Driving Them Into the Arms of the Confidence Fairy

WaPo’s Greg Sargent listened in to an Obama media conference call today, and although I doubt the president’s folk are going to let us in on any secrets, it certainly does make sense they are already calling attention to the single biggest vulnerability the Republicans left unaddressed during their convention: exactly what do they plan to do to create jobs or provide any short-term relief to the economy?

Dems think Romney erred badly at his convention by focusing too hard on softening his image (which appeared to be a success) without drawing a clearer picture of his plans for the economy. They think that’s created an opening to draw a much more specific road map of their own.

“We try and look at this through the eyes of people who are still considering their choices,” Axelrod said. “They tuned in hoping to hear some practical solutions to the challenges we face.” Instead, Axelrod said, they heard “buzz words for the base.”

“Much of the convention was very much about the base of the Republican Party talking to itself,” Axelrod said. He mocked Romney’s message as “trust me — if you elect me, the economy will boom.”

Well, if you had an agenda that included tighter monetary policy, big cuts in public-sector employment, and even bigger cuts in all sorts of government benefits that add to the purchasing power of the low-income people most likely to spend, what would you say? It’s not so much a matter of Romney asking Americans to trust him that he has some sort of Nixonian “secret plan” to revive the economy; it’s that he’s asking him to accept the ancient conservative ideological totem that businesses will launch a burst of investment and hiring if they can overcome the deep psychological handicap of knowing they have to deal with an administration that does not sufficiently honor their success, trust them to take care of the country’s health, safety, workplace and environmental needs, or understand their insatiable need for lower labor costs and higher profits.

It all really comes down to the “confidence fairy:” the idea that the business of America is business, and America will do better if business has a friend–actually, a lot of friends–in power. There is zero empirical evidence for this proposition, which also comes dangerously close to telling working Americans that they can choose between decent wages and benefits (not to mention collective bargaining rights and a social safety net) and being offered the privilege of employment in the first place.

The magic of the “confidence fairy” will not survive a lot of scrutiny or many probing questions. So Democrats would be wise to offer both.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.