January 28, 2008

Who cares about 1992?

Editor's Blog fav Paul Krugman has a column up today discussing the political lessons of 1992.It is probably his most honest political column in a long time. The past few weeks have seem him take shot after shot at Barack Obama. Here he finally argues logically why Obama's approach in this campaign is a liability.The problem, is that Krugman just sort of fiats that Obama is going to be facing the same sort of political pressure that Bill Clinton faced in 1993 when he took office. Krugman's only justification for why 1992 is a worthwhile period of time to look at is his disguised as his lede:

It’s starting to feel a bit like 1992 again. A Bush is in the White House, the economy is a mess, and there’s a candidate who, in the view of a number of observers, is running on a message of hope, of moving past partisan differences...
Hmmm. So 2008 is a lot like 1992, politically, because the incumbent Presidents share a last name and the economy is not in great shape.This is pitiful. Honestly, Krugman is an economist with very few peers. His work will likely net him a Nobel prize. But, from the perspective of a social scientist this is a joke. I really find it hard to take Krugman seriously when he says stuff like this.I mean, let's look at a couple of things that make 2008 quite different from 1992. You know, the sort of things that Krugman would probably want to consider before writing an entire column on why the outcome of the 1992 election means you shouldn't vote for Barack Obama:1. The Democratic party is popular now. It has just taken control of the House and Senate and is likely to entrench that power in 2008. 1992 wasn't really the same. The GOP was a force that actually seemed unified (relative to today) and there were pretty dramatic demographic changes brewing that would soon take the Democrats out of the House and Senate. Unless Krugman is anticipating similar demographic changes over the next six months, he really has no legs to stand on here.2. George W. Bush has made such terrible decisions and is so overwhelmingly unpopular as a result of those decisions, that people genuinely want a changing of the guard. 1992 wasn't really like that. George H.W. Bush was unpopular, but mostly because of the economy. For example, he didn't do something like launch an unpopular war predicated on lies that has cost the country billions for no gain whatsoever. It is this distinction that lends some credence to Obama's claim that 2008 will be a lot like 1980.3. The Clintons were dirty. A political machine can throw all it wants at a politician, but if none of it is true it isn't going to do a whole lot of damage. Obama isn't Bill Clinton. He doesn't have a history of sleeping around with atrocious looking women. His shadiest business deal wasn't even a business deal. Sure, people claimed Clinton had roving death squads, but rumors like that didn't put Republicans in the house in 1994 and they didn't damage the Democratic party like the Lewinsky scandal did.Updated: For clarity/readability.