Obama shouldn't be fooled into thinking Bill Clinton was reelected in 1996 because he moved to the center. I was there. Clinton was reelected because by then the economy had come roaring back to life.
... For the next two years Republicans will try to paint Obama as a big-government liberal out of touch with America, who's responsible for the continuing bad economy.
Obama won't be able to win this argument by moving to the center -- seeking to paint himself as a smaller-government moderate. This only confirms the Republican's views that the central issue is size of government, that it's been too large, and the economy can improve only if it's smaller.
On the Republican playing field, Republicans always win.
Obama's best hope of reelection will be to re-frame the debate, making the central issue the power of big businesses and Wall Street to gain economic advantage at the expense of the rest of us. This is the Democratic playing field, and it's more relevant today than at any time since the 1930s.
The top 1 percent of Americans, by income, is now taking home almost a quarter of all income, and accounting for almost 40 percent of all wealth. Meanwhile, large numbers of Americans are losing their homes because banks won't let them reorganize their mortgages under bankruptcy. And corporations continue to lay off (and not rehire) even larger numbers.
... The relevant political lesson isn't Bill Clinton in 1996. It's Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936.
... FDR shifted the debate from what he failed to accomplish to the irresponsibility of his opponents. Again and again he let the public know whose side he was on, and whose side they were on. Republicans stood for "business and financial monopoly, speculation, and reckless banking," he said over and over.
And he made it clear they wanted to prevent him from helping ordinary Americans. "Never before have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today," he thundered. "They are unanimous in their hate for me -- and I welcome their hatred."