Democrats appear headed for a big November defeat, but it didn’t have to be this way. In today’s New York Times, David Brooks imagines an alternate history, in which Obama took a wiser path. In December 2008, as his staff was clamoring to recreate the New Deal, “Obama, in this fanciful version, held up his hand. He told his aides to put away the history books.” This was not 1932. Today’s America didn’t trust the government.
Besides, Republicans were itching for a small-government vs. big-government fight. So alternate Obama instead rolled out a bipartisan plan for payroll tax cuts. Nancy Pelosi was furious—she had decades of spending proposals ready to go—but Obama told her to be patient, and vetoed her first omnibus spending bill. Then, instead of tackling health care, he focused on energy reform. Democrats spent the whole summer talking about new jobs and technologies, giving speeches on “Our Children’s Economy.” They warned that there’d be no quick fixes, but that “America was rebuilding its core, strengthening itself for better days ahead.”