In the end all of the political punditry, speculations and slanted opinions could not take way from the very, very simple basic fact that is still lost on punch-drunk Democrats and triumphalist organizations like the Tea Party Movement and its enablers in the political/media complex. This just ended mid-term elections were about two things: the economy and President Barack Obama's leadership. But the strident sub-plots helped drive an outcome that has redrawn the divisive red and blue lines and re-created a climate that Republicans bask and wallow in xenophobia, uncertainty, fear and racism.
And while the American populace has proven to have a notoriously short and fickle memory, this Democratic political debacle was as much of the president's own making as was the erratic, on again, off again, modus operandi of the Democratic Party and its leaders. You might say that the Democrats who then controlled both Houses of Congress and the White House blew it big time. Perhaps they were tone deaf to the anguish that ordinary people were suffering, something well articulated by a Black woman at a town hall meeting who pointedly told President Obama: " we are tired of having to defend you."
So with unemployment trapped in the 10 percent region and not counting the people who have long given up trying to find work, young people, especially young Black people, working part-time and sporadically at that, the true figure may very well be in the 20 percentile. And with the inability of the president or Congress to bring down this nagging, damning statistic anger and frustration will inevitably produce disenchantment and political apathy.
For the millions of unemployed, working poor, and seniors scared to death about losing benefits, paying bills on fixed incomes, President Obama's public pronouncements that "the economy is growing and getting getter" did not resonate with these groups. That was and is an extremely hard sell when people see the humongous profits that Wall Street is still making after his record bailout and stimulus. Yes, main street still hurts very bad. For main street this recession is very real as corporate America continues to use this situation to its advantage.
Today, in this very difficult climate many people are working longer hours for less money. Companies know that for every worker fired there are literally hundreds waiting to be hired for even less money. They are preying on the desperation and need of an entire population that has no one to bail it out, let alone protect it. That's one of the reasons why President Obama became so unpopular so fast.
From the get go Republicans understood this to be the millstone around the necks of the Democrats. By making Bush's mess Obama's problem they embarked on a simple but effective strategy: create an ultra-right grassroots movement that articulated the most vitriolic and racist positions that the conventional Republican Party could not publicly espouse; obstruct and oppose any and all attempts by Democrats and the president to change things around, while stoking the politics of fear and uncertainty to rally its base.
As the results demonstrate this strategy was hugely successful. For example, four out of 10 voters were conservative, nearly 25% were over 65, and four out of five were white. The Republicans brought out their base and independents joined them in their utter disgust and disappointment with President Obama and the Democratic Party. Independents who voted for President Obama in 2008 in the 8 percentile voted in 2010 for Republicans by 15 percent such was and is the dissatisfaction and anger.
Now as Republicans control the House of Representatives they are crowing about the election results being a repudiation of big government and Washington. They are promising more of the same as they obstruct and wait out the president as top Republican Mitch McConnell publicly made his commitment to "make Obama a one term president." But Republicans are dead wrong on the anti-big government argument because the numbers do not justify their positions. For one thing the incestuous relationship between the Republican Party and its horn-child the Tea Party Movement will be problematic and the GOP may have picked a very dangerous fight.
Further, many moderate Democrats did come out to vote it was just that they were not enough of them to change the political math. Next, young people who supported President Obama in 2008 Black, white, Latino and Asian were not given a reason beyond the "bad/evil Republicans" argument to come out and vote. In a climate of racism, nasty degrading campaigning, near violent rhetoric and a sustained disrespect for America's first Black president many young voters were turned off and disgusted by the silly antics of adults behaving like schoolyard bullies.
For the Republicans who won due to the mass defection by so-called independent voters to their column it was not about supporting the party's hollow, empty boastful rhetoric as it was about a rejection of President Obama's leadership mixed with a posture of independents' spitefulness. This group has seen record foreclosure numbers and an erosion of income so all of the Republican talking points "anti-Obamacare, pro-Bush tax cuts etc. " were all secondary motivating factors when compared to the economy. Two out of three voters said that the economy was their most important concern.
Nearly nine out of 10 voter said that the economy was in very bad shape and getting worse and more than 30 percent said that someone in their household had lost a job in the past two years. The conclusion? Independents and the Democratic base are both looking for someone to fight back against the banks that created this economic mess. President Obama hasn't done it and they abandoned his party as a result. It's that plain and simple.
But here's where the Democrats failed to pull the wax out of their ears: a majority of mid-term voters both Democrats and Republicans - agreed that government is "doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals." And a Project Vote survey this past summer found large numbers who said government spends too much money. But on what you may ask? The answer: huge majorities said it should spend less on war and on bailing out banks and corporations, while spending more on public education, public works projects and stopping foreclosures.
Sadly and pointedly for all of President Obama's lofty rhetoric about what his agenda has achieved so far the reality is very different. Starting with the too-small stimulus of 2009 and running through to the too-weak Wall Street reform of 2010, the White House marched Congress and voters alike through deeply difficult debates that produced little tangible reforms. It is my view that President Obama should have picked one or two principled fights and stood behind them, win or lose. As it is, he's spent two years apologizing for his enemies and putting himself between the people and the banks--while neither creating jobs nor saving homes in the process.
The president did not even forcibly condemn a widening banking foreclosure fraud scandal or stood up with twice-victimized homeowners. Instead, he sheepishly said that he was wary of "wasting that money on folks who don't deserve help." This argument--that we can't save those who banks cheated for fear of helping speculators and irresponsible borrowers, was the kind of position that President George W. Bush took. For independent and Blue Dog Democrats that was the last straw. They saw this as betrayal and bolted to the Republican side.
And it's this very timid, erratic approach to domestic policy that has voters angry and Republicans laughing. The Obama reforms do not nearly measure up to the challenges that the American people face in 2010. For example, United States poverty levels are now at record highs. Hunger is at record levels. Millions have lost their homes. Unemployment is in the double digits among African Americans, and at Depression levels among the Black young people who drove the president's 2008 remarkable youth vote. Pundits continue to ask what happened to those young and black voters. But how much more can we ask of them? If President Obama wants their support, he'll need to fight for them with the same vigor that he pursues comity with Republicans and bankers.
So what are President Obama and the Democratic Party to do? Well, for starters he has to manifest his campaign reform and change pledge by doing the things that his powerful office allows him to do without Congress's inputs. For example, he can free foreclosures and force comprehensive and meaningful loan modifications today. Next, he can empower his new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, giving it teeth and power to stop and reign in financial shenanigans and protect "we the people" for a change.
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