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Various bits and pieces are in circulation. Fix health care. Improve income security. Restrict trade. Raise taxes on the rich. Democrats hope to speak to middle-class America's feelings of economic vulnerability, which is probably the right tree to bark up. But while some Democrats strike notes of class resentment, others seem to blame foreigners. No candidate has found a package and a tone that tell a story not primarily about populism or nationalism but about prosperity: raising the tide to lift all boats.
A prosperity narrative does not need to be conceptually elegant. It merely needs to be more right than wrong economically and in touch with the times politically, as Keynesianism and Reaganism were. What became known as Reaganomics was in fact a messy pastiche of Republican remedies old (tight money, fiscal restraint) and new (tax cuts, entrepreneurship) that Reagan assembled over the course of his 1980 campaign. The pieces hung together only inasmuch as they suited the candidate and his time—but that was what counted.
It may be that the Democrats will not find a prosperity story next year. Still, the potential for climate change is there. As Reagan exorcised Hoover's ghost, so the way appears open for the Democrats to exorcise Jimmy Carter's—and to haunt Republicans with the shade of George W. Bush.
© Copyright 2007 National Journal
Jonathan Rauch is a senior writer and columnist for National Journal and a frequent contributor to Reason. The article was originally published by National Journal.