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.
It starts with Obama's assumption that he could personally change the way that Washington works, which manifested itself in a mindless pursuit of "bi-partisanship." Yes, the polls showed then and now that the public is tired of the bickering and bi-partisan impasse. But to break that impasse, you have to have people on both sides willing to do so.
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.
Hey, DMD. I've been reading religiously, haven't had a lot of impulse to post, or even comment. Not pappy with how things are going but vastly prefer the current to the alternative. I, for one, would be happy to see the tea baggers become the face of the GOP for the next few cycles...would make a lot of Democratic lives a lot easier, imo. But I wish there was a more vigorous, proactive, engaged leadership style out of the White House. Imnsvho, outsiders, like Obama and Jimmy Carter, tend to have grand delusions about how they can change the system...better to have an idea of how to use the system to their own ends and make a hard impact as quickly as possible.
Happy that DADT looks like it's going to be rolled back. Cautiously optimistic on the economic front. Happy HCR passed, unhappy about the lack of sufficient cost control measures that will have to be addressed.
It's heresey but true nonetheless: blogging is overrated. The act of blogging itself is seen as a mark of Virtue. Hogwash. Just as word processors didn't turn people with ballpoint pens into writers, a blog doesn't make something someone writes worth reading or effective in shaping opinion or steering action.
Sturgeon's Law says that 95 percent of everything is crap. Blogs illustrate the point.
I thought you were done with the Democratic party. If you are, then its primaries are of no concern to you. (One of the reasona I hate the idea of blanket primiaries: why should someone who isn't willing to identify as a member of the party...a very low standard of commitment...be able to vote in the party's primary? Can I have a vote on what your family has for dinner or chooses to go for vacation?)
I've been hearing the same song, various verses, since 1968.
When successful, they gave us devastating Republican rule. Look at the wonders that principled Ralph Nader gave us in 2000.
It's a tantrum. It's give me what I want or I'm taking my ball and going home.
If you want to fight primaries for "better Democrats," fine. If you win, more power to you. (I was ecstatic to get rid of Joe Lieberman, wouldn't be unhappy to get rid of Blanche Lincoln, and think Jane Harman does a good job for her district...I live in Waxman's, just over the line from Harman's...and I think Marcy Winograd is an idiot.) Win a primary, you have a case and you've advanced your cause. Lose a primary and it's just possible that it's you, not them, that's the problem.
Perhaps sucking it up for electoral politics just isn't for you. Many people are willing to die for a bad cause but not willing to live badly for a good cause.
If you're going, you should stop writing for MyDD. Would be too bad, because you write some interesting stuff not covered elsewhere but your "my way or the highway" approach to Democratic politics doesn't fit with MyDD.
Jerome, it may just be my middle-aged eyes...but I assume you have many such readers...but the of the headings in Breaking Blue and the Recommended Diaries in the right-hand column is subtly different but significantly less readable than same in the previous version. It's as if it's rendered in a compressed font.
The independent vote "swinging" Republican is misleading, I suspect.
Wish Nate Silver were here but I'd bet that the Republican-leaning independents voted, more of the Democratic leaning-independents stayed home.
Some will cry "heresy!" but I think a major part of the problem is Obama. HCR is a great example of where he's been very passive in letting the legislation evolve and had a fetish about futile pursuit of bi-partisanship when he's not.
I understand his logic of not doing the WH-directed Clinton approach to health care and point taken; however, in terms of involvement, I think he's over-corrected in the other direction.
Underlying everything is what I always disregarded as the most appalling premise of the Obama campaign: that he could change how Washington works. Well, no he can't, but I think his pursuit of Olympia Snowe and Chuck Grassley are last-ditch efforts to try to prove the theory right.
Sigh. I vastly prefer Obama to McCain, at least not so much negative crap is being inflicted upon us. But I wish he was achieving more with the legislative majorities he has. When does anyone think it will ever get much better than this?
The health care debacle...and so far it is a debacle...highlights the biggest reservation I always had about Obama: his assertion (belief?) that he "could change how Washington operates."
I never bought it, still don't. I'm actually open to bi-partisanship when it yields something but Obama's fruitless quest for bi-partisanship is emblematic of his quest to pursue the label at the expense of tangible results.
One of my political rules is: don't give any concessions to people who aren't going to come on board in exchange for the concession.
"Changing how Washington operates" is pie in the sky; reforming health care is both great and tangible...if you dare enough to reach for it and achieve it. I'm afraid that Obama is pissing the whale of a content away in exchange for a minnow of a stylistic victory.