Short Version: As the economy becomes the focus of the election, the key question is whether the undecided, "hard-working" voters will come to realize that Democratic values fuel the economy and Republican values do not. The Clinton years might have been helped by the Internet boom but we've gone from surpluses and a great economy to the worst deficits ever and looming financial calamities because of decisions that don't work. To fuel the economy again, we just need to find a good cause to invest in, one that spreads the wealth around and ideally builds wealth in the process. The answer is plain as day, energy.
... the end of the election, that is, and once again it will boil down to the economy. Except for only the most moralistic issue of all, abortion, almost every other issue can be traced back to economics. Oil, energy independence, global warming, Islamic maniacs, healthcare, housing, mortgage banking, college cost? Make the American economy relatively sustainable, stable, and robust and all of those problems become less so. Some disappear entirely others change from calamities to management problems.
As voting time nears, the great masses of the newly-labeled "hard-working" Americans will choose the candiate to fix the economy. If you watch TV, you'd think the choice will be based not on potential for economic success but on skin color, ugly US-Vietnamese history, lapel pins, speaking style, pandering, and sex.
But it really comes down to only one thing: do conservative, blue-collar Americans really think that Republican values drive the engine of our economy? Did you notice that during the Clinton years we had the best job market ever, and a national treasury surplus(!), and a booming housing market? And now we have the biggest deficit ever and collapses in virtually every financial sector? How long will you pretend to think it was all explained by the Internet boom (for Clinton) and 9/11 (for Bush)???
This is not that hard, folks. Our economy is fueled by pushing money/prosperity/wealth/work DOWN to the huge masses. No less a capitalist than Henry Ford understood this when he distributed his wealth back to his workers to create a market for his cars. Yet all of the Republican values favor not distribution of wealth to the little guys but concentration of wealth among the wealthy. Tax cuts for the rich and the constant harangue of "leaving small business alone" won't do anything. They are somewhere between flagrant lies and pandering lip service that has been known to win elections when the electorate is gullible.
Despite all the damage done to our economy in the last eight years, fixing it is still straightforward even if it's not simple. Yes, in the Clinton years, the Internet was a huge economic engine, but we could re-create a new one at the push of an Oval Office button: declare an Iraq-scale war on private commuting in America's 20 biggest cities, and invest every bit of available capital in solar and wind energy. (Sustainable energy, even though it cannot solve our energy problem because it is mathematically insufficient, is financially magical because it recovers wealth every minute instead of consuming it.)
Of course this is a matter of the dreaded "government programs," which Republicans would have you believe are outright socialism. As long as you buy this non-stop, simpleton rhetoric, the problem will only get worse. The sad and continuing irony in this dilemma is that it will will be the blue-collar folks (the so-called "values voters") who will suffer first and worst if they choose the Republicans who pander to them. The progressive liberals, like me, who argue for more leadership, in the form of distribution of wealth, are in jobs that are one more step removed from the most direct damage to our economy. But only one more step, November is looming for all of us.