Hmmm. . . I sure is hard to have faith in a political system that keeps throwing up lousy choices.
The “framed choice” strategy is basically this: Everyone knows that pensions (Social Security) and health care (Medicare, Medicaid, child health programmes) are going to bankrupt the nation unless they are “right-sized” to revenue and existing debt. Whoever is elected president in 2012 will have to “right-size” these programmes over the course of the next four years. The framed choice for the white voters who will decide this election is this: Who do you think will better protect the interests of working-class and middle-class families when the inevitable cuts are packaged? Who do you want negotiating for you when it comes down to who gets hurt and who doesn’t? Do you really want Mitt Romney and a bunch of right-wing congressmen making these decisions?
Andrew Sullivan agrees that the framed-choice (and not the negative, scorched-earth) strategy is Mr Obama’s best bet, and that it may be. But how good a bet is it, really? We all know that incumbents don’t often survive poor economic conditions, and that Mr Obama, who inherited a financial crisis and a deep recession, was dealt a crap hand. But if recession raises the stakes of zero-sum distributive politics, and if that, in turn, heightens the extent to which distributive politics is simply identity politics, Mr Obama’s crap hand may be worse than we thought. If, as Mr Friedman argues, economic stagnation brings out the worst in us, that suggests a bad economy will penalise a black incumbent more than it will penalise a white incumbent.