The Democratic Problem Starts with Obama
by InigoMontoya, Fri Oct 22, 2010 at 01:32:28 PM EDT
The problems the Democrats are facing this year go all the way to the top: Obama. The contrast between an extremely well-run campaign and extremely inept governing are staggering.
The Health Care Reform process is the perfect example. Obama's team made hundreds of concessions in negotiations with Republicans and got zero votes for it. A rule of American politics is this: you don't make concessions unless you extract the votes in return. A corollary is thus: the minority party understands that it will not get everything it wants nor even half of what it wants but it will get some of what it wants...the Republicans, the Party of NO!, were not willing to accede to this. And why should they? Democrats kept compromising and compromising without any ironclad demands in return. Were I faced with that response, I would have kept pushing too. One disgusted truly independent friend of mine isn't planning to vote this year: "What's worse, evil Republicans or spineless Democrats?" he asks.
Obama's seeming aloofness and disengagement has not worked to his advantage. The Presidency is a bully pulpit and Obama has largely abdicated that advantage. George Bush was a horrible president...I rate only Buchanan, Harrison, and Garfield below him (the latter two getting grades of Incomplete)...but he knew how to speak to the country in direct terms and make an emotional connection whether you liked him or loathed him. Bill Clinton could do the same. Obama? Pfft. The detached, cerebral delegator is not what Americans are looking for an more importantly it's not an effective mode.
The lack of acumen about legislative process has been appalling. One of the flashing yellow lights that worried me about an Obama presidency was Obama's seeming disinterest in the legislative process while in the Senate, compiling a very thin legislative record and a low profile. His appointment of Rahm Emmanuel as Chief of Staff reassured me but Emmanuel has been a disaster at orchestrating and driving the various elements on the Hill...I guess you need more than a capacity to drop F-bombs.
Finally, a tone-deaf tunnel vision has been misplaced. I disagree with critics who say that Obama shouldn't have made the mega-battle for Health Care Reform his first priority. A battle like that is for first year, first term...as President, you'll never have more political capital. But the almost cavalier lack of attention to the economy, particularly employment, is criminal. See Bill Clinton: "It's the economy, stupid."
The economic downturn may have been set up and begun on Bush's watch. The structural problems such as the anemic job growth from 2000 to 2008 may lie at Bush's feet. The class warfare, whose results include a staggering concentration of wealth juxtaposed against flat or declining income for the middle class is a result of Republican-backed policies. But when unemployment starts going up, most American's don't care about when/why/who...they look at it as a current problem and they want it addressed NOW. Obama was slow off the mark to deal with this, seemingly content to push sunshine when too many people were starting to feel pain.
I voted for Obama in 2008 and will vote for Obama in 2012 because as inept as he has shown himself to be, an inept and spineless Democratic administration is worse than an actively evil reprise of two Bush administrations or a foray into Tea Party land.
But after the drubbing the Democrats receive in two weeks, Obama, his staff, and the Democratic leadership need to spend some time looking in the mirror when they start trying to identify what went wrong.