For some time, I have been compiling notes for a post on why the incumbent Democratic president will not have the success that one of his partisan predecessors had with a “Give ‘Em Hell” strategy, attacking the Republican Congress for its “Do Nothing” record. Jim Geraghty has made by task easier, linking and excerpts John Bicknell’s piece in Roll Call contending that “Obama’s choice to adopt Harry Truman’s “give ‘em hell” strategy would work better if it was still 1948”.
Back in 1948, the Republicans weren’t prepared for such aggressive a strategy. And for another, as far as I can tell, Truman didn’t take up this tack until the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in mid-July of that election year.
Obama has begun his long before the corresponding date in this cycle (still six months in the future). Voters may tire of a negative, hectoring incumbent. Meanwhile, congressional Republicans have the time to showcase the legislation they have passed — and point to the “Do Nothing” Democratic Senate which has bottled up their bills.
Importantly, Bicknell reminds us that Americans in 1948 liked the New Deal:
Perhaps most importantly, despite the economic problems the country faced in 1948, underlying support for continuing the New Deal was strong. Obama faces an even tougher economy, and his economic program inspires little loyalty beyond the Democratic base.
Even as increasing numbers of economists are coming to recognize that the New Deal did not work as advertised, delaying recovery, it retained in the 1940s — and even in subsequent decades — the aura of success. Today, the American people, as poll after poll after poll indicates, have become increasingly skeptical of government solutions to our economic problems, favoring a private sector approach.
On matters economic, Barack Obama in 2012, unlike Harry S Truman in 1948 is not in tune with the times.