It could just turn out that events force Obama to do what we’ve needed him to do all along. Personally, though, I doubt it.
More likely, in my opinion, is that he’ll continue to try splitting the difference and having it both ways. That seems to me a pretty risky approach to re-election because it basically depends on events to carry him through rather than asserting a reason for continuing in office. But at this point it’s hard to imagine anything but an equivocal response from Barack Obama. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m not holding my breath.
Consider the Obama campaign’s approach to what seems intended as a touchstone for the election strategy, the attack on Romney’s time at Bain Capital. Certainly there is much to despise in the Bain record, including exhibitions of capitalism at its worst. And it’s hard to make the case for the capitalist’s favorite meme, creative destruction, at a time when so many mortgages are underwater, so many people are out of work, and so many corporations and their executives are rolling in cash. They get the creation, we get the destruction.
This strategy, though, doesn’t have everyone on board.
Some Democrats in Virginia expressed concern that voters in the business-oriented suburbs around Washington would not coalesce around attacks on Bain. Sen. Mark R. Warner, a former cellphone entrepreneur, said in an interview that Bain is “a valid issue and debate” but also a company that “did a good job for their investors.” One prominent Virginia Democrat who requested anonymity to speak candidly said the Bain strategy is “risky” because it feeds an existing narrative among business leaders that the Obama administration is not friendly to their interests.
The problem is that it’s so hard to criticize Bain without critiquing capitalism itself. That, of course, is what the country desperately needs right now, and the Occupy movement has brought the issue to our collective consciousness. Now would be a perfect time to bring the discussion to basic questions of fairness and sustainability. But the Democrats are just as owned by Wall Street as the Republicans. Can you guess which business sector’s contributions to the two campaigns dwarf all others?
So it may come to the point that all Obama’s efforts to cozy up to Wall Street will come to naught and the Street will pick the Mitt, who after all is much more like them. Will Obama then choose to swing for the fences and try to recruit the non-voters with a full-throated denunciation of the destructive side of capitalism, or will he try to split the difference between reality and Wall Street? If he picks the latter he stands a good chance of losing in November.