CHARLOTTE -- A few years ago, it was fashionable for Democrats to describe themselves as "members of the reality-based community." These days, it seems the foreclosure crisis has hit them so hard they've been forced to move to another neighborhood.
Metaphorically, at least, they've set up a refugee camp here this week. In this political Brigadoon, things are going well in America, so well in fact that President Obama obviously deserves a second term because Americans are better off than they were four years ago, and that the Republican Party is little more than a haven for old-fashioned robber barons who think like Klansmen but dress like Mr. Monopoly.
Obama doesn't quite say it like that, but he's perfectly happy to have his subalterns -- some at the Democratic National Committee, some at MSNBC-- make that case for him. Obama tries to take the higher road, insisting that the GOP represents old ideas while he champions a new approach. For instance, after letting it be known that he didn't watch the Republican convention, the president held a rally in Colorado over the weekend talking as if he had seen the whole thing. The convention in Tampa was so "last century," he explained. "You might as well have watched it on a black-and-white TV, with some rabbit ears." His chief strategist, David Axelrod, chimed in on Fox News Sunday that the Republican convention was a "terrible failure" because it lacked any new ideas.
It's a remarkable claim for a president who has taken Franklin Roosevelt as his lodestar and hopes that Republicans of the sort that dominated the party during the Eisenhower administration will return to power. It's as if Democrats think pouring money into roads is some sort of cutting-edge, outside-the-box idea. You know who else invested a lot in roads? Julius Caesar. That doesn't make it a bad idea, necessarily, but please let's not talk about it as if it's some sort of major policy innovation.
The same goes for pretty much the entire suite of Obama policies: more government control of health care, more regulations of the free market, more goodies for college students, more cash for state government employees. Culturally, the Democrats sound like it's not so much still the "recovery summer" but the Summer of Love, promising abortion on demand and free birth control. It's hardly as if Obama is a time traveler visiting us from the future with great policy boons that our unevolved brains can scarcely imagine.
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