FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA, IGNORING HIS PROGRESSIVE BASE'S CHANGE AGENDA COUPLED WITH HIS APPARENT SIGNAL-FAILURE WITH MIDDLE-CLASS VOTERS, IS LEADING TO A NEEDLESSLY PERILOUS RE-ELECTION JOURNEY
Could this be what Professor Newt meant when he proclaimed that in order to comprehend the thought processes of Barack Obama one must " understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior ." Is such orthodoxy, if there is one, the underlying catalyst for the peculiar decisions and perplexingly divergent courses of action taken by this President over a period that spans probably a lot longer than we realize?
That's a highly doubtful premise. In fact, it's ludicrous. But what is also inarguable is the premise that a host of President-Obama's recent political decisions carry the same strangeness that one might assume characterizes the region of Gingrich's brain from which his non compos mentis assertion about Kenyan behavior was formulated.
Of course, Obama's running stream of what seem to be ideologically-senseless political decisions which have perplexed and infuriated many progressives, is not cordoned off just by recent events like the debt ceiling "crisis." Its length extends right up to the onset of Obama's first months as President -- where hope flowed in earnest -- and navigates into the present where hope's permeation now seems little more than scant residue.
Clearly many supporters of the President are completely confounded over his almost rote capitulation on issues that address core progressive values; over the back-peddling and about all the one-sided horse-trading. Furthermore, there seems a disturbing urgency of late, to his desire to get along that appears to have carried over to his speaking pattern. The confident, no nonsense resonance that initially evoked such soaring hope has, of late, taken on the blase tone that some associate with empty rhetoric. At this point some of us are beginning to ask: Should we give in to hopelessness or force ourselves to simply hope less?
Indeed the hope that sprang forth by the certitude Obama's promise of "change" to his core base of progressives, seemed to have now gradually wilted under the ideology-challenging heat cooked up with each inexplicably unkept campaign promise; each bewildering political decision; and especially, with each seemingly uncharacteristic stint of ill-timed ideological inertia at moments when a principled stand was required.
To wit: Despite promises to the contrary, Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay remains an all-purpose U.S.-taxpayer-funded breeding ground for future Jihadists; the lugubriously pointless war in Afghanistan drones (no pun intended) tediously on; there will be no investigations by this President into torture allegations made against members of the Bush Administration; Obama has repeatedly extended the Patriot Act, rather than fulfill his promise to allow for its expiration; and he's caved in to pressure to hold military, rather than civilian trials for some terror suspects.
The President also opted out of the public option battle during the defense of what should be his legislative crown jewel -- healthcare reform; has inadequately addressed efforts to strengthen workers' collective bargaining and organizing rights; extended the Bush tax cuts for the rich; and has gone as far as expressing a willingness to consider cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security as a part of deficit reduction efforts.
In one way or another, each of these issues carries a potential outcome that, over time, will determine how this period of our nation's history will be depicted. Either way, the final draft is unlikely to leave proud, anyone outside of the Tea Party. But, in terms of America's immediate future, one decision in particular -- the President allowing Tea Party psycho-polemics to shape his approach to the handling of the debt ceiling extortion, I mean, extension -- is viewed by this observer as probably the most devastating policy judgment the President has made.
Along with his capitulation of Bush's tax cuts for the rich, that decision holds the potential for setting in motion the precise series of events needed to doom Obama's re-election. Not only has it significantly deepened his estrangement from the progressive "hope and change" base that put him in the White House in the first place, but it also will render an economic turnaround before the 2012 election nearly impossible. It also virtually assures a continuation of the nasty political climate on Capitol Hill which has been somehow linked to Obama by his opponents. Right now, it seems that his re-election odds seem awfully low. Unless, of course, Obama has some kind of amazing trick or two up his sleeve.
Since the President plays basketball I'm certain that he knows what a " crossover " is. For those who do not, it is described as a "low, quick bounce of the basketball that allows you to quickly switch momentum and direction so that you can outmaneuver your opponent." Does this apply politically, to what Obama is doing? It certainly makes more sense to me than Professor Newt's diagnosis. The truth is there are quite a number of observers who believe that many of the most head-scratching decisions Obama has made are part of a "political crossover" strategy that began the day he took office designed to convince independents to literally cross over into the Democrats' camp.
Well, if so, it's a strategy that, because of how it's been employed, seems less than pragmatic if not wholly unrealistic especially in the wake of the debt ceiling "crisis."
I make an admittedly simplistic distinction between independent and middle-class voters. Independent voters are simply people who are not Democrats or Republicans, while middle-class voters comprise all three segments of the electorate. Thusly, it seems that rather than narrowly focus on wooing independents per se, it would make more sense for Obama to directly target middle-class voters in general, since they comprise a far broader demographic. The point here is: just what exactly is the point of President Obama risking dismal turnout numbers among the progressive base he's already alienated (as illustrated by the high number of progressive no-shows during the mid-terms) unless it can be guaranteed that those lost votes will be overwhelmed by the sheer number of new voters he expects to attract?
If such an influx cannot now be assured, then for the remainder of this term, the focus of any political weather balloon, legislative action, ideological direction, or strategic decision made by the President should be based on the kind of signal it sends to middle-class voters, period. In other words, build it toward the middle-class and the independents will come; right along with the Dems and a few Republicans as well.
A recent series of monthly polls into America's collective disposition conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (GQR), a political polling and campaign strategy firm, confirmed the findings of many similar polls by other groups: there is broad contempt among middle-class voters for politicians of both parties. The GQR polling indicates this disregard is rooted a general feeling among many middle-class voters that politicians simply don't have their backs. Conservative politicians want to protect the wealthiest individuals and most powerful corporations while those who are liberal look out for society's poorest and most irresponsible individuals, or show greater interest in "saving the whales" and protecting other endangered species.
Writing in a July 30 article for the New York Times, GQR's Chief Executive Stanley B. Greenberg points out that in general, voters associate Democrats with government more than they do Republicans. This connection, he contends has resulted in a "full blown crisis of legitimacy (that) sidelines Democrats and liberalism."