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Morning Jay: In Desperation, Obama Turns to Herbert Hoover

6:00 AM, Nov 4, 2011 • By JAY COST
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If we look back over the disasters of these three years, we find that three-quarters of the population of the globe has suffered from the flames of revolution.  Many nations have been subject to constant change and vacillation of government.  Others have resorted to dictatorship or tyranny in desperate attempts to preserve some sort of social order…

Two courses were open.  We might have done nothing.  That would have been utter ruin.  Instead, we met the situation with proposals to private business and the Congress of the most gigantic program of economic defense and counter attack ever evolved in the history of the Republic.  We put it into action.

Our measures have repelled these attacks of fear and panic.  We have maintained the financial integrity of our government.  We have cooperated to restore and stabilize the situation abroad.  As a nation we have paid every dollar demanded of us.  We have used the credit of the government to aid and protect our institutions, public and private.  We have provided methods and assurances that there shall be none to suffer from hunger and cold.  We have instituted measures to assist farmers and homeowners.  We have created vast agencies for employment.  Above all, we have maintained the sanctity of the principles upon which this Republic has grown great.

Team Obama has not fully deployed the third Hooveresque argument, but as Ruth Marcus noted this week, it is coming:

Forget hope and change. President Obama's re-election campaign is going to be based on fear and loathing: fear of what a Republican takeover would mean, and loathing of whomever the Republican nominee turns out to be.

Exactly. Whomever the GOP nominates will be castigated as a soulless devil that will destroy the Republic itself.

Hoover offered a version of this in 1932. He argued that voting in FDR would destroy the American way of life:

We are told by the opposition that we must have a change, that we must have a new deal.  It is not the change that comes from normal development of national life to which I object, but the proposal to alter the whole foundations of our national life which have been builded through generations of testing and struggle, and of the principles upon which we have builded the nation….

Our people should consider the primary facts before they come to the judgment—not merely through political agitation, the glitter of promise, and the discouragement of temporary hardships—whether they will support changes, which radically affect the whole system, which has been builded up by a hundred and fifty years of the toil of the fathers.  They should not approach the question in the despair with which our opponents would clothe it.

Obviously, all of this amounts to an incredibly weak reelection strategy. But what else does President Obama have to run on? The macroeconomic climate is terrible, and unlikely to improve enough to make things feel better for average people. The debt has gone through the roof. The health care bill, his chief domestic achievement, remains massively unpopular.

What else can he do, but deflect blame, tout the things he’s done (not their effectiveness), and castigate the GOP as the party of anti-American radicals?

Answer: nothing.

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