First, take a good long look at the images above. They are from David Leonhardt's article in today's New York Times.
They represent, arguably, the three most important factors that drive any broad-based economic recovery: housing, employment, and consumer confidence.
Leonhardt makes a truly important argument in his piece today. History shows that about five to six years after a financial crash, the economy finally begins to grow strongly. That suggests that our economic recovery -- begun under President Obama and aided by his progressive policies, will continue. This means that whoever wins on Nov. 6 will claim credit for it, and will claim that his ideology -- either conservatism or liberalism -- was proven correct. The stakes for Democrats couldn't be higher. Leonhardt explained the stakes expertly:
If Mr. Romney were presiding over the recovery, he could present himself as a Reaganesque figure whose rejection of big government was getting the economy moving again (snip) In short, Mr. Romney could try to extend and expand the age of Reagan — rather than to start a new period in domestic policy, as Mr. Obama has done.
(snip) For Mr. Obama, a second term with a recovering economy would lock in the policies of his first term. It would allow him to make the case that the Democrats’ economic strategy was far superior to the Republicans’, citing not only his own record but Mr. Clinton’s strong economic record and the younger Mr. Bush’s flawed one. In the broadest terms, Mr. Obama would try to fashion a response to the income slump of the last dozen years based around a more progressive tax code and government programs — investments, in his phrasing — meant to lift economic growth.
(snip) The next president probably will not determine the fate of the economy in 2013. But the economy will help determine the next president’s power to shape the country. Right now, there is good reason to be bullish about the extent of that power.
When President Obama took office, we were on the verge of another Depression. His policies stopped our decline, prevented far worse suffering, and began the turnaround we are seeing now. Even more progressive policies would likely have done more good, but without doubt the conservative policies to which Mitt Romney has sworn fealty -- opposition to rescuing the auto industry by directly infusing government funds, opposition to the job-saving stimulus, opposition to a balanced, sane plan -- that includes restoring Clinton-era tax rates on the wealthiest among us -- to bring down the deficit without gutting the safety net -- would have been an utter disaster for Americans.
If we win on November 6, Democrats will be able to accurately portray this recovery as further proof that progressive policies work, and we'll be able to continue pursuing further progressive changes that will benefit all Americans. If Mitt Romney wins, we may well not get another chance to implement those progressive policies for a long time -- and we will watch as he undoes health care reform and pushes for more tax cuts for the rich at the expense of everyone else, along with the rest of his right-wing economic agenda, not to mention his opposition to marriage equality, reproductive rights, and a whole host of other destructive policies he will seek to implement. Oh, and the Supreme Court hangs in the balance.
Our country really is at a crossroads. We have to make the right choice and re-elect President Obama. Let's get out there and make it happen. Our future depends on it.
PS-Please check out my new book, where I explore the way Obama has spoken about race--and the way the media and his opponents have commented on it--in much greater detail, as part of my larger analysis of his conception of American national identity: Obama's America: A Transformative Vision of Our National Identity, published last month by Potomac Books. You can read a review by DailyKos's own Greg Dworkin here.