Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

May 6, 2014

Democrats' mixed messaging

(Continued)

Meanwhile, even if the recovery is showing some signs of life, it turns out that there isn’t much evidence that economic factors, and job growth in particular, have a strong impact on the outcome of midterm elections like the one coming up in November; the economy plays a much larger role in presidential elections. Even in the best-case scenario — if job growth is healthy and there’s lots of good news about the Affordable Care Act — Republicans will probably still have a strong advantage among the voters likely to turn out.

Republicans can make a simple argument. If a healthy jobs report comes out, they can say “Not good enough.” If the next one is poor, they’ll say, “See? This is Obama’s fault.” For Democrats, when the news is bad, they have to make a complex argument about hypotheticals (what might have happened if Republican policies were followed) and the long-term trends that hold us back. And even good news can’t be celebrated too much, lest Democrats undermine their broader arguments about inequality, and the items on their agenda, such as a minimum-wage increase, that are meant to address it.

So the real challenge for Democrats will be balancing the two arguments they want to make: first, that their policies have made things better, and second, that something fundamental in the American economy still needs to change. It won’t be easy — no matter what the jobs reports say.

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