Joan Walsh writes in Salon ("The new Great Communicator ... isn't"):
Obama is the Democrats' Great Communicator, our Ronald Reagan. It's fitting that his highest priority will be reversing the tax and spending priorities Reagan enshrined as a new American compact almost 30 years ago, and reviving the notion of government as an engine of capitalist growth -- not merely the safety net provider, but the catalyst for organizing our public resources around what makes the economy strong. We've been arguing at the margins during these last two years of pain: Government should regulate more, or less. Tax rates should be higher, or lower. But there's a dangerous civic illiteracy in our country about what the larger role of government in a modern economy is, or should be, and I don't think Obama will ultimately prevail if he doesn't start to take it on.
Obama is the most remarkable Democratic communicator of my lifetime, I think, and even he's not rising to the task, yet. He needs to lay out his priorities, clearly; he needs to simplify his pitch, yet he also needs to add some depth to his and our understanding of how we got here. This economic crisis is not just about bad mortgages and/or the housing bubble bursting, and it won't be solved by reinflating that bubble, the Republicans' latest dumb idea.
I'm not sure how President Obama makes this point, roughly hourly, for the next four (and I hope eight) years. But this point has to be made, as often as possible, by anyone with an audience. We've had a deliberate shift of resources from middle- and working-class Americans and the poor, to the very rich, supported by our tax codes, twisted political values and the "winner-take-all" ethic that's prevailed at the highest levels of business and government for the last 30 years. Now, unbelievably, Republicans are saying we need even more tax cuts. (What part of tax-cutter George W. Bush's economic catastrophe, and his 22 percent approval rating, do they not understand?) They also back measures to reinflate the housing bubble that let Americans ignore their stagnating wages, as long as they worked more hours as a family and could also use their homes as an ATM. Their plans to reinflate the housing bubble seem as delusional, frankly, as their backing tax cuts, and even more irresponsible. Tax cuts won't work, but reinflating the housing bubble might work -- to encourage more consumption and less savings, and roll this problem a few more years down the road.
Democrats know the Republicans are wrong. Little children know they're wrong. Cats and dogs know they're wrong. But somehow this week, unbelievably, Obama and the Democrats seem to be losing the spin war. There are the worrying poll numbers. And there is the Washington Post report that Senate Democrats don't have the votes to pass a stimulus bill yet, at least not with the 60 votes that would rule out a filibuster. In this economic crisis, with 2.6 million jobs lost last year and thousands more lost in every news cycle, what does it take to create the urgency and responsibility to get this done?