With visions of a massive liberal majority in the next Congress and the power to remake economic policy for the next generation, Democrats are dusting off their New Deal history books and openly discussing the idea of re-engineering Depression-era agencies for the 21st century.
If we do actually fall off the economy cliff, then sure… some of these ideas are probably worth pulling out of the moldering archives. Something modeled on the Works Progress Administration (WPA) might make a lot of sense, both in terms of employment (if we end up with huge numbers of unemployed), and for our fast-decaying national infrastructure.
Contrary to all the panic and hoopla, however, we are NOT suffering conditions that resemble the Great Depression. Why on earth would they be trotting any of this out right now?
Privately, Democrats are debating just how far they should go in discussing big ideas. One Senate Democratic aide warns that Hill Democrats should be careful not to “box Obama in” with too many big, unrealistic promises if he is elected. A House leadership aide says Democratic leaders are not taking a comprehensive look at New Deal agencies, but are studying what worked and what didn’t.
They need to be very, very careful here.
Not only does this play right into the narrative the GOP is trying to promote, it assumes a mandate I don’t think they’ll have. The moderates and independents (and even many Republicans) who are helping the Democrats vote the Republicans out are not just footnotes to this year’s election.
Punishing one political party does not ipso facto embrace the most far-reaching ambitions of the other — not by a long shot.
And speaking of Franklin Delano Roosevelt… for those of you who wondered what I was reacting to in last week’s debate? It was rooted in another of his ideas — one that definitely needs to be left in the dusty historical archives.