face of a lousy economy and lots of cutting by the Democrats, I'm not sure there isn't just a much chance that these people will decide that politics isn't particularly relevant to their lives and that nobody is adequately representing their interests.

Brownstein concludes:

[S]econd-term presidential elections almost always unfold less as a choice than as a referendum on the incumbent. And that means Obama has placed a huge wager by embracing a fiscal strategy that denies him many tools to directly address the continuing struggles of African-Americans, Latinos, and young people. They may be at the margin of the economy, but they’re at the center of his electoral coalition.


Not to mention that it's just plain wrong.

I would guess that he's going to win regardless of any of this, not because he's persuaded struggling citizens that he's "winning the future" but because the Republicans are likely to run someone who will dampen mainstream GOP enthusiasm. Their best hopes are Romney, Pawlenty and Daniels and there are huge problems with all of them, not the least of which is a charisma gap the size of the Grand Canyon. And it's not impossible that the Tea Party has captured enough of the nominating apparatus that they'll nominate someone who's shockingly extreme. I suspect that will get him through.

But, they are playing with fire assuming that they can rekindle the last campaign without tangible results to prove it. People are hurting and as Brownstein says, re-elections are a referendum on the current president. He can talk about the future all he wants, but people are going to judge him on the present.


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