Prolific book and op-ed writer Michael Lind is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation. He’s been described as a “recovering conservative,” though it’s difficult at times to determine whether he’s just trying to present the viewpoint of conservatives or he’s speaking in his own voice.
Whichever the case, his intuitive understanding of how the conservative mind works is invaluable. Think of him as politics’ equivalent of a pro football player who signs with another team and shares his former team’s plays with his new coaches.
In his latest article at the Daily Beast, Obama’s Midwest Blunder, Lind writes:
“President Barack Obama’s poll numbers are slipping, and nowhere have they slipped more dramatically than in the Midwest. …
In his [July 14] speech in Michigan, Obama hit both the new economy and green economy themes. First, the green economy: “I want Michigan to build windmills and wind turbines and solar panels and biofuel plants and energy-efficient light bulbs and. … you can be all on top of weatherizing.”
There you have it—the future of American manufacturing, according to the president, is not making machine tools, automobiles, aerospace, and consumer electronics, but rather making “windmills and wind turbines and solar panels and biofuel plants and energy-efficient light bulbs.” Never mind that the market for these is minor and mostly created by government mandates on utilities and government subsidies.
If the president wished to give a boost to sagging American — as well as his own Midwestern — fortunes, he would, according to Lind:
. . . favor “Buy American”. . . legislation and other policies to reward the onshoring of production in American borders. . . rather than outsourcing of American industries. This assumes, of course, that Obama wants to be an industrial president, like Lincoln and Roosevelt, rather than the president of a post-industrial nation. … If he continues [to ignore] the intensifying global competition for manufacturing while telling Americans comforting fairy tales about windmills and diploma mills, then Barack Obama, the postindustrial president, may be a post-president in 2013. [Emphasis added.]
Obama then moves on to. . . the new economy: “But we also have to ensure that we’re. … building the foundation for a 21st century education system here in America, one that will allow us to compete with China and India and everybody else all around the world.” (Emphasis Lind’s.)
Obama surely did not intend to insult America’s industrial workers. But that’s exactly what he did, by implying that if American workers lose their jobs to Chinese and Indian workers, their own lack of education is to blame. Not the short-term calculations of greedy shareholders who pressure U.S. multinational companies into shuttering factories in the U.S. and opening them in other countries.
The advantages of viewing issues from both sides of the political spectrum are apparent. Even more intriguing is a February article of Lind’s, Stop the Democratic Suicide. He wrote:
First they came for the bankers. Then they came for the CEOs. Then they came for the liberals. That might be the epitaph of the Democratic Party, if Democrats cannot learn to surf the tsunami of populism created by the economic earthquake.
As more Americans lose their jobs and their homes, as more businesses crater and banks topple, popular anger is rising like a wall of water over a suddenly quiet beachfront resort. You’d think that the Democrats in Washington would be aware of the danger. After all, the massive expansion of Great Society spending in the 1960s, followed by the stagflation of the 1970s [not sure if his cause and effect is correct — RW] allowed the marginal conservative movement to tap populist anger and dominate American politics for a generation. …
To date, however, the Obama administration has seemed more concerned with reassuring Wall Street that it will be protected against Main Street hotheads than in disciplining Wall Street on behalf of Main Street Americans who have lost jobs, homes, and savings.
Given the opportunity, Republicans can once again tap a reservoir of resentment, some of it justified.
Lind writes that a third-party candidate might be able to siphon off enough votes from the president to allow the Republicans to eke out a victory. Actually, if they can reel Americans back into the What’s the Matter With Kansas? state of mind, Republicans might be able to swing it themselves.
To refresh your memories, Republicans just need to remind Americans of the assumptions many of us operated under during the Bush years. To wit, it’s not the practices of the corporate rich that cost us our jobs and houses. It’s the liberal elite and their latte-sipping, third-trimester-aborting ways.
In fact, widespread wrath at the super-rich, aside from their bonuses and corporate jets, has failed to materialize. After all, the belief that we’re all rich people waiting to happen is ingrained in many Americans. Nor do we imagine that once we get there, we’d care to be constrained by regulations or bled dry by taxes.
It’s more likely though that our anger remains inchoate because the Obama administration has purposely avoided singling out individuals and charging them with corporate crime. Should the emphasis on bail-out over stimulus erode the economy further, Obama, Geithner, Summers, et al, instead of the corporate culprits, are poised to take the fall.