A roadmap for the Democrats after Charlotte

It should be about the future of America than the president’s record

Jim Young/Reuters

In 2008, it was all about hope and change. After an unprecedented and historic primary season where either the first woman or the first African American would be the nominee of a major political party, delegates gathered in Denver to nominate their presidential hopeful and celebrate history in the making. The campaign that followed did more to excite and inspire new voters than at any time since 1960.

With President Obama’s first term coming to a conclusion, it is fair to say that the bloom is off the rose. The energy and the dreams associated with the first Obama candidacy have given way to conventional and tactical political campaigning, where money is a paramount factor, truth often becomes a casualty, and blows below the belt are very much part of the game. Even Democrats concede that the country’s polarizing divisions have not subsided under Obama. And while the Obama administration can point to real achievements, the state of the economy and the continuing debate over Obama’s most controversial policies, such as Obamacare, are guaranteed to make this a closer call that it should have been.

What can the Democrats do to make this a race about direction of the country and rather than simply a referendum on the president? Voters know their candidate better after close to four years in office. The majority of them appear to like him, and acknowledge that he was dealt a hard hand. They like his family too, and have not bought into the birther idiocy promoted by some of his opponents. Yet, you can sense some widespread disappointment. A lot of this disenchantment may have also much to do with the extraordinarily high expectations Obama set in his 2008 “yes, we can” campaign, but it is clear that Americans have become less certain that what the future hold will be better than the past.

In Tampa last week, the Republicans asked the famous 1980 Reagan question: Are you better off today then you were four years ago? A fair question, to be sure, and one that is not easy to answer in one word.

To the 23 million Americans out of work or underemployed, to college graduates facing meager employment opportunities, to people still living in poverty, to minorities still showing disproportionately high unemployment rates, the answer is likely “no.”

However, it is also fair to point out that by the end of the second Bush presidency, close to four million private sector jobs had been lost, the U.S. was highly engaged in a combat role in Iraq, Bin Laden was still alive, the Dow Jones Index was worth half its value today, and the domestic auto industry had collapsed.

Today, all economic data shows that the Obama stimulus plan avoided a depression, GM is back to being number one in the world by sales volumes, the Dow Jones Index has passed the 13 000-point mark, the financial sector has been saved, Bin Laden is dead, 30 million more Americans are on track to get affordable access to healthcare, and the U.S. is no longer fighting in Iraq. And the economy has registered over 30 months of continued growth. In all these respects, America is better off than it was four years ago.

The convention is over now and it made for a better show than the one in Tampa. Great speeches by the major actors certainly give hope to the Democrats as they leave Charlotte. Bill Clinton dealt a very effective blow to the Republican narrative. President Obama delivered a strong speech with a healthy dose of realism and some needed humility. The Democrats now seem energized.

The debate will surely rage on until November 6. What the Democrats have to acknowledge beyond the rhetoric of the convention is that the America they promised in 2008 is still a work in progress and some mistakes were made along the way. They will also have to do more than blame their predecessors for the mess they inherited. It will, however, be fair game to dissect Republican policies and show that the GOP is proposing more of the same pre-2008 ideas, and that they did little to provide bipartisan support to the administration’s job creation projects.

Four years ago, Obama made Americans dream with a generous and inspiring message of what was to come. Now he must present a compelling vision, a  choice, a course of action, and a contrast between where he intends to take America with a second term and where Romney would lead it. We should judge him by that standard.




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A roadmap for the Democrats after Charlotte

  1. Are you better off is not a “fair” question. It is a stupid question to say the least. Anyone who expected to rebound in three years from the worst financial crisis in the country’s history is just crazy. Our Wall Street gamblers came close to destroying the entire financial structure of the world.

  2. Are you better off is not a fair question. It is a stupid question. It took years for the country to recover from the great depression. The economic collapse of 2008 was of similar scope.

