Forget the excuses: bad economy, midterm blahs. Franklin Roosevelt inherited a bad economy from his GOP predecessor. And the Depression wasn’t over by the 1934 midterms. Far from it. Unemployment still stood at 21.7%. The Depression still had six years to run...Mead notes that when the Democrats came back into total power in 2009, the tended to think that the answer was simply a repeat of what they did some 70 years earlier: lots of deficit spending. But this time, instead of helping the Democrats, it has lead to their undoing:
In 1934 Democrats gained 13 seats in the House and an impressive 9 in the Senate. Today, they are heading for what George W. Bush would call a ‘thumpin.’
Why? Basically, because voters believed that the Democrats had the answers to the country’s problems. Deficit spending, government intervention, support for the labor movement, heavy infrastructure investment: people believed that the only way forward was to have more of these things.
What is killing the Democrats this fall isn’t the midterm blues. It isn’t the bad economy. It is something much deeper, and I don’t see it changing anytime soon. The national economy is changing in ways that make traditional Democratic solutions less useful even as change makes traditional Democratic concerns more important. Yes, inequality is rising. Yes, the standard of living of many Americans is no longer rising. Yes, access to vital services — especially, but not only, health care and higher education — is increasingly difficult for many Americans to secure. Yes, the financial system went haywire in the last twenty years, generating enormous amounts of wealth for some without creating lasting value for society as a whole.What Mead is talking about is the "Blue Social Model" something he discussed earlier this year. The Democrats thought that the advent of Obama meant the advent of a new liberal age...which would look like the old liberal age.
All this is very real, and for many Democrats and die-hard liberals it makes the call of the New Deal impossible to resist. That the history of the 1930s was repeating itself was the core conviction of many Democrats as President Obama took the oath of office. The economic crisis was a liberal opportunity not to be missed. Just as the Depression allowed FDR to transform American society and grow the government, so the Great Recession would allow President Obama to reconfigure the role of government in America today.
But the thing is, the Blue Social Model has been unraveling since the 70s. What once worked, is not working so well now.
Mead thinks that the way forward is a kind of governing libertarianism ( my words); a government that would free the economy to encourage small businesses to flourish, using the marketplace to provide social services like health care and providing an affordable plan to rebuild America's infrastructure.
The problem is that most of these suggestions are an anathema to Democrats because it would mean going against vested interests.
One would think that the Republicans would be the ones that could step into this breach and create a new social model (the Red Social Model?) that would be the blueprint for the 21st century. The problem is at this point the GOP is not interested in coming up with new ideas. Like the Democrats, they are stuck in a past history- in this case the 1980s- thinking that tax cuts all the time should be the answer to all our nation's ills.
While the GOP is on the path to winning back Congress, they will do so without a viable idea on how to tackle our economy. If the public rejected the Dems for wanting a 1930s style solution, they will oust the GOP for their 1980s-style solution. It's time both parties look to the present and come up with ideas for the present, not some glorious past.