The Democrats are replaying their 2008 war against George W. Bush, hoping it will deflect attention from a failing economy, high unemployment and a big government agenda.
Republicans are focusing on solutions to get a weakening economy growing again and creating jobs. So far the GOP is winning.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent her poll-battered Democratic troops home for the August recess with talking-points pocket cards headlined “WE CAN’T GO BACK,” urging them to make George W. Bush’s tax cuts the overriding the focus of their campaign attacks on Republicans.
“Republicans are trying to take us back to the same failed Bush economic policies that cost us 8 million jobs,” says one of the talking point’s attack lines which mention Bush’s name repeatedly.
House Republican leaders, on the other hand, sent their members home this month with a “TREAD BOLDLY” campaign strategy paper, with pictures of Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Jack Kemp on its cover. It proposes repealing Obamacare, freeing employers from costly, job-killing government regulations and mandates, and cutting business taxes to spur new investment and expansion that will get the Great American Jobs Machine up and running again.
In what is seen as a forerunner of the sweeping economic growth proposals Republican leaders plan to unveil next month, one idea in the paper’s “Solutions” section calls for allowing “businesses with fewer than 500 employees to take a tax deduction equal to 20 percent of their income. This would allow for extra capital for investment and new hiring to kick start a robust recovery.”
Other proposals in their message agenda call for keeping all of the Bush tax cuts, including the top two income tax rates, repealing Obamacare and anti-small business provisions in the new financial regulation law.
The contrast between the opposing strategies coudn’t be sharper or more politically lethal for the Democrats. The Pelosi Democrats think that if blaming Bush for the 2008 recession worked before, it will work for them again in the midterm elections.
But after almost two years of the Obama administration, the blame game isn’t working for them. The economy is growing weaker, the stock market has been in a nose drive, there is talk of a double-dip recession, combined unemployment and underemployment is at 17 percent, and business confidence in the future is at its lowest ebb in years. A deeply pessimistic electorate has turned against Obama and the Democrats, while Republicans have been steadily climbing in the polls and now lead Democrats 49 percent to 43 percent in the generic election surveys among registered voters, according to the Gallup Poll.
The Republican message is heavy on what they will do if they win control of the House:
• “Stopping the looming Democratic tax increases… would provide immediate certainty for American job creators so then can hire new workers with the confidence that a higher tax bill is not on the way.”
• Ensure Access to Credit for Small Businesses: “Provisions of the latest financial regulation bill discourage banks from lending to job creators, especially small businesses, and should be repealed.”
• Spending Cuts Instead of More “Stimulus” Spending: “The spending spree in Washington is hurting our economy, not helping it … Rein in government spending and end tax hikes and job-killing mandates that cause uncertainty for small businesses.”
• “Cut spending immediately: While recognizing the need for structural ways to reverse the growth of government, there are actions Congress can take right away to… cut spending, such as: Cancelling unspent ‘stimulus’ funds, saving up to $266 billion; cancelling excessive spending increases already in the pipeline; capping discretionary spending… would generate savings for the taxpayers in excess of $340 billion.”
• “Americans reject the government takeover of health care that was forced upon them and would like to see it replaced with common-sense solutions to lower costs and protect jobs.”
• End Bailouts Permanently: “Cancel the Troubled Asset Relief Program [TARP] which would save an estimated $16 billion.”
• “Get the government out of [federally-backed mortgage giants] Fannie Mae and Freddie Mae and on a path toward privatization.”
House Republicans were urged to emphasize town meetings, job fairs and other face-to-face meetings “to step up our dialogue with the American people,” Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, chairman of the House Republican Conference said in a letter accompanying the GOP’s talking points.
“It’s a chance for us to further establish our governing agenda as we talk about Republican solutions and listen to the suggestions of our constituents,” Pence said.
Meantime, Democratic leaders sent their members home with no new proposals to open up more private business investment and to expand the economy and create more jobs. Instead, they fell back on the politics of attack and platitude-filled polemics wrapped up as the “theme of the week.”
“We want the power of our voices to convey these messages, so we ask you to plan public events and media interactions in your district around weekly themes,” House leaders urged in a memo to their members.
The month started off with “Make It in America” week, followed by “Protecting Social Security Week,” “Consumer Protection Week,” “Small Business Week” and “Troops and Veterans Week,” ending Labor Day week with a return to “Make It in America” week.
Needless to say, the Democratic leadership’s memo had nothing to say about the 15-to-20 million unemployed or underemployed part time workers who are not making it in Obama’s America. Nor how a jobless recovery has weakened Social Security’s finances because of shrinking payrolls. Labor Day should be especially embarrassing for the Democrats whose no-growth economic policies have hurt labor the most.
Nevertheless, Democratic strategists were urging their party to embrace the Pelosi/White House political scheme to make this fall’s election all about Bush and not about the economy, jobs and trillion dollar budget deficits.
“If Americans believe there are two paths from which to choose: a clear Obama path or the Bush path, progressives will control the debate,” advised the left-leaning Third Way, a Democratic think tank based in Washington.
As the long August recess continued, there were growing reports that many Democrats were shunning town hall meetings to avoid having to face angry constituents who packed town halls last year to denounce Obamacare.
One of them is Rep. Chet Edwards, Texas Democrat, who “has dedicated the recess period to avoiding the public at every possible turn,” the National Republican Congressional Committee said last week. “Instead of engaging with his constituents face-to-face and owning up to the unpopular, job-killing policies of the Obama-Pelosi agenda, Edwards has decided to simply ignore the Texas families who put him in elected office.”
Polls showed the longtime Waco congressman running a dozen points behind his Republican challenger Bill Flores.
Many Democrats were following Edwards run and hide example.
“With images of overheated, finger-waving crowds still seared into their minds from the discontent of last August, many Democrats heeded the ad vice of party leaders and tried to avoid unscripted question-and-answer sessions,” The New York Times reported earlier this month.