Democrats rally behind Obama

Democrats laid out their case for the re-election of President Obama at their national convention in Charlotte.

What happened

Democrats laid out their case for the re-election of President Obama at their national convention in Charlotte, N.C., this week, arguing that he’d pulled the country out of a deep recession caused by Republican policies that Mitt Romney wants to bring back. A parade of speakers portrayed Obama as a true champion of the middle class, who knew its struggles because he’d shared them as the son of a single mother. Drawing an implicit contrast with the wealthy Romney, Michelle Obama said her husband turned down high-paying jobs after Harvard Law School to do community-service work in Chicago. “He believes that when you’ve walked through that door of opportunity,” she said, “you don’t slam it shut behind you.” Julian Castro, mayor of San Antonio, credited Obama policies such as the auto-industry bailout with ending the recession and creating 4.5 million jobs since 2009. Romney and Paul Ryan, he warned, wanted to return to the “trickle down” economic policies of George W. Bush. “Their theory has been tested,” Castro said. “It failed.”

Democrats also sought to draw a sharp distinction between their social policies and those of the Republicans, painting the GOP as harsh and backward on immigration, women’s rights, abortion, and same-sex marriage. Prior to his own speech to delegates, which came after The Week went to press, Obama rated his own performance in office as “incomplete,” saying he’d inherited the worst economy in a half century, and needed more time to restore it to full health. He also promised to get “our debts and deficits brought under control.”

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What the editorials said

It’s not 2008 anymore, said The Miami Herald, and the “young, fresh-faced senator” who came into office promising hope and change is now a “battle-scarred incumbent” who’s left many voters disappointed. It’s true that “he inherited a recession deeper than any since the Great Depression,” but blaming Republicans and attacking Romney won’t get Obama re-elected. To get four more years, he has to convince voters he “has a practical plan to get Americans back on the road to prosperity.”

Without a better story to tell, said The Wall Street Journal, Democrats enlisted Bill Clinton to “burnish the last four dreary years with fonder memories of the 1990s.” But Obama is no Clinton, who moved to the center after Republicans won the House in 1994, and worked with the GOP to pass welfare reform, cut capital gains taxes, and reduce the deficit. “That’s when the real 1990s boom began.” Obama, meanwhile, “doubled down” on his big government agenda after his midterm drubbing—“and, on all available evidence, he will double down again if he’s re-elected.”

What the columnists said

Is the nation really better off than it was four years ago? asked Rich Lowry in the New York Post. There’s a reason why so many Democrats, including Obama, stumbled when asked that question this week. Real median income has declined by $4,300 since January 2009, and unemployment has exceeded 8 percent for 42 months. One day, we really will be better off than in 2008. But “this president will have had nothing to do with it.”

The real question is whether voters “view the glass as half empty or half full,” said Clarence Page in the Chicago Tribune. Obama says it’s half full, but in a poll last week, only 31 percent of Americans said the country is better off today than in 2008. Fortunately, most voters also remember just how awful things were in 2008, said Jamelle Bouie in The economy shed 4 million jobs during the financial collapse that year, while it creates an average of 150,000 jobs a month now. And as Joe Biden says, “Osama is dead and GM is alive.” There is “no question that we’re better off today.”

Voters aren’t that interested in looking back, said Doyle McManus in the Los Angeles Times. Polls show that they are “hungry for someone to tell them how he plans to make the country better.” So here’s the real question of this election: Whose policies are most likely to make Americans more prosperous and secure in 2016? The candidate with the most convincing answer will win.

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