Why Speeches Don’t Work

As of a month ago, people calling on the president to propose a bold new jobs plan and advocate for it loudly were “Obama critics” and those of us saying this wouldn’t work were “Obama apologists.” Well, last week he gave the big speech, the White House comms shop keeps pushing out jobs plan content, the party leaders in House and Senate are backing the bill, they’ve done some barnstorming in various congressional districts, and critics are still depressed and sarcastic:

Meanwhile, the NYT is covering whining Democratic members of Congress who have gripes with the jobs bill.

This, right before our eyes, is a living, breathing example of why presidential speechmaking doesn’t do the things people say it does. It doesn’t even have the intended impact on its intended audience! Is Atrios fired up and ready to go? Prepared to stop writing sarcastic, depressed, and dismissive blog posts and instead go hard against the president’s critics, boosting the morale of the president’s audience? No, he’s sarcastic, depressed, and dismissive because the objective situation is depressing and everyone knows the jobs plan won’t pass.

By contrast, if something is done (presumably at this point by the Federal Reserve) to improve economic conditions, a very different story will play out. One the one hand low-inflation swing voters will develop warmer feelings toward the president. But on the other hand, high-information base voters will start finding his ideological heresies to be forgivable compromises that generated political success.