  3. They need a roadmap. They are so far off the beaten path I’m not sure there are any roads where they are right now.

    Peggy Noonan, writing in the Wall Street Journal what no one in Canada dares to write. Sorry for the length of this exceprt, but it’s a must read to understand just how far into crazy-land the Democrats have gone:

    Was it a good convention?

    Beneath the funny hats, the sweet-faced delegates, the handsome
    speakers and the babies waving flags there was something disquieting.
    All three days were marked by a kind of soft, distracted extremism. It
    was unshowy and unobnoxious but also unsettling.

    There was the relentless emphasis on Government as Community, as the
    thing that gives us spirit and makes us whole. But government isn’t what
    you love if you’re American, America is what you love. Government is
    what you have, need and hire. Its most essential duties—especially when
    it is bankrupt—involve defending rights and safety, not imposing views
    and values. We already have values. Democrats and Republicans don’t see
    all this the same way, and that’s fine—that’s what national politics is,
    the working out of this dispute in one direction or another every few
    years. But the Democrats convened in Charlotte seemed more extreme on
    the point, more accepting of the idea of government as the center of
    national life, than ever, at least to me.

    The fight over including a single mention of God in the platform—that
    was extreme. The original removal of the single mention by the platform
    committee—extreme. The huge “No!” vote on restoring the mention of God,
    and including the administration’s own stand on Jerusalem—that wasn’t
    liberal, it was extreme. Comparing the Republicans to Nazis—extreme. The
    almost complete absence of a call to help education by facing down the
    powers that throw our least defended children under the school bus—this
    was extreme, not mainstream.

    The sheer strangeness of all the talk about abortion, abortion,
    contraception, contraception. I am old enough to know a wedge issue when
    I see one, but I’ve never seen a great party build its entire public
    persona around one. Big speeches from the heads of Planned Parenthood
    and NARAL, HHS Secretary and abortion enthusiast Kathleen Sebelius and,
    of course, Sandra Fluke.

    “Republicans shut me out of a hearing on contraception,” Ms. Fluke
    said. But why would anyone have included a Georgetown law student who
    never worked her way onto the national stage until she was plucked, by
    the left, as a personable victim?

    What a fabulously confident and
    ingenuous-seeming political narcissist Ms. Fluke is. She really does
    think—and her party apparently thinks—that in a spending crisis with
    trillions in debt and many in need, in a nation in existential doubt as
    to its standing and purpose, in a time when parents struggle to buy the
    good sneakers for the kids so they’re not embarrassed at school . . .
    that in that nation the great issue of the day, and the
    appropriate focus of our concern, is making other people pay for her
    birth-control pills. That’s not a stand, it’s a non sequitur. She is
    not, as Rush Limbaugh oafishly, bullyingly said, a slut. She is a ninny,
    a narcissist and a fool. And she was one of the great faces of the party in Charlotte. That is extreme. Childish, too

    Something else, and it had to do with tone. I remember the
    Republicans in Tampa bashing the president, hard, but not the entire
    Democratic Party. In Charlotte they bashed Mitt Romney, but they bashed
    the Republican Party harder. If this doesn’t strike you as somewhat
    unsettling, then you must want another four years of all war all the
    time between the parties. I don’t think the American people want that.
    Because, actually, they’re not extreme.

    • The Repubs have been taken over by the Tea party, and moved to the extreme right. Not even Barry Goldwater would recognize this party.

      • The Tea Party Movement, which favors reduced government spending, reduced government regulation and an end to crony capitalist bailouts and handouts, is a large, completely mainstream political movement, not at all “extreme”. TP members are generally more informed and more passionate about the issues they care about than the average voter. Furthermore, the TPM has not “taken over” the Republican Party as evidenced by the selection of Romney, an empty suit beholden to the party establishment, as the RP candidate. The TPM has had some significant impact, but it does not control the RP. In fact, the RP establishment is desperately trying to keep TP politicians out of key leadership positions.

        • Buncha wackos.

