It is hard to imagine a better speech than Bill Clinton gave last night —
a clear, coherent, compelling, if not exactly concise, narrative for
Obama’s case for reelection. And he articulated the solid arguments for a
rejection of the Romney-Ryan Republican alternative. He sliced and
diced each of their policy arguments and made mincemeat of their
proposals. Factual and solid arguments, presented in his usual direct
and folksy style, as if you were listening to a story.
No one can do it like Bubba — a reminder of how the comeback kid has come back so many times.
So what does this speech mean? A lot, if Democrats adopt the arguments and the narrative for the next two months.
It could have gone the other way if he had not made the politically unpopular decision to save the American automobile industry, if he had not put money into the states to save them and their teachers, firefighters, police; if he had not invested in infrastructure and education and technology. It could have been a lot worse had he not provided a tax break for 95 percent of Americans, putting thousands of dollars in their hurting pocketbooks.
The Republicans now propose to double down on tax cuts for the wealthy at the expense of the middle class. They want to starve government programs that actually help people and grow the economy, like Pell Grants for college, funds for Head Start, child nutrition, job training and rebuilding our infrastructure.
They seem to hate government; they seem to be intent on doing what David Stockman, Reagan’s budget director, once called “starving the beast.” Stockman acknowledges now that this didn’t work and let to higher deficits and greater economic hardship for middle-class families. This was a strictly ideological policy, not a pragmatic one.
Republicans, Clinton laid out, have adopted policies that simply do not work.
The Democrats must convince those undecided voters that their plans are working and that the Republicans offer a traditional reverse-Robin Hood philosophy, more suited to the Gilded Age than the Golden Age. When America is asked the question “Who is fighting for the middle class?” the answer must be clear: Obama and the Democrats. That is the case that Clinton made last night and Barack Obama must make tonight.