WASHINGTON, July 28, 2016 — President Obama delivered an inspirational speech at the Democratic National Convention. But he stressed that Americans should vote for Hillary Clinton this fall, while the reality is that the Democratic message is wrong for most voters. That will lead to their loss in November.
Obama is a masterful campaigner and speaker. His convention speech was truly inspirational. It was mesmerizing.
His voice inflections, his facial expressions, his pauses to allow listeners to reflect and his body language all contributed to a speech that made voters feel good. Martin Luther King Jr. had the same effect.
But the content of his speech was a different matter. While the president’s approval rating is above 50 percent, almost unheard of for a president in his eighth year, more than 80 percent of the voters believe that the country is headed in the wrong direction. Americans like Obama personally, but they disapprove of his policies.
Obama stressed that one reason to elect Clinton is to keep the nation on its current path, a path that Americans believe is not the right one. He talked about “20 million more people who have health care,” putting “more justice in the justice system,” asking Americans if they “want to fight climate change” and if they “want to protect our kids … from gun violence.”
He said, as Bill Clinton said the night before, that Hillary Clinton has fought for the downtrodden and solved many of the social problems the country faced when she was first lady and when she was a senator. She will continue to do that as president and will change what needs to be changed.
Obama said, “By so many measures, our country is stronger and more prosperous than when we started (eight years ago).”
The Democrats’ problem is that most Americans do not believe that we are safer and more prosperous than we were eight years ago; they believe that if we continue with the current policies, the country will continue to decline, even as they admit that the U.S. is the greatest country on the face of the earth.
Americans believe we can do much better.
Polls and common sense tell us that the primary concerns of the American voter are national security and the economy. Most people believe that the Democrats have better solutions to social problems, but those don’t hit us where we live; national security problems and economic problems are our greatest concerns.
In 2008, after 26 years of solid economic growth (except for hiccups in 1991 and 2001) American voters were generally doing very well. The recession began to bite in July 2008, but although a financial crisis was looming in the fall of 2008, Americans still felt very good economically.
Before their own jobs are wiped out, compassionate Americans feel obligated to help those who are not doing well. In November 2008 they still felt they could focus on curing social injustices, and they wanted an end to years of war. Obama was their man.
In 2016, things are much different.
The recession ended in mid-2009, but economic growth has averaged just over 2 percent per year. In none of those years did growth exceed 3 percent, making Obama the first president in living memory to serve a term as president without having at least one year of growth above 3 percent.
Unemployment is down, but too many people are part-time workers employed in low-paying jobs; millions more have simply stopped looking for work. College students and recent college grads are afraid they’ll be unable to pay off their student loans. The fear is not the size of the payments, which on average amounts to making car payments for 10 years, but rather not having the opportunity to find a well-paying job that covers the debt and provides a good standard of living.
Without solid growth, few opportunities exist for anyone. Everyone wishes the current recovery would see growth of 4 to 5 percent, as was the case for four years after the last severe recession in 1981.
Democrats are passionate about curing social injustices, but they have the wrong message. Donald Trump is far from the perfect candidate, but Republican voters have selected him as their nominee with a message of economic revival. How he will “make America great again” is unclear, but the message resonates with tens of millions of voters.
Americans believe that Trump will boost economic growth and improve national security. That will likely lead to his victory, despite his numerous flaws.