Hard Truths


Jon Chait makes a pretty good point after reading Ruth Marcus’s latest column:

One of the defining beliefs of sensible-center Washington establishment types is that elected officials need to make Tough Decisions, including unpopular decisions, rather than just try to skate through to the next election. However, a second set of beliefs held by this group is that, if you do lose an election, this proves that all your ideas were not just politically unwise but substantively wrong.

[Some excerpts from Marcus’s column.]

….What’s fascinating to me is that Marcus believes not only that elections are completely ideological judgments, but that those judgments ought to be adopted by the party in power. Here President Obama was doing all kinds of unpopular things — bailing out banks, bailing out the auto industry, cutting hundreds of billions from Medicare — because he felt those courses of action were responsible. And then he loses seats, in part because of those hard decisions, and now he’s supposed to admit that his policies were bad?

This is something that Obama doesn’t get enough credit for. As Jon says, the centrist establishment is pretty unanimous in believing that presidents need to tell the nation Hard Truths and not simply Pander To Their Base. Well, Obama followed their advice more than most presidents. And guess what? His liberal base wasn’t amused and the nation didn’t really want to hear hard truths while unemployment was hovering around double digits. This should come as a surprise to exactly no one.

If this were just another example of pundit blathering about the election, it might not matter. But guess what? The president’s deficit commission just produced a draft report (about which more later), and once again Beltway pundits are going to lap it up. Why? Because it Tells Hard Truths and Attacks Sacred Cows. It also proposes a bunch of stuff that will be stupendously unpopular. Somehow, though, Obama will once again be expected to endorse a bunch of unpopular stuff without becoming unpopular himself. Because if that happens, it will somehow represent the reaction of honest heartland workers who want to hear a president who cares, not one who spouts percentages of GDP and healthcare inflation rates. The fact that he didn’t listen to what they wanted — which is always the same: more spending, lower taxes, and a smaller deficit — will, as usual, represent a failure to connect with Real America. Funny how that always seems to be the verdict on Democratic presidents.

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