We’re trying to make this 1980, when a hapless president was ousted by a popular Republican. They’re trying to make this 1996, when a popular Democrat was reelected over a hapless Republican.
Turning this into 1980 means making a case to the great center of the American electorate that government is too big (and getting bigger) and that the current president is a incapable of getting the country on the right track. Some of us are more hopeful than others about the prospects of this.
Turning this election into 1996, though, means following the Clinton strategy of a dozen or so mini-initiatives that appeal to the center. In the months leading up to the election, Clinton was whirlwind of silly-sounding – though effective – announcements: he put more cops on the street, he pushed school uniforms, that sort of thing.
It worked for him. And now Obama’s trying it on for size. From Politico:
Stepping firmly onto Republican turf, President Barack Obama announced Friday that he will ask Congress for the power to merge agencies to streamline government and improve efficiency.
The president’s initiative treads firmly on the Republican orthodoxy of reducing the size and scope of government and cutting waste. It’s not the first time that the White House has tailored a proposal that put the GOP on the defensive — the payroll tax cut fight forced Republicans lawmakers to choose whether to support the president or a tax increase.
First up on Obama’s list: the merger of the Commerce Department, the Small Business Administration, the Office of the U.S. Trade representative and other independent business agencies into a new, unnamed Cabinet agency to create a more efficient experience for businesses.
Yes, I realize this is really just a call for another cabinet post. But I also think it’s the overture to a winter and spring of Obama’s 1996-style makeover as a moderate, pro-business president.