For the past month or so, President Obama has been toting the Car in the Ditch story. In case you weren’t on planet Madison this past Tuesday, September 28, Obama spoke in front of about 15,000, with an additional 10,000 sprawled out on Bascom Hill and surrounding streets, and his campaign 2010 take-home message went something like this:
The Democrats have been pushing the car out from the ditch for the past 20 months while the Republicans have been sipping Slurpees from the road and yelling out ‘push harder’. The Dems have gotten the car to level ground, and are starting to repair the damage. The fender is falling off, and it needs a new paint job, but the car is up and running. And now the Republicans want the keys back to the car. They didn’t know how to drive in the first place! When you want progress and want to go forward, you put it in D, drive, not R, reverse. And there’s a reason why. . . . .
It’s cute. In fact, it’s damn clever, but who really drove the car into the ditch?
President Obama made his case for the Democratic Party using facts, citing tax cuts for the top 2% and unemployment rates upon entering office in January of 2009. He characterized the first half of his presidency as saving the country from what could have become an economic depression, on scale with that of the 1930’s. Most economists agree that it could have been a lot worse, had the President and Congress not passed the stimulus package.
While we all agree that the car was in the ditch, and that it’s on its way out, if not nearing a flat road, the question of how we got there and who to blame for it, remains. The lack of effective investment regulations, two wars, and greed seem to be the culprits. Although there is a good argument to be made that the majority of these decisions (or lack thereof) fall under the Bush era, this question begs for some self-reflection.
Have the American people lost touch with reality? Did we really think we could take out huge loans for homes, spend hundreds of billions on wars, killing hundreds of thousands of people (directly and indirectly), and get away with it? Unfortunately, I’m afraid that the time has passed to look ourselves in the mirror and ask: why?
The President and his party have a tough fight on November 2nd and it may be politically costly to ask such questions publicly, but in the end, it would be a good investment for American society if we thought more about where we went wrong in the first place. Unfortunately, the reality is that a witty story about a car in a ditch wins more votes.
Colin Christopher is a first-year at La Follette.