When you read reports that President-elect Obama is going to establish a "task force to assist middle-class families" and that incoming VP Joe Biden will be its point man, keep a very sharp eye on what's going on here. It's an appeal to form over substance designed to convince voters he cares so much that even if he fails, he should be lauded and, of course, re-elected.
Modern Democrats have perfected the art of political propaganda, as seen in their demonization of "the Bush economy" for most of Bush's two terms despite the mostly positive economic numbers during that period. My guess is that under President Obama, they'll seek to do the reverse, if necessary: wooing the public with constant overtures to "the middle class" designed to mollify it irrespective of actual economic conditions.
Analogous to a teacher "teaching to the test," when a teacher imparts information to students to help them score higher on college entrance exams as opposed to increasing their actual knowledge of the material, President Clinton mastered the art of governing to the polls.
He had an entire team working 24/7 on enhancing his image and eulogizing his policy agenda. It's true that their task was aided by a robust economy, but the Clinton "war room" was still undeniably powerful well beyond the elections.
How much more shocking it was, then, for the young neophyte to take the Clintons to school, especially in the organizational and grass-roots aspects of the campaign. It would have been no less amazing if one of Muhammad Ali's sparring partners, such as Jimmy Ellis, had knocked Ali out instead of being knocked out himself.
It's true we're talking about Hillary Clinton, not Bill, that the Clintons were arguably past their prime, and that Obama was a charismatic and eloquent candidate, but Obama's dispatching of Clinton still proved that Obama's team is a political force of nature. They are seasoned political operatives andtrained and tested in the mean streets of Chicago-style politics, a stark taste of which we've witnessed recently with the Blago saga.
Even before his inauguration, Obama and his team have begun to use those skills in anticipation of his term. They have systematically lowered expectations for an economic recovery, dramatically altering their campaign tune of promising great improvements to cautioning against "hope" anytime soon. They've carefully sculpted Obama's image as an unflappable statesman in control and already in office (audaciously creating the office of the president-elect) while wholly defying the reality that Obama has studiously avoided taking definitive positions on any consequential issues. Call it perception trumping reality or just plain smoke and mirrors. Regardless, it appears to be working.
What really got my attention on all this was recent news that Obama plans to establish a White House Task Force on Working Families "to assist middle-class and working families." The perpetual campaign has already begun.
Our antennae should already be raised over Obama and the Democrats' persistent effort to single out the middle class, as if it's a definable term and as if politicians should target it for special treatment even if it is. What about the poor, by the way? And am I the only one tiring of this implication that productive and successful people don't work?
From Obama's constant shifting of the goal posts as to where his planned tax hike would begin (at any income level between $150,000 and $250,000), we know that Obama regards the middle class cynically, not as a group of hurting people but a rhetorical device to convince you he cares.
We're told that Obama will form this task force to focus on improving education and training for Americans and protecting incomes and retirement security of the middle class. How about education for the poor or for minorities trapped in inner-city schools because of Democrats' demagogic opposition to school vouchers?
Biden assures us this task force will measure the success of Obama's economic policy by whether the middle class is growing and prospering.
These class-warfare agents might as well be saying, "Our administration will be devoted to convincing you around the clock that we care about people who constitute the largest voting bloc of Americans and, of course, the unions, who will help us in our re-election efforts."
I just hope we're still at least slightly sympathetic to the notion that the American ideal is blind as to economic classes and grounded in equal opportunity for all. Obama's endless appeals to the middle class contradict his promises not to be divisive and to restore unity to America.
If this task force comes to fruition, watch for it to be a primary propaganda vehicle of the new administration that is both wrongheaded in its approach and potentially quite dangerous in its application.