Democrats Reinvent Themselves as the Party of Fiscal Austerity

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 04: First lady Michelle Obama speaks on stage during day one of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 4, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

I think Democrats proved that they have more first-class orators than the GOP tonight. But having listened to basically the entire night of speeches, including from the B-list workaday governers and congressfolks who aren’t great orators, I couldn’t help but notice something—in their rote lines, Democrats are embracing the role of the party of fiscal austerity.

It’s a role they got comfortable playing in the late Clinton years and all throughout the eight long years of Bush’s big deficits and “irresponsible” tax cuts and wars-fought-with-borrowed money. And tonight I heard them happy to embrace that old role again. We stand for a responsible balanced approach to fiscal consolidation, they stand for profligate tax cuts for multi-millionaires. It’s a dialogue among practical politicians that’s well to the right of the debate among policy elites. There was no hint of anything like Peter Orszag’s barbell stimulus (higher short-term deficit paired with long-term consolidation) to say nothing of a Paul Krugman-style agenda.

Instead, standing in for ARRA people did speak about the auto bailout as an example of Obama era stimulative success. But that was looking backwards. I heard no hint from anyone of belief in the idea that short-term budget deficits can boost a depressed economy. Given how central that idea has been to the debate among elites over the past three and a half years, that’s pretty amazing.

Read the rest of Slate’s coverage of the Democratic National Convention.