Let the campaign begin! The president’s first campaign speech, cloaked in his term’s last State of the Union address, deployed two central metaphors: the economy is a car, and it’s also a playing field.
An economy built to last, where hard work pays off, and responsibility is rewarded.
While Figaro hates the clumsy rhythm and passive voice, he likes the trope. It uses the auto industry’s success as a model for what the rest of the economy can do. Thanks in part to government intervention (never mind that disaster in Japan), GM is back on top as the world’s number-one car company. Chrysler is accelerating, the industry is creating a growing number of jobs… And the feds provided the jumper cable.
Figaro would like to see Obama make the connection more overtly, saying something like, “What we did for the auto industry, we are doing for the whole economy.” Not socialism. Jump-starting. Building the economy Ford tough. Taking the economy from zero to, um, more than zero in under a decade!
Still, the trope works. Why? Because it focuses on the future, the long term, and the modest progress made so far. The Republicans know this, which is why their “prebuttal” and rebuttal work hard to shift the focus from the future to the present misery. The election will come down to a Reaganesque “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” versus Obama’s slow build for the future.
Obama has the steeper road. The economy is already like a rock—a barely movable object. The Republicans’ present carries more emotional weight than the Democrats’ future. Besides, Obama described the future four years ago, and it’s now a bald-tired present.
Which is why Obama pulled out his second trope, the playing field. The present is shabby, he argues, because some players aren’t playing fair.
We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well while a growing number of Americans barely get by, or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.
At last, the Democrats are catching on: Forget the figures. It’s the tropes, stupid.