Home
In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Oct. 29, 2007 / 17 Mar-Cheshvan, 5768

Can the Dems own prosperity?

By Jonathan Rauch


Printer Friendly Version
Email this article

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Not many polling questions have been asked continuously for more than five decades, and fewer still remain as revealing today as they ever were. One such rarity is this question, which the Gallup Organization has asked in most (not all) years since 1951:

Looking ahead for the next few years, which political party do you think will do a better job of keeping the country prosperous?

This is the granddaddy of political polling questions not just because it is venerable but because it has earned its keep. If you had to pick only one political indicator as the most fundamental of all, this would be a good choice — because, to a first approximation, the party of prosperity is the default majority party.

The chart begins in 1951, when Harry Truman was president, and it shows how decisively the Depression and New Deal had bestowed "party of prosperity" status on the Democrats. Only occasionally did the Republicans even touch them. The Democrats' prosperity advantage seemed to be their birthright, part of the natural order of things, unlikely to be challenged or changed. Even well into the 1970s, as stagflation set in, few Democrats foresaw the trouble ahead.

That trouble arrived in the person of Ronald Reagan, whose greatest political achievement was to seize prosperity for the Republicans. He knew what he was doing when he made famous the phrase, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" By the time he was finished, Reagan had exorcised Herbert Hoover's ghost. Now it was the Democratic Party, once seemingly synonymous with modern economic management, that seemed inept and obsolete.

A recession and a bumbling Republican campaign nonetheless helped put a Democrat in the White House in 1993, and the succeeding eight years brought the Democrats news both good and bad. The good news was that a turbocharged economy lifted them back to parity. The bad news was that a turbocharged economy lifted them only to parity. Perhaps the memory of stagflation was too fresh in the public's mind; perhaps divided government muddied the picture. For whatever reason, by the time George W. Bush took office, the Democrats had not made the sale. The country had no party of prosperity.

Seeing opportunity, Bush set out to recapture and fortify Reagan's redoubt. His weapon was tax cuts — large and aggressive ones. That, plus five years of economic growth, should have pleased the public.

The results? Devastating. Crushing. Not only did Bush and his party fail to make the sale, the public slammed the door in their faces. Just why is hard to say. Worries about economic insecurity, and the failure of the median household income (adjusted for inflation) to rise during the Bush years, undoubtedly played a part. Bush's personal unpopularity and the public's displaced anger over the Iraq war may also figure.

In any case, by September 2006, Democrats had opened up a 17-point lead on prosperity. This September, the gap widened to 20 points, confirming that the change was no fluke. Democrats enjoy a lead on prosperity whose like they have not seen in a generation.

The prosperity gap is best viewed not as the jaws of oblivion for the Republicans but as a window of opportunity for the Democrats, because the public is more angry at Republicans than sold on Democrats. Anti-Republican sentiment, of course, is likely to do the Democrats some good in next year's election, but it is mere weather, likely to be transient. To change the climate, the Democrats need to own prosperity for years, not months.

Winning the presidency and keeping the economy healthy would be essential, but even that, as Bush's case shows, may be insufficient. Democrats also need a prosperity narrative: a compelling story about why the public can better trust them to make the economy flourish.

The Democrats' postwar narrative was Keynesianism: By managing demand, the government would balance the economy instead of the budget. Reagan's narrative was supply-side: He would reignite stagnating productivity by reducing tax rates, deregulating, and shrinking a bloated public sector. Bill Clinton preached fiscal responsibility and globalization, a program that succeeded economically but lacked staying power politically, partly because Al Gore seemed to repudiate it.

Bush adopted the supply-side story, but in a primitive form in which tax cuts, deregulation, and smaller government became tax cuts, tax cuts, and tax cuts. The public has responded with something between indifference and contempt, leaving Republicans without a leg to stand on.

As for the Democrats, they have an audience. For the first time since the Great Society era, the public is receptive to a Democratic prosperity narrative, even eager for one. What the party does not have, yet, is the narrative.

Various bits and pieces are in circulation. Fix health care. Improve income security. Restrict trade. Raise taxes on the rich. Democrats hope to speak to middle-class America's feelings of economic vulnerability, which is probably the right tree to bark up. But while some Democrats strike notes of class resentment, others seem to blame foreigners. No candidate has found a package and a tone that tell a story not primarily about populism or nationalism but about prosperity: raising the tide to lift all boats.

A prosperity narrative does not need to be conceptually elegant. It merely needs to be more right than wrong economically and in touch with the times politically, as Keynesianism and Reaganism were. What became known as Reaganomics was in fact a messy pastiche of Republican remedies old (tight money, fiscal restraint) and new (tax cuts, entrepreneurship) that Reagan assembled over the course of his 1980 campaign. The pieces hung together only inasmuch as they suited the candidate and his time — but that was what counted.

It may be that the Democrats will not find a prosperity story next year. Still, the potential for climate change is there. As Reagan exorcised Hoover's ghost, so the way appears open for the Democrats to exorcise Jimmy Carter's — and to haunt Republicans with the shade of George W. Bush.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Jonathan Rauch is a senior writer and columnist for National Journal. Comment by clicking here.

Jonathan Rauch Archives


© 2006, Jonathan Rauch

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles