I get a kick out of Thomas Friedman, because for a guy who travels around as he does and sees what he sees, he can seem so clueless at times. So here’s how he sets his article up:
A small news item from Tracy, Calif., caught my eye last week. Local station CBS 13 reported: “Tracy residents will now have to pay every time they call 911 for a medical emergency. But there are a couple of options. Residents can pay a $48 voluntary fee for the year, which allows them to call 911 as many times as necessary. Or there’s the option of not signing up for the annual fee. Instead they will be charged $300 if they make a call for help.”
Welcome to the lean years.
Yes, sir, we’ve just had our 70 fat years in America, thanks to the Greatest Generation and the bounty of freedom and prosperity they built for us. And in these past 70 years, leadership — whether of the country, a university, a company, a state, a charity, or a township — has largely been about giving things away, building things from scratch, lowering taxes or making grants.
But now it feels as if we are entering a new era, “where the great task of government and of leadership is going to be about taking things away from people,” said the Johns Hopkins University foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum.
A “new” era where government is going to be about “taking things away from people”? How in the world do you suppose we were able to have the “fat years”. Because government had been taking things away from those able to pay for years. Decades.
Suddenly those they were taking things away from no longer have a job or the income to support all the fat the government built up for so many years. We’re not in the “lean years” – we’re in the PAYGO years. Now, suddenly, the subsidies are drying up because tax revenues are down – way down. Want the services? Pay for them instead of expecting others to do so. And yes, we’re a compassionate country, we can make exceptions for things like 911 service. Provide it free to the elderly and poor. Just make sure “elderly” doesn’t start at 50 and poor is actually poor – i.e no way they could afford a $300 call.
Note that Friedman naturally makes an attempt to equate charity and government when he talks about “giving things away”. Of course it goes without saying that private charity is given voluntarily while government give always come from coerced tax money. Relativity at its finest.
Anyway, Friedman figures that President Obama is missing the boat. As he says “for a politician who speaks so well” he’s mystified why Obama can’t put together a “compelling narrative” from which to explain his politics and polices. The short answer, of course, is that despite the continued belief by the left that the problem lies with the how the message is delivered, in fact the problem is with the message itself. The “narrative” has been heard and examined by the nation and it’s been found wanting – severely wanting. Obama and Friedman could come up with the best narrative in the world and it would still come down to money we can’t afford and more government control/intrusion into our lives that we don’t want.
But let’s hear from Friedman:
Mr. Obama won the election because he was able to “rent” a significant number of independent voters — including Republican business types who had never voted for a Democrat in their lives — because they knew in their guts that the country was on the wrong track and was desperately in need of nation-building at home and that John McCain was not the man to do it.
They thought that Mr. Obama, despite his liberal credentials, had the unique skills, temperament, voice and values to pull the country together for this new Apollo program — not to take us to the moon, but into the 21st century.
Alas, though, instead of making nation-building in America his overarching narrative and then fitting health care, energy, educational reform, infrastructure, competitiveness and deficit reduction under that rubric, the president has pursued each separately. This made each initiative appear to be just some stand-alone liberal obsession to pay off a Democratic constituency — not an essential ingredient of a nation-building strategy — and, therefore, they have proved to be easily obstructed, picked off or delegitimized by opponents and lobbyists.
So “Obamism” feels at worst like a hodgepodge, at best like a to-do list — one that got way too dominated by health care instead of innovation and jobs — and not the least like a big, aspirational project that can bring out America’s still vast potential for greatness.
Friedman begins with a false assumption – the belief that Obama won to do what he’s trying to do now. Instead Obama won because of a general dissatisfaction with the way things were aggravated by two wars. There was a mood to punish the Republicans. Obama was an attractive candidate when compared to old man John McCain. Friedman interpreted the win as a mandate to do the things Friedman and the left have always wanted done. In fact it wasn’t that at all. It was the right man in the right place at the right time with the right nebulous message that others wrote for themselves. And it comes as no surprise then when their premise is put to the test (“this is why America elected Obama”) it comes up snake-eyes. It is the usual delusion we’ve been talking about for years – it is never, ever the message/premise/narrative. It is always about how it is delivered. It’s just not being properly explained, packaged or marketed. If only the right way to present it could be found, the public would go “ah, of course” and all would be right with the world.
Obamism has, in fact, been presented in every way possible and has been rejected each and every time. It is time that Friedman and the left stop the self-delusion and recognize that it isn’t a problem with delivery or packaging, it is a problem with what what they want to do. It’s not what the majority of Americans want to do and the route to a one-term presidency and minority in Congress is to keep believing it has to do with “narrative” and pushing the present Obamism agenda.
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With yesterday’s surprise retirement announcement by Evan Byah, another Senate seat moved into the “probably Republican pickup” column. Some think Bayh is positioning for a primary run against Obama in 2012. Like most senators, I expect Bayh does have presidential aspirations, but step one in serving that goal is to avoid a possible career-ending loss in a possible Democrat meltdown. He’ll likely decide later whether to make his presidential run in 2012 or 2016, depending on how vulnerable Obama looks in a couple of years.
A few days before that announcement, this article offered a good summary of the Senate races and their current status. As we already knew, things are getting dicey for the Democrats. The article lists North Dakota (Dorgan’s retirement), Delaware (Biden’s old seat), and Arkansas (Lincoln) as likely GOP pickups. Nevada (Reid), Colorado (Ken Salazar’s old seat), and Pennsylvania (Specter) are also not looking good for the Democrats. Other seats are rated as competitive, including Illinois (Obama’s old seat!), and Indiana. (If you’re keeping score, don’t forget to now promote Bayh up to “likely pickup”.)
The article even floated the idea of a GOP takeback of the Senate, though most think that’s still a distinct longshot. They put it this way:
Picking up ten seats and the majority is almost certainly out of reach for Republicans, although, with a few more strong recruits and some breaks, what recently seemed an impossible dream has become a remote possibility.
The GOP is defending in some places too, and the idea of an anti-incumbent fever eroding some of their gains is certainly a possibility.
I notice that the list of races in the article did not include two that could easily end up being competitive: California (Boxer) and Washington (Murray). Not much polling has been done in either, but what little we’ve seen didn’t show overwhelming strength. Boxer has already drawn some high-profile opponents, and seems to have worked hard to make herself look like a pretentious politician in the last couple of years, which is a bigger liability than usual in this year’s environment.
If the GOP picks up at least four more to go with Scott Brown, that pretty much writes the end of Obama’s collectivist wish list because it overcomes the power of squishes such as Snowe and Collins to hand him a victory. They now look likely to get that many.
Ten looks much harder, but even if they don’t make it, the more they score this time around, the better positioned they are to gain a majority in 2012.
Unfortunately, I don’t expect them to do much with increased power except thwart leftist Democrats. I don’t see a lot of senatorial GOP candidates who are significantly different from the current crowd or from the Lott/Frist group that handed Bush all his big-government requests and the unconstitutional campaign finance bill to boot. Rubio is about the only one with some promise.
If the Tea Party influence continues to grow, perhaps it will result in a few GOP senators considering spinal implantation instead of becoming dreary, complacent politicians assisting the drift to ever bigger government, spending, and debt. But in the Senate, at least, that possibility looks a lot more remote than the GOP taking back control.
*** Update 12:30 CST ***
Neo points out that 86-year-old NJ Senator Frank Lautenberg is in the hospital after a fall. Recall that the Republican Chris Christie scored a surprise upset in the governor’s race there. So yet more uncertainty for the Democrats, because if Lautenberg has to be replaced, it will likely be a Republican replacement.
And, in related news, Obama has decided that the problem is so serious he needs to apply more cowbell to it: Obama’s Save the Senate Tour.
That isn’t particularly surprising since we recently cited a Gallup poll saying the number was 75%. Suffice it to say the vast majority of the country doesn’t like how the federal government is doing its job.
What’s even more fascinating though is how CNN chooses to report that:
But the ABC News/Washington Post survey, released Thursday morning, suggests a partisan divide, with 8 out of ten conservative Republicans viewing how the federal government works in a negative way, but nearly 6 out of ten liberal Democrats saying they were enthusiastic or satisfied.
The 67 percent dissatisfaction level is the highest in ABC News/Washington post polling since it peaked at 70 percent in March 1996, in the months after the a federal government shutdown led by Republicans.
So which political party gets blamed for this dissatisfaction? A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll indicated that nearly half the public said they were angry at both political parties, with 11 percent angry only at the Republicans and 9 percent angry only at the Democrats.
So assuming, given the first paragraph, that “conservative Republicans” and “liberal Democrats” cancel each other out, what is the source of all this dissatisfaction? Well never mentioned are the independents. Obviously this number is being driven primarily by the dissatisfaction of independents who, as any political neophyte knows, are the key to elections.
And I’m sure there are a number of politicians out there who will misinterpret the part which says only “11 percent angry only at the Republicans and 9 percent angry only at the Democrats.” That’s not good news for either party – they don’t like any of you. See again “Tea Party”. Understand they are only the tip of the iceberg the good ship USS Congress is blithely approaching at full speed.
For the CNN poll, these are the highest dissatisfaction numbers since 1996 when they peaked at 70%.
This is another in a long line of polls which seems to be pointing to a very interesting midterm election season. It’s not going to be exclusively a “throw the Democrats out”. I think we’re going to see more of a “throw the incumbents” out. And I think the driving issue for most of the public – you know the teabagging, unwashed, clueless electorate – is fiscal sanity. They just aren’t seeing it, and they want it and they want it now.
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A bunch of interesting polls have emerged today. One finds Obama at his lowest job performance rating yet. Of course, as you might expect, Republicans mostly disapprove of his job performance. Democrats, on the other hand, generally approve. But what gets his job approval rating to 44% approval, 47% disapproval in this Marist poll are the independents. They’re very dissatisfied with his performance – only 29% approve while almost twice that number, 57% disapprove.
Remember it was the independents who put Obama over the top in 2008. Also remember it was they who put Scott Brown over the top in MA and were key in the elections in VA and NJ.
As for Obama’s personal popularity, that too has suffered.
And while GOPers strive to avoid attacking Obama personally, for fear of offending voters who see him in a favorable light personally, even that aura of invincibility is wearing off. Independent voters view Obama negatively, too, by a 39% favorable to 52% unfavorable margin. All registered voters still see Obama favorably by a 50%-44% margin, but that’s down 5 points in just 2 months.
However, there’s more to this than just Obama’s job approval and personal ratings. Also found in this poll is a strong trend toward anti-incumbency:
Meanwhile, members of Congress should brace for a difficult election year. 42% of registered voters said they would back their current member of Congress, while 44% said they would support someone else — a drop of 9 points in support of the incumbent in just 2 months.
Rassmussen has a poll out that begins to flesh out why that trend is building. Three-quarters of the public, according to his latest polling data, express some level of anger at the policies of the federal government. That’s up 4 points from November. It is also why I call the Tea Parties the “tip of the populist iceberg”. There are a whole lot of unhappy voters out there.
So how does it break down? Well, not as Jacob Weisberg and the “ignorant, childish voters who want to live in Candyland” crew would have you believe.
Part of the frustration is likely due to the belief of 60% of voters that neither Republican political leaders nor Democratic political leaders have a good understanding of what is needed today. That finding is identical to the view last September, just after the tumultuous congressional town hall meetings the month before. But only 52% felt this way in November.
And, as time goes by, this trend continues to grow. Note that the leaders of both parties are identified as being clueless by this 60%.
So this week let’s revisit the comparison between the Political Class and the Mainstream (you proles in flyover land) voters. And as we saw last time we checked it out, the PC bunch is totally clueless:
The divide between the Political Class and Mainstream voters, however, is remarkable. Eighty-eight percent (88%) of Mainstream voters are angry, but 84% of the Political Class are not. Those numbers include 57% of Mainstream voters who are Very Angry and 51% of the Political Class who are not angry at all.
But then 68% of Mainstream voters don’t think the leaders of either major political party have a good understanding of what the country needs today. Sixty-one percent (61%) of the Political Class disagree.
By comparison, the majority of Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliateds don’t believe the current political leaders have a good handle on what is needed today.
Older voters and higher-income voters share that belief most strongly.
Thus the Tea Parties and the very negative reaction by the PC to them. They simply don’t get it. Which is why we’re suffering through this spate of leftist pundit tantrums in which they damn the people, democracy, and the opposition for being unwilling to roll over and submit to their sublime enlightenment, ability to know what is good for us and benevolent despotism. We’re seeing laments about how the good old day before the damned internet, talk radio and 24 hour cable let the enlightened elite do as they wish.
Look around you my friends – to this point that’s worked out just wonderfully hasn’t it?
Rasmussen lists a bunch of reaction which pretty much outline what you’re hearing from the most vocal of the Tea Partiers:
Most voters oppose the now-seemingly-derailed health care plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats for months. They continue to have very mixed feelings about the $787-billion economic stimulus plan approved by Congress last February.
Looking back, most voters still don’t approve of the multi-billion-dollar government bailouts of the financial industry and troubled automakers General Motors and Chrysler.
Forty-nine percent (49%) worry the government will try to do too much to help the economy, while 39% fear it won’t do enough.
As the economy continues to stumble along, 59% of voters believe cutting taxes is better than increasing government spending as a job-creation tool, but 72% expect the nation’s elected politicians to increase spending instead.
Eighty-three percent (83%) of Americans say the size of the federal budget deficit is due more to the unwillingness of politicians to cut government spending than to the reluctance of taxpayers to pay more in taxes.
Voters have consistently said for months that they have more confidence in their own economic judgment than that of either the president or Congress.
Charles Krauthammer calls this “The Great Peasant Revolt of 2010”. And in a very real sense it is. What Republicans haven’t yet grasped is this revolt is pretty non-partisan. The reason Republicans seem less threatened by it is because of their fiscally conservative, limited government philosophy. Democrats, on the other hand, suffer more because of their tendency toward fiscal profligacy and government expansion. The problem for Republicans, however, is the country is no longer in a mood to see them give fiscal conservatism and limited government lip service. If you don’t believe me, take a look at this Iowa poll:
A third of Iowans from across the political spectrum say they support the “tea party” movement, sounding a loud chorus of dissatisfaction with government, according to The Des Moines Register’s new Iowa Poll.
Neither party has a lock on these restless advocates of limited government and fiscal control, according to the poll. However, their conservative leanings appear to give Republicans a greater opportunity than Democrats to make gains at the dawn of a volatile election year.
Is the GOP listening?
It should be clear to both sides that we’re moving into an era of “do what you say or be gone”. The days when incumbents only left office when they assumed room temperature, as did Jack Murtha today, are coming to an end. What the Tea Parties signal is a much more connected, networked and activist population which has been empowered by the communications technology of today – much to the chagrin of the elitists.
The fun is just beginning. Barack Obama and the Democrats may not realize it, but the era of big government is over.
UPDATE: Gallup also has polling numbers out today. They run different approval ratings for Obama on 9 different issues.
At 36%, Americans give President Barack Obama his lowest job approval rating yet on his handling of the economy. By contrast, the president’s 51% approval rating on handling foreign affairs is up slightly from last month.
As I’ve noted any number of times, the foreign policy’s crisis is yet to come. 2009 was a year of checking out the new president and assessing his strengths and weaknesses. 2010 will be the year that actually tests his foreign policy skills and abilities.
On domestic issues, Obama’s approval rating is in the tank at 36%.
Most interesting though was the fact that in the list of 9 issues, both foreign and domestic, independents did not once give Obama a majority approval rating, again making the point that indies are not at all happy with his administration.
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Marion Berry, Democratic Representative from Arkansas, has decided to retire from Congress voluntarily instead of chancing an involuntary retirement via the ballot box. Berry is considered a “blue dog” Democrat and is from a nominally conservative state whose voters have made it clear they don’t support the policies or agenda of this Congress or this president.
Berry relates an incident that struck me as the ultimate in hubris and arrogance:
Berry recounted meetings with White House officials, reminiscent of some during the Clinton days, where he and others urged them not to force Blue Dogs “off into that swamp” of supporting bills that would be unpopular with voters back home.
“I’ve been doing that with this White House, and they just don’t seem to give it any credibility at all,” Berry said. “They just kept telling us how good it was going to be. The president himself, when that was brought up in one group, said, ‘Well, the big difference here and in ’94 was you’ve got me.’ We’re going to see how much difference that makes now.” [snip]
What got me laughing was how badly that statement may come to haunt Obama. They certainly have him, but as the political stars are aligning right now, “me” may end up in worse shape than did Bill Clinton. He’s already seen a super-majority go by the boards in the Senate – something Clinton never had – and it isn’t at all impossible that what most people would consider prohibitive majorities in both houses of Congress could be significantly reduced or, possibly, flip – although the latter is unlikely.
The only reason it wouldn’t be like ’94 is because there are enough Democratic safe seats to prevent the flip. But then, after Massachusetts, one has to wonder how many really safe seats there are. And what if the GOP trots something like this out in the interim?
In a recent interview with Diane Sawyer, President Obama said:
“I’d rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president.”
There is a third option which he obviously avoided. He could end up being a very mediocre and Carteresque one-term president the way things are trending.
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The WSJ carries a story this morning entitled “White House Toughens Tone”. The essence of the article is the White House intends to use the State of the Union address to push an even larger agenda and isn’t about making any “abrupt policy shifts”. He will, however, be stressing jobs.
OK. So what? I think we’ve seen a year of speeches which, for the most part, pushed a nebulous agenda but then saw an ineffectual White House unable to push any of it through. What will be different with the SOTU address (other than the fact his use of his teleprompter will be in front of adults vs. sixth graders)?
The article also touts the fact that David Plouffe will be joining the staff of the White House. That is a purely political move, having little effect on policy or its accomplishment. Plouffe is a spin-meister whose preferred venue is a campaign where claims are rarely questioned. That’s not the venue he will find in the White House. And again, if nothing in terms of leadership from the White House follows the SOTU speech, the result will be much the same as it has been all year, Plouffe or no Plouffe.
