For the better part of 2011, the battle lines were drawn in a way that Republicans loved. The only topics of conversation that were permitted dealt with debt reduction, entitlement “reforms,” spending cuts, and austerity. The question wasn’t whether Washington would impose pain on an already-suffering populace, but how much.
The discourse is now a very different place, because the White House had the sense to take a conversational detour. Thanks in part to a concerted p.r. campaign from President Obama, and with some pushes from Occupy Wall Street, the topics that now dominate are about job creation, financial industry responsibility, and tax fairness. What’s more, while the president’s approval rating hasn’t changed much, polls do show a striking shift in Obama’s direction when it comes to who voters trust to lower unemployment: “Obama has made big gains over Republicans on the specific question of who is more trusted to handle jobs. Obama has a 15 point edge on the issue, 49-34, up from a tie of 40-40 in early September.”
Clearly (and tragically) the policy needle isn’t moving, at least not yet, but the austerity agenda is no longer at center stage, in large part because the president put the power of the White House into pushing it out of the spotlight. It’s a start.
It is a start, but that's all it is, and it's long past time for mere conversations. We're seeing some inklings of something here, but much more is needed. Of course, that won't happen until the Republicans blocking everything are put out to pasture in the private sector next November. That's the goal...if it's not too late by then.