    • It’s really quite sad how shallow is the pool of opinion writers at Macleans. You have Teitel for the ultra-liberal view, Parisella for the liberal view, and Savage for the actual reporting of events. You have Feschuk to make jokes from the liberal view, and Patriquin to ignore American politics and present the liberal view of Quebec politics. You have Wells to present a fairly objective view of Canadian politics, but usually from a tactical rather than an ideas perspective. And you have Wherry to present events in Canadian politics from the liberal view.

      The ideological pickings are very slim. Shame that Canada’s news magazine is now so one-dimensional.

      • Agreed. Coyne’s departure is a gaping hole that still hasn’t been filled, Steyn doesn’t write here any more, Petrou is good but doesn’t write often, and Cosh barely writes anything, and when he does I usually have no idea what he’s talking about.

        C’mon Maclean’s. Time to add a few conservative voices to the fold.

        • I forgot about Petrou – he is excellent. But as you say, he doesn’t write often. Agreed about Cosh. Real shame the magazine lost Steyn.

          • So everyone who doesn’t sahre your world view is a liberal? Talk about lacking perspective!

          • What does my world view have to do with it? Whether it’s a shallow perspective that agrees or disagrees with mine, it’s still quite clearly a needlessly shallow perspective.

          • Well, if his world view is a conservative world view, doesn’t it stand to reason that a liberal doesn’t share his view? He’s not using the word liberal disparagingly, just as an observation. If you read a columnist long enough, it’s fairly easy to pick out personal biases, as columns reflect opinions, not just facts. You would agree that Fox news is biased toward the right, yes? So would I. I can recognize that, as well as I can recognize leanings toward the left. john g and Gaulilon are just asking for more balance from Canada’s national news magazine. Myself, I really miss Mark Steyn. That would tell you where my bias lies.

        • Not everyone you disagree with is a liberal. You are not the embodiement of conservatism. Shocking, I know.

    • You would have been better just to post the first three sentences. Or better yet, none at all.

    • The Democrats have gone into “crazy land”? Sheesh, you’re not even trying to be objective are you? There are a lot of things the Democrats can be criticized for, but one party has got a pretty decent stranglehold on crazy for the time being. Ask John Boehner and the other “mainstream” Republican leaders that have lost control of the right-wing of the GOP. Peggy Noonan is a decent journalist, but as a former Reagan and Bush (I) staffer, she’s hardly neutral. The Democrats had a very successful convention, and accomplished more of what they needed to do than that Republicans did. And the 4-5 point bounce that Obama has experienced since, in contrast to Romney who remains stuck, might be an indication of that.

  4. Certainly Obama has disappointed American moderates in the same way Harper has disappointed some Canadian conservatives. Their best chance is “but look at the alternative.”

  5. I couldn’t disagree more with Mr. Parisella’s conclusion that the Democrats come out of their convention in much better shape than the GOP. Other than Clinton’s extremely well-done oration, the rest was lacklustre at best and at one point even calamitous on a couple of key issues that could come back to fatally haunt them. I speak of their blatant and intentional striking out of “God” from their official platform, and recognition of Jerusalem as the rightful capital of Israel. Thereby offending and potentially alienating both Christians and Jews; and opening a huge opportunity with these two critical voting blocs for the Republicans, if they are smart enough and sharp enough to effectively exploit it. True; the Democrats reacted quickly with damage control by doubling back to restore original wording and trying to slough the whole thing off as a minor oversight. However, these attempted revisions to their platform clearly indicate where their true sentiments lie on these two essential issues; and should send a strong signal of alarm to all Christians and Jews. If they are willing to compromise and change their position on these in order to get elected, then what’s to stop them from just as quickly and coneniently changing back if they are elected. On top of all this was the debacle that ensued on the convention floor when the Party called for a voice-call approval of the ammended wording; and strong-armed it through despite a clear even split among delegates. What a laugh.
    Finally, there is Mr. Parisella’s citing of polls reported by the mainstream media claiming a significant, post-convention bump for Obama. According to the most recent ABC/Washington Post poll, it continues to indicate a near tie, with 49 percent for Obama and 48 percent for Romney. So much for polls and mainstream media reporting.

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