Paul Krugman vient de publier dans la New York Review of Books un intéressant article où il revient sur ses prédictions et attentes, et les aller-retours de sa pensée sur Obama et McCain.

En voici les principaux extraits (New York Review of Books, daté du 6 novembre 2008) :


A year ago I thought I knew what would happen in this election: it would be a referendum on conservative economic policies, leading to a big Democratic victory and a fundamental change in the country's direction. Then, for a few agonizing months, it appeared that I might have been completely wrong. But at this point, a little over four weeks before voters go to the polls, I'm back to my original prediction.

In my last book, The Conscience of a Liberal, I argued that the conservative movement that now dominates the Republican Party has pursued policies that foster inequality and insecurity, and have made the large majority of Americans worse off. The GOP has nonetheless been able to win elections through identity politics—above all, by exploiting white racial resentment. But, I argued, identity politics were losing their effectiveness, because America has become more tolerant and, not to put too fine a point on it, less white. As a result, the era of conservative dominance was over.

The 2006 election, which abruptly ended the supposedly permanent Republican majority, seemed to confirm my thesis. That election gave Democrats a larger majority in the House than Republicans ever achieved in their twelve-year reign. Moreover, this new Democratic majority is much more solidly progressive than the pre-1994 alliance between Northern liberals and Dixiecrats. And I expected the 2008 election to continue and cement that power shift, leading in turn to a transformation in federal policies—a new New Deal.

For a while, however, Democrats in general, and Barack Obama in particular, seemed to have lost the plot. Instead of running against the Republican economic record, Obama spent the primary season and the first few weeks of the general election campaign portraying himself as a "post-partisan" politician, someone who transcended the traditional party divide. In his speeches, he tended to hold both parties equally culpable for the country's woes, denouncing the failed policies of right and left equally. And when talking about economics, he seemed to go out of his way to avoid scoring political points: as late as early August, he was still talking about how incomes had risen "during the 1990s" and fallen "over the last several years," somehow failing to mention that the good years had taken place under a Democratic president and the bad years under a Republican.

The lack of a forceful economic narrative from Obama allowed John McCain's campaign, now run by disciples of Karl Rove, to do two things. First, they were able to blur the question of who offered "change"—because if change wasn't defined clearly as a rejection of conservative economic policies, McCain could claim to be a change candidate too. Second, without economics front and center, there was room for a new version of the old identity politics. Never mind the policy details, was the McCain message, Obama isn't one of us—he's a celebrity, not like Sarah Palin the hockey mom.

And McCain's tactics were effective. By early September it looked as if the seemingly impossible might happen: a Republican victory in a year in which everything—the short-term state of the economy, the longer-term stagnation of working Americans' incomes, and the public's disgust with the Bush administration—overwhelmingly favored the Democrats.

But all of that has changed in the past few weeks. Part of what has changed is, of course, the intensification of the financial crisis—the fall of Lehman, the panic in the markets, and the Bush administration's admission that a huge government bailout was necessary—which has focused the electorate's mind. But some credit should also be given to Obama, who responded to his sagging poll numbers by becoming much more effective at delivering the Democratic economic message. These days, Obama doesn't try to place blame equally on right and left, he denounces "an economic philosophy that says we should give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else," and describes the crisis as "a final verdict on this failed philosophy." He sounds, in other words, a lot like Bill Clinton in 1992. And that's a good thing.

So the election will be a referendum on conservative economic policies after all. And while nothing in politics is certain, the odds are that this referendum will indeed produce a big victory for Obama and his party. What they'll do with that victory is another question, but for now, at least, the prospects for a new New Deal are looking bright again.

Paul Krugman (Copyright : New York Review of Books).