As someone whoâ€™s spent a lot of time arguing against conservative economic dogma, Iâ€™d like to believe that the bad news convinced many Americans, once and for all, that the rightâ€™s economic ideas are wrong and progressive ideas are right. And thereâ€™s certainly something to that. These days, with even Alan Greenspan admitting that he was wrong to believe that the financial industry could regulate itself, Reaganesque rhetoric about the magic of the marketplace and the evils of government intervention sounds ridiculous.
In addition, Mr. McCain seems spectacularly unable to talk about economics as if it matters. He has attempted to pin the blame for the crisis on his pet grievance, Congressional budget earmarks â€” which leaves economists scratching their heads in puzzlement. In the immediate aftermath of the Lehman failure, he declared that â€œthe fundamentals of our economy are strong,â€ seemingly unaware that he was closely echoing what Herbert Hoover said after the 1929 crash.
But I suspect that the main reason for the dramatic swing in the polls is something less concrete and more meta than the fact that events have discredited free-market fundamentalism. As the economic scene has darkened, Iâ€™d argue, Americans have rediscovered the virtue of seriousness. And this has worked to Mr. Obamaâ€™s advantage, because his opponent has run a deeply unserious campaign.