Saturday I had dinner with apolitical friends, middle-class people, relatively insulated from the current maelstrom because they've played by the rules as they understood them, saved, taken on debt only in reasonable amounts, have more or less secure jobs where they may take modest pay cuts in these hard times. That is, they are a lot better off than a lot of folks, a lot less precarious.
The promise of Obama's program that I'm seeing hasn't gotten through to them. They didn't watch the speech or its novelty wasn't apparent to them. They haven't been following the charades that have passed for politics over the last 30 years as closely as I have. And they have different pre-occupations.
They are ready to tear some bankers and financial moguls limb from limb. They see no reason to bail them out AND they cannot see that Obama is doing anything for them except saying comforting words.
I look at the budget and see substantive change. They are absolutely blinded by anger about bailouts of rich people they feel broke the rules of civilized behavior. They can't see the possibility of any positive change coming out of this.
Historically, in times of deep economic distress, disappointed people like these have been ripe to respond to pseudo-populist right wing appeals. My friends almost certainly won't because they are gay, so not likely to be comfortable with the company in those circles.
But they need help to understand that something good can happen. I was pleased to see that the Obama folks plan to brand stimulus projects with this logo:
Let's just hope the projects work or that sign could be as much of a joke as Bush's color-coded threat levels.
Elected officials know about the fury that's out there. Today Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke caught a blast of it when testifying before Congress:
Someone at Moveon.org apparently had the same thought I had about this precarious moment we're in: those of us who grasp that something unexpected and special is possible have some educating to do among our friends. Yesterday I got one of their emails listing 10 things you should know about Obama's plan but probably don't. (Can't find this on the Moveon site, but it is reproduced here.)
The Obama budget is discussed intelligibly here.
Insofar as that is true, those of us who get it need to share the information far and wide. Popular understanding and pressure is the only way such a redirection of policy is going to be won.