According to David Brooks' latest column, Barack Obama's approval ratings are falling because his administration "has joined itself at the hip to the liberal leadership in Congress." Hmm. On the basis of… what exactly? Appointing extreme liberals such as Lawrence Summers and Timothy Geithner to bail out the banks and Wall Street? Signaling that inclusion of a "public option" in a healthcare overhaul – the fervent hope of the liberal leadership in Congress – is not essential?
"This is a country that has just lived through an economic trauma caused by excessive spending and debt," argues Brooks, which is why he thinks the "animating issue" among disgruntled citizens is "fiscal restraint." Over at Salon, Michael Lind offers a different view, pointing to some other animating issues, like resentment at the "Wall Street elites who wrecked the economy" while working-class people lost their jobs and houses. Where Brooks counsels fiscal restraint, Lind advises Obama to find his inner Franklin Roosevelt. "We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob," declared FDR in 1936. "Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me and I welcome their hatred."
I'm with Lind. For the past three decades, few Democrats have dared to voice such populist sentiments, ceding the ground to Republicans, who have rallied ‘the people' against every special interest imaginable save for the corporations and wealthy elites who have persistently benefited from their policies. Frustrated Democratic strategists have then wondered why the public's anger is misdirected while refusing to look in the mirror and ponder whether perhaps the reason rests in their own party's silence. Passing serious health care reform presents Obama with the perfect opportunity to reverse the equation. So far, he hasn't taken it. The familiar pattern is playing out.