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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Slow Growth Will Undercut Obama Strategy


At The New Republic, Ruy Teixeira offers a smart liberal critique of Obama strategy:
It seems to consist of emphasizing particular fights like immigration reform, gun control, same sex marriage, and climate change that appeal most strongly to different elements of the Obama coalition. This strategy does have merit. The thought is that even if all these fights don’t yield legislative victories (and they won’t so long as Republicans control part of Congress), they will nevertheless serve to generate more enthusiasm among key parts of the coalition, without imposing much of an electoral cost. Moreover, these fights are all substantively important in policy terms, so any victories attained will be important breakthroughs.
But the strategy has serious limitations. To begin with, even if these issues do little damage to Democrats’ standing among white working class voters, they will also do little to win their support. These voters are primarily looking for material improvements in their lives, improvements that are not possible without strong economic growth and the jobs, tight labor markets, and rising incomes such growth would bring. In a low-growth environment, these voters will remain exceptionally pessimistic and inclined to blame Democrats and government for their lack of upward mobility.
Even more serious, core groups of the Obama coalition will be weakened by continued slow growth. Obama was well-supported by these groups in 2012, but a sluggish economic environment, where unemployment continues pushing 8 percent, will try these voters’ patience. How much enthusiasm will Hispanics, blacks, youth, single women, etc., whose unemployment rates are considerably above the national average, continue to have for a party that cannot do more to improve economic conditions? Attrition in support will be inevitable in such a scenario and the opportunity to consolidate a dominant coalition will be lost.