Matthew Yglesias writes:
Why Speeches Don’t Work: As of a month ago, people calling on the president to propose a bold new jobs plan and advocate for it loudly were “Obama critics” and those of us saying this wouldn’t work were “Obama apologists.” Well, last week he gave the big speech, the White House comms shop keeps pushing out jobs plan content, the party leaders in House and Senate are backing the bill, they’ve done some barnstorming in various congressional districts, and critics are still depressed and sarcastic... the NYT is covering whining Democratic members of Congress who have gripes with the jobs bill.
This, right before our eyes, is a living, breathing example of why presidential speechmaking doesn’t do the things people say it does. It doesn’t even have the intended impact on its intended audience! Is Atrios fired up and ready to go? Prepared to stop writing sarcastic, depressed, and dismissive blog posts and instead go hard against the president’s critics, boosting the morale of the president’s audience? No, he’s sarcastic, depressed, and dismissive because the objective situation is depressing and everyone knows the jobs plan won’t pass.
By contrast, if something is done (presumably at this point by the Federal Reserve) to improve economic conditions, a very different story will play out. One the one hand low-inflation swing voters will develop warmer feelings toward the president. But on the other hand, high-information base voters will start finding his ideological heresies to be forgivable compromises that generated political success.
Let me, for one, say that I am having a hard time getting mobilized to enthusiastically back and applaud the AJA because we have an 8% of GDP problem and the AJA is only a 2% of GDP solution. Don't get me wrong: it is certainly worth passing, and lobbying for, and working for. But even if all of it is passed the unemployment rate 16 months from now is likely to be still 8.6%. (And if none of it is passed the unemployment rate 16 months from now is likely to be 9.6%.) Big problems call for comparably big solutions.
To find the right rhetorical tone is difficult: "HOORAY FOR QUARTER-MEASURES!!"?
And I am worried about getting cut off at the knees somehow. "Listen to the Guy: he knows what he is doing" is not a message I dare send anymore. I remember late 2009-early 2010, when I was arguing for what I had thought was the Administration line--that the economic situation was much more serious than the President had initially thought, that even though the Recovery Act was the largest that could be gotten through Congress it was likely too small, and that if the economic recovery stalled out it was the fault of the Republicans for blocking what the economy really needed. Then in the SotU address the President says that it is time to turn to deficit reduction and that he is proposing a three-year non-security spending freeze. Thus for all of 2010 whenever I argued that the Recovery Act was too small I am told that "President Obama does not agree with you" and whenever I argued that the stalling recovery is the Republicans' fault I am told that "President Obama got the $800 billion package he proposed: the Republicans did not block it". I had no good, convincing answer. "Obama is listening to the wrong advisors who do not understand the seriousness of the situation" happened to be true, but tended to move people into the right opposition camp...