How surprising it would have been if the GOP had responded earlier this week to the latest unemployment job numbers by issuing a statement urging an immediate summit meeting with President Barack Obama and the nation’s leading economists and unemployment experts. The goal, the GOP could have said, would be to work out a long-term bipartisan plan tackling the persistent unemployment problem that has been the most severe since The Great Depression.
Unfortunately, the chances of this kind of meeting happening between now and the general election are, well, about the same as the New York Mets baseball team winning the World Series this year.
In the real world, the Republican response to the Good Friday unemployment report was to -- no surprise here -- immediately condemn President Obama. Even former GOP presidential candidateattacked the president before the first commercial break of his new radio show on Monday. Current front-runner and all but certain Republican nominee also decried the new numbers in a statement, saying they were "weak and very troubling.”
Bad unemployment news is a great tragedy for Americans, the Republicans are saying publicly. But privately, some may very well be wishing that the numbers stay high until the November election. The Republican SuperPac American Crossroads is already running ads in certain swing states attacking Obama for high gas prices. Future ads will no doubt bludgeon the president over the struggling economy and the current unemployment rate. It seems that many Republicans feel that bad economic news will help them be big winners in 2012 by creating fear among Americans that if Obama is re-elected, the situation will only get worse and the United States will cease to exist as a major economic power. Bad news, many Republicans seem to feel, is only good news for them.
Or is it?
Republicans may start sounding like they want the economy to continue to struggle for purely political gain regardless of the hardship and pain this would cause ordinary middle and lower class Americans. Like Scrooge, the GOP may not be able to publicly contain its glee if things don’t take a turn for the better before November. This would lead the GOP to be open to withering attacks by the Obama campaign and Democrats that Republicans only care about rich people. In addition, the constant drumbeat of negativity regarding President Obama and the economy will also hurt the Republicans, especially if they themselves don’t offer their own solutions. This negativity may be particularly harmful if it contrasts with signs that the economy is beginning to recover. The Wall Street Journal, the hometown newspaper for Wall Street Republicans, even ran a front-page story this week about how companies are emerging from the economic downturn in better shape than when they entered it.
After four years of bad economic news, Americans, already tuning out attack ads and robocalls, may very well decide this year that “enough is enough” and yearn for something positive that gives them hope for the future. They might very well want the jaunty optimism that helped propel Franklin Roosevelt to victory in 1932 at the height of The Great Depression. Personally very wealthy, Roosevelt was able to use his charm and compassion to project a positive image and challenge Americans to turn away from fear and have faith in the future, regardless of how dire the economic situation was at the time.
The months between now and the general election will be a lifetime for American voters. It will also be a lifetime for bad news. Republicans who are hoping it will continue until Election Day may have to be careful about getting what they wish for. Being happy about bad things was never very popular.
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