The Democrats are just about to kick off their convention, and the Republicans have just ended theirs. In this lull between the powerhouse events, the question continuously asked is: "Are we better off now than 4 years ago?"
It's the question Republicans are asking constituents as they press for votes in swing states such as North Carolina - and it's also a question asked by Democrats looking to highlight the progress made under the Obama presidency.
As Biden put it in a speech in Ohio today, "We are better off because Osama Bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive."
My brain glitched as I read this. Really? This is what you're handing the nation as enough of a reason to hunker down for four more years?
This sounds more like a cheesy catch-phrase for middle school class elections than a legitimate argument for Presidential re-election.
And of course Republicans are jumping on everything from broken promises about Gitmo and Afghanistan to joblessness and taxes to prove that the starry eyed hope campaign of four years ago manifested into a hopelessly lackluster reality.
Meanwhile, as I watch footage of David Koch listening intently at the RNC last week, I can't help thinking...who is the "we" they are talking about when they ask that question.
I know Koch can't complain. He hasn't suffered serious set backs under Obama. But Obama's talk about corporate restraint (granted, it's just talk) makes him all the more happy to chant "I built this" and gaze at Romney like a director his new favorite actor.
He's funneling so much money into the Republican campaign, you might think with each blink, he triggers a direct deposit to Romney/Ryan 2012 Inc.
Four years ago, Obama campaigned under the guise of changing the way "old politics" worked and fixing the broken process of today's political environment.
Well uh...that mission was just about as accomplished as the one Bush rented an aircraft carrier to announce.
Obama has done more than his fair share to protect the corporate interests that run this country.
Maybe that's why he's not keen to mention the overwhelming evidence that bigger government provides a better economy and a better infrastructure - which was his original campaign message.
As Julian Zelizer wrote on CNN, "One can't run a successful store if police don't protect the shop from
thieves, if roads are not built and paved so that customers can reach
their destination, if tax incentives are not in place to alleviate some
of the costs that the owner must shoulder."
This metaphor should be the keystone of the Democratic Convention and their overall campaign.
The fact that Bin Laden is dead and GM is still pushing out cars still worse than Asian ones are little tid-bits. It doesn't say anything about the Democrats in general. Four years and all you can give me is one dead terrorist and more cars?
Doesn't that do more for flag waving GM shareholders than for the average American?
What about new jobs? What about the health care bill you championed? What about social security? Education? Foreign policy (outside of Bin Laden...oh and the drones...)?
If we're gonna cling to party ideologies, might as well hold on to the sturdiest of foundations, and for Democrats that's bigger government.
And polls show that when asked about government in terms of specific programs and works, most Americans are in favor. But in the abstract, "big government" sounds scary. It sounds a little too 1984, and Republicans capitalize (pun intended) on that comparison. It's almost like they get paid extra every time they use the word "socialist."
My stance about the broken two-party system is obvious. I hesitate to hope for any amount of legitimate change so long as it's right, left and Big Brother Buck heading up our government. But I think it's worth the mention that if Democrats did stick to their ideological base, people like Koch wouldn't be able to pay for that seat on Romney's shoulder, and people like me and you would be answering yes to that weighted question.
So the question shouldn't stop there. Like in high school essays, there should be a follow up. "And why do you think so?"
Why are the majority of Americans fiscally debating a $2 cup of coffee? Why didn't Obama deliver on so many promises? Why would Romney be different?
I think if we, the people, sought to answer more of these questions, the path to solidifying "we" as better off may brighten, and consoling comments about Bin Laden's ocean grave and GM's resurrection wouldn't be enough to secure re-election. Vapid playground put-downs and come-backs wouldn't pass for political debate. And David Koch wouldn't sit comfortably at any political event, pulling strings and trading favors.
It's a two way street. They've gotta do better but we gotta push them to.
Are we better off? You tell me...and why?