Like many others, I have spent the last few days really contemplating what will happen in the elections this November. As much as I want to be optimistic, I just can’t bring myself to it. Democrats are looking at a very dark mid-term and, as Peter Daou puts it, these are “dark days for the left”.
But what happened? What caused the rapid fall from glory for President Obama over the past two years? When he was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama enjoyed one of the highest approval ratings in history. Now he is treading water to keep from hitting bottom. I believe there are three main factors that play into this; healthcare, economy and war. I want to take a minute and look at what happened with each of these issues and how it turned the base sour on the President.
The only blame here has to be placed on human nature. As I said back during the elections, there are those on the left who wouldn’t listen to what then candidate Obama was saying on the war and instead figured that as soon as he took office he would bring all our troops home. On the contrary, President Obama has done exactly what he campaigned on. He did a timely wind-down to the Iraq war and shift the focus to Afghanistan. Whichever way the President went on this issue, he was sure to alienate part of his base.
The President’s biggest mistake here was not listening to the right people, like Paul Krugman. He immediately capitulated to the hawks and didn’t push for a big enough stimulus. This in turn upset a large portion of the base, who saw a need for a much bigger recovery package. If you take a minute and look at other nations that did invest big in recovery packages, they are seeing their unemployment numbers drop and their GDP on the rise.
This is the biggie. President Obama had a major chance to solidify the base by showing more support for healthcare, but during the entire debate he remained highly dormant. You would hear people practically screaming “where’s the President” as the debate intensified during a hot August last year. Instead we heard crickets. Then the death throe came, the day President Obama said he never campaigned on a public option. This was a major slap in the face to the base and a flat out lie. Within minutes of that proclamation videos, quotes and excerpts from the campaign site popped up showing the opposite to be true. To add insult to injury, the President never once tried to correct the record. I still talk to Democrats today who feel totally betrayed by that one simple sentence the President spoke last year.
Healthcare also trickles down to the Congress. Our congressional leaders totally ignored the voices of the base. To them the Republicans were the key to everything and the base was taken for granted. Harry Reid is the major culprit here. It was as though he figured the base would swarm to the polls in the midterm no matter what happened. Well you live and learn, and the lesson Harry Reid has still to learn is a politically deadly one.
We also have another issue on the back of the minds of the base – fixing healthcare. When the initial bill was passed, there were promises of “we will fix it”. Well five months later and those fixes have been non-existent. Now with the Republicans poised to retake Congress, those fixes will never see the light of day. So many people pushed healthcare with the promise of these fixes, but a lot of us actually knew those were false promises. Sadly we are being proved right on this issue.
Now if you take a second to look at these three issues, there is a major undertone coming to play here. On every issue the President was more worried about the right than he was the left. Instead of being the “man of the people” he campaigned on, he became the man of the minority – a minority that would never support him no matter what. That right there is political suicide.
So with the President facing a Republican controlled Congress, the President is looking at the second half of his first, and possibly only, term being the modern day equivalent of The Inquisition. The Republicans don’t care about bi-partisanship. As matter of fact they will use their victories as a reason to not embrace it. Republicans will shut down Congress for the next two years and spend all their time investigating the President. We’ll be back in the 90’s without the economic security and prosperity that reigned in that decade.
Our next big focus will be on moving the country back to the left. That is not going to be an easy goal. If we end up with another Barack Obama style candidate, he/she will be met with extreme skepticism. We also risk a generational effect of this, given the large youth turnout in the 2008 elections. Perhaps the best solution overall is to end up with a President Palin in 2012 and look at 2016 as the year to make a comeback. Our country will be in tethers by then, but it really is becoming one of the only solutions I can see in bringing our country closer to the middle or even to the left of center again. The whole thing boils down to a solution to re-energize the Democratic base and I don’t see many other options here.