Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Democrats Make Me Crazy. . .

One year ago today, a majority of voters of the United States of America voted for Barack Hussein Obama to become our next President of the United States of America.  As the comic strip "Tom Tomorrow" noted, if on September 12, 2001 someone told you this was going to happen, you'd think he was crazy.  I remember the night very well.  I spent much of the day working on a motion to compel (that wasn't a motion to compel - long story), and worked late into the night.  Or rather, I worked for five minutes, and then checked the polls for five minutes, and so on.  I remember the cheers from the streets when Ohio was declared, and when we all knew Obama was going to be President.  And I remember weeping tears of joy at the thought, "My God, he did it.  He actually did it."

In the intevening year, we've seen the promise of that night erode away.  As of right now, Obama is as popular as he was on Election day - around 55% of the country supports him.  What scares me, though, is that Obama and the Democrats seem to have forgotten how he won that night a year ago.

Here's the essence of the Obama strategy - make the pie larger, but make sure the other guy's slice doesn't get any bigger.  In the Iowa caucuses, for instance, Obama won by turning out more voters to the Caucus than had ever voted before.  Hillary and Edwards both got the amount of votes they needed to win, but Obama got more simply from the turnout.  Over and over again, through his message of Hope and Change, Obama got record turnout by reaching out to people.

So, what do the Democrats do once Obama gets into power?  They do the same dumb shit they did before.  Obama won, even in relatively conservative areas (Appalachia, excluded), by reaching out to the disenfranchised and promised fresh, new ideas.  His strategy was a break away from the New Democrat idea of being conservative to win.  Yet, these morons in the Senate (Bayh, Lieberman, Lincoln, etc.), the Blue Dogs, and Creigh Deeds have put the Democrats in a precarious place by doing the exact opposite of Obama - trying to be "Republican Lite."

This extends to the health care debate.  Orrin Hatch, who is by no means an idiot, tells it like it is.  If the Democrats pass health care reform, and do it well, the Republican Party will be decimated.  In fact, one totally wacko Republican House Member thinks health care reform is a bigger threat to the country than terrorism.  Now, if you replace the word "country" with "Republican Party" she doesn't sound so crazy.  When FDR implemented Social Security, and showed deft leadership during the Great Depression, the Democrats were able to stay in power in the House for sixty years.  Health care reform would have a similar effect on middle class voters.  So naturally, the Democrats are all set to pass major reform right?  Right? 

Um, no, not at all.  In fact, we've seen the Democrats fight each other over the public option, triggers, robust public options, etc.  As if on queue, Lieberman has announced that he's going to kill the public option because of its cost (although the public option, as currently designed, will actually lower the national debt significantly without raising taxes).  No, the importance of being different is tantamount, not doing what's good for the Democratic Party or the United States.

Now, I'm not saying we follow the GOP into its current insanity - pushing out relative moderates - but there should be an awareness that taking strong stands for traditionally Democratic causes is a good thing.  And health care reform isn't just good policy, but its a traditional Democratic value going back to FDR and Truman.  Democrats who are against health care reform aren't Democrats, and we need to realize that.

Until such time as Democrats are willing to really step up to the plate and push their agenda, we're going to be stuck in this quagmire of indecision.  And, to be honest, its pissing me off.


  1. Jim, the problem is that the face of the progressive left is Nacy Pelosi and Harry Reid. Like it or not, this is a center right country. I believe Obama won because he projected Centrist (and Pro-Americana) values even though he supported left of center policies. They way to push progressive reform policies is to do so while still convincing the majority of Americans that you are upholding the centrist values of the country. Pelosi and Reid sure as hell dont give anyone that feeling.

    I found it funny that after the Republicans were soundly defeated in 2008, most of the conservative commentators were saying it was because the Republicans had abandoned their conservative principles, they werent pure enough so to speak. Now when Democrats arent doing well, you have a lot of left wing commentators saying its because Democrats are too worried about being bipartisan and arent pure enough (aka tring to be Republican lite). From both sides, it seems like a pretty self-serving analysis.

  2. You're right and you're wrong. On some issues (abortion, gun control), the U.S. is a center-right country. But on broader economic issues, we're center-left. Health care reform is one of those issues where the country is considered on the far left of their leaders.

    I don't expect Democrats to jump into the fire for progressive policy, but they need to be able to read polling data and figure out where to go from here. The smart move politically is to pass health care reform with a robust public option that starts yesterday. The smart move policy-wise is exactly the same. So pass the bill already!

  3. Jim...I think the recent election results and polls tell you exactly what happened last year and what is happening now.

    Obama is a transformational figure. He is well liked and he is a strong personality. Very rare combination. So, he enjoys a high, personal approval (aka likeability) rate.

    His policy decisions and order in which he is undertaking them are not well liked and are downright unpopular.

    Obama is a freak...in a good way. To expect the other dems to get the same response as he did is unrealistic.

    This is still a center-right country and Obama is the exception to the rule...despite his belief that he rewrote the rules.

  4. The short version of what I just said is...

    Obama has a winning personality, despite his policy. The losers of the most recent election did not.