During the PBS News Hour an interesting dialogue between David Brooks of The New York Times, and EJ Dionne of the Washington Post took place, and in that rarefied journalistic air, the debate that has captured political discussion - outsourcing was elevated. Both agreed that what lies below the “red meat” of outsourcing is a real debate – the one on the vision of American capitalism in the 21st century. Central to that debate is the one issue that despite the political crossfire and competing ads - America’s capacity to create new jobs and new markets a global economy.
In a great read by Kevin Phillips Bad Money Reckless Finance, and Failed Politics the Global Crisis of American Capitalism, Mr. Phillips discussed the shift in American political support from manufacturing to the financial industry. For the President whose own economic policies have failed to eradicate America from economic morose, and high unemployment, it appears he has fallen prey to a strategy to have in place an alternative attack narrative in place as soon as the new labor statistics are released. Mitt Romney’s tax returns, his history at Bain Corporation are troublesome for the presumptive Republican nominee and yes he will have to answer the calls to release his tax returns, and answer for his offshore bank accounts. But by November – will this matter to a nation who would have just absorbed the October jobs report and its potential grim statistics?
I agree with Mr. Brooks and Dionne, the American public needs a discussion on the future, not political drama. Democrats have been urging the President to speak on his vision for the country – this debate gives him an opportunity to use elevated policy positions to draw a distinction between him and his challenger Mitt Romney. In “Bad Money” Kevin Phillips drew a cogent picture of the impact of the rise of the financial sector in relationship to the decline in the manufacturing one. The vision the President needs to elucidate needs to goes beyond Bain, bank accounts and bullshit and present a forward thinking plan will draw immigration, education, and yes, American debt into the mix.
Mr. Obama should look at the polls, and see his swift boating of Mitt Romney has not moved the needle. According to some, his likeability numbers - his greatest personal asset may take a hit. Conversely, returning to his visionary roots may awaken a nation weary of political impotentcy and Beltway drama. Yet rolling back to the hopeful man of change is fraught with it's own risks, the President has a significant problem in that area, because due in part to his own errors, and the realities of governance in an ultra partisan political world – his vision has often fallen flat. So how does the President reload and reset when the audience – the American voter – has become more and more dubious of his highfalutin oratory?
It is a challenge indeed, but let’s be clear, President Obama is in the fight for his political life, and his place in history. At the moment he has taken the road to channel his inner George W. Bush and bludgeon his rival to death with negative ads. Whether the President can pivot with a plan that addresses the need to support American manufacturing, limit the excesses and malfeasance within the financial sector, curb American debt, make American students competitive, as well as review immigration polices that allow the United States to compete for foreign talent is left to be seen. In short, what the President and this campaign needs is a major speech on American economic competiveness. The Obama vision for a 21st Century America. And if the President won't, then Mitt Romney should. In either case they have an opportunity to impress voters with their capacity to step away from rigid party dogma, and craft a vision that is understandable, and exposes extremist in either party for their myopic agendas. By allowing Americans to go to the polls armed with clear choices on one of fundamental challenges to America’s sovereignty, is essential to the democratic process. To do otherwise, suggest grimly that there are prevailing forces in play that would much have an electoral choice based on silliness rather than substance.
Perhaps President Obama’s calling out of the Citizens United decision during his 2010 State of the Union Address bears a second look. Millions of dollars are being poured into this election, and it appears that both campaigns have decided to use that money to attack, and counter attack. These are the sign of the times, and perhaps under political duress, and without a positive economic narrative to run on, team Obama decided the low road was the best road. The political right for a long time seemed to own the low road, but in 2012 the battle for America's political gutter has been joined creating distractions but not useful dialogue.
One thing is for sure, the 21st Century President governs, at a time in America’s history where politics and special interests have become so intertwined as to usurp the democratic process, and denigrate political discourse. What is most disturbing is that this political tomfoolery takes place at a critical junction in this country’s history when bigness is needed. Yet in this new world American politics, I am hard pressed to believe this campaign will produce a political discussion worthy of its times.