Josh Marshall, on the signs of a Republican resurgence in November:
In general, I think the big political tell over the last couple months is the mounting evidence of a stalled recovery coupled with the fact that administration is basically backed into a position of immediate fiscal retrenchment which means we may be tossed back into the water. But this time with our hands tied behind our back.
My own sense is that the first 19 months of Democratic control of the Executive and Legislative branches of the federal government has been a missed opportunity, and an enormous one.
When Obama and the new congress took office, they had a country which was staring terrified into the abyss, angry at the oligarchs who created that abyss, and ready to be led in a new direction by the soaring rhetoric of Hope from their new president. The Reagan/Gingrich-Era conservative revolution was about played out, and people were ready for a change.
This, by the way, is very similar to the election of 1980, if you switch parties and political philosophies. When Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, there was a general sense in the country that after the hope and idealism of the Democrats from the Kennedy Era through the 1960s, liberalism was fractured, tired, and was not up to addressing the problems the country faced by that time; spiraling crime rates, rampant and stubborn inflation, a listless economy that lacked the dynamism and world-beating energy it had in the 1960s.
The accuracy of that assessment is certainly debatable; my only point is, that's where the country was.
The mood of the country in 2008 (and since) has been a mirror image of 1980 - just reverse the parties and some of the economic details, and the above description of the Democratic Party circa 1980 compares very closely with the Republican Party circa now.
This was (and still is) a shining, golden opportunity for a charismatic Democratic leader to begin a New Progressive Era in American political life. The story the Right has been selling for decades - that if only government got out of the way of business, it would boom and benefit everyone - is now easy to dismiss as the fairy tale it was: Between 1980 and 2010, the productivity of the average America worker increased by over 40%, while the median wage barely budged. All the benefit of those productivity increases went to the top of the wealth ladder, and stayed there. People were actually talking about things in just those terms in 2008, and they still are.
Barack Obama has accomplished some good things in the last 19 months. I don't deny that.
My point is that he could use the current crisis to accomplish great things, and be remembered as one of our great presidents, if only he focused less on "putting [incremental] points on the board" as Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod seem to be pushing him to do, and make it his mission to remake the whole conversation and agenda in America along progressive lines. As Reagan did with conservative ideas, so Obama and the Democrats must do with progressive ones.
The opportunity is still there; the circumstances of our country now demand it; but it will happen only if the Democrats seize it.