President Obama's biggest worry should not be that his approval ratings hit a new low in July (says Gallup). Or that nearly forty percent rate him as worse than average as a president. That's just a paper figure and it can change at any time. The big worry should be that more people disapprove of his performance on the following issues than approve: the federal budget deficit, unemployment, health care, taxes and immigration. The blame for this is not Obama's, it's the Democrats. They have blown the mandate that they had to make the changes that voters hungered for in November 2008.
It wasn't just the Democrats abysmal cave in on Afghanistan, or their even more abysmal failure to plow taxpayer dollars Congress ladled out to Wall Street and the big banks into a direct jobs and home foreclosure relief program. These two failures stoked public frustration, impatience, and fury at the Democrats. The day after Obama won his electoral college landslide victory, the GOP was reeling. President Bush was both discredited and loathed. The public blamed him and the GOP for two failed, flawed, costly wars, for making a shambles of an economy, the endless chain of sex and corruption scandals, and an unprecedented giveaway to Wall Street.
The day after their victory and near sweep of Congress Democrats could have announced that they would forcefully push for an FDR style jobs and relief program, clamp a tight ceiling on executive compensation for all banks and financial houses that got taxpayer bailout dollars, prohibit all stock speculation, swaps and manipulation by the same banks and financial houses that got bailout money, require that they fully open the lending spigot to distressed home owners, businesses and industry.
They would have been widely hailed for acting like Democrats in more than just name. The public would have applauded Obama as the true second coming of FDR, and the party as a genuine reform party. The Democrats did none of these things. They dithered, retreated, and plopped down half measures to jumpstart the economy, health care reform, and continued to shell out billions more to escalate the no-win Afghan war.
The Democrats bash of Bush and GOP for the failed wars and the continued economic slide wore thin fast and more and more voters finger-pointed the Democrats for not doing enough to reverse the damage. Their dither with caution and half measures was no accident. In countless speeches and private talks during the 2000 presidential campaign, Bill Clinton sternly warned the Democrats that if they want to grab the White House they must seize the issues of national security and defense, tax reform, law and order, and banking and corporate deregulation from the Republicans. He once admitted in a candid moment that critics called this and other GOP friendly positions he took, Republican lite. He was successful with it and figured other Democrats could be too.
Al Gore and John Kerry followed his script to the letter. They said virtually nothing about jobs, education, and health care reform during their campaigns, and they scrupulously avoided making any promises to make big, sweeping changes on them if elected.
If Democrats had looked at the polls much closer they would have seen that a majority of voters wanted Democrats to act like Democrats and manage the economy better, boost education, create more jobs, and provide affordable health care. These are the exact same things people are telling pollsters now that they want. And express anger at the Democrats for not doing them.
Obama doesn't need polls to tell him the obvious that people want and expect the Democrats to reverse not just the damage of the GOP and Bush, but also their own timidity in fighting for jobs and revving up the economy. They are sick of hearing the Democrats talk about tax credits and unemployment extensions, and are repelled at congressional wrangling over appropriations bills. They want to the Democrats propose and then enact a real jobs program and massive funding plan to stop home foreclosures. That's what they thought real Democrats did and stood for.
Some Democrats finally get it. They no longer delude themselves that the public is still so mad at the GOP and that the party is still so fractured, petty, and incompetent that they will suffer minimal loses in the November mid-term elections. They take the threat of the tea party and the Palin crowd seriously enough to warn President Obama to off the wraps, knock off the make nice appeasement with the GOP, and go to the wall for a full jobs and economy remake. In other words fight for the things the Democrats hinted they'd fight for during the election. There's still time.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He hosts a nationally broadcast political affairs radio talk show on Pacifica and KTYM Radio Los Angeles.
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