“People are working harder,” White House senior adviser David Axelrod said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” referring to the economy. “If they have a job, they’re working harder for less. They’re falling behind. That’s been true for a decade. They look at a wave of irresponsibility from Wall Street to Washington that led to that. And those were the frustrations that got the president elected in the first place, and they were reflected again on Tuesday” in the Massachusetts election.
All that Republican can hope for is David Axelrod and the White House keep believing this. The frustration he’s seeing from voters has little to do with Wall Street, despite the White House’s attempt to make it a populist cause. What is “frustrating” the voters is the out of control government spending and the massively increasing size of government and it’s continued intrusion into their lives. Yes, they want government focusing on the economy and jobs. But not if the “answer” is throwing more money we don’t have at it. Do what is necessary with tax cuts (such as an immediate one for payroll taxes) and rolling back some of the regulatory regime to encourage business to hire and expand. But Democrats and the White House seem oblivious to the fact that 56% of the country opposed the so-called “stimulus” and still do. So I look for Obama to promise massive spending increases to support whatever “focus” he brings to jobs in the SOTU address.
As for Republicans? Well, they have it wrong as well:
Republicans, meanwhile, said their victory in Massachusetts was spurred by opposition to the health overhaul. “The message in Massachusetts was absolutely clear,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.” “The exit polls that I looked at said 48% of the people in Massachusetts said they voted for the new senator over health care. Only 5% mentioned any other issue. The American people had a victory in Massachusetts, and they were sending us the message ‘Stop and start over.’ ”
Certainly health care was the immediate issue that is most identified as a reason for voting for Brown, but Brown’s overall theme was less spending, less taxation and smaller government. The voter’s disapproval of health care was just part of a broader disapproval of an out of control government spending them into penury. People are finally frightened by what they see. Over the decades the increases in the size, scope and spending of government has been relatively slow and incremental. But within the last year, it has been so massive that even the most disinterested of citizens has been alarmed by it. Democrats are seeking to raise the debt ceiling by 1.9 trillion dollars – again.
This sort of spending is recognized as “out of control” by even the least informed among us. If Republicans focus only on the Brown victory being about health care, they will, as usual, have missed the real problem and the real issue. And that’s unfortunate because it is an issue that plays to their strengths much better than it does those of Democrats. Scott Brown is going to Washington DC because he’s talked about making government smaller, less intrusive and less expensive. He ran a good campaign focused on those primary core issues. It is a blueprint for the coming midterms if the Republicans are smart enough to figure that out and use those broad issues against this Congress and President. They need to get over gloating about stopping health care and make the point that it’s about stopping explosive government growth and the spending that goes with it. It’s about telling the people we can’t afford this and they’re the ones to right the ship of state and cut back on its size and expense. For once, it appears the people are ready to listen to that message. I’m not sure how many more hints they have to throw the Republican’s way before they finally figure it out.
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We have two examples today and they’re each interesting because of who they are.
The first is a self-identified independent – Jill Dorson. She voted twice for Bush, but, as she admits, fell hard for the hype Obama put out there. She was also put off by the selection of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate.
I voted for hope and change and all the intangibles that Obama was peddling in the wake of the financial crisis, Sarah Palin, Sept. 11 and all the other ills that shook our country in the last decade. I wanted something new. Something different. What I got was, I suppose, exactly what I voted for – a spin doctor. And not a very good one at that.
She speaks of how quickly “hope” and “change” went by the boards. How she watched the same sort of policies she thought she had voted against continued. And the bailouts, huge spending programs and the like horrified her.
It was clear after just 90 days what a mistake I’d made. My taxes have gone up and my quality of life has gone down. Hope has given way to disgust and I see now that change is simply a euphemism for “big government.”
Like many others, my view is narrow. I vote for the candidate I think will be best for me. I often define myself as a fiscal conservative and a social liberal. But above all, I want to feel safe and I don’t want to feel that I am being ripped off. I want a president who inspires me and cares about my contribution to the fabric of the country. I want a president with experience and savvy, a Commander in Chief who puts our country and its citizens first.
I only hope the Republicans can find him the next time around.
She nails three points – one, Obama’s a fraud and hasn’t even come close to living up to his promises; two, his “change” was to bigger and even more intrusive government; and three, none of that will matter in 2012 unless Republicans can find a good candidate that year (and, as you can tell, she’s made it clear that’s not Sarah Palin).
But the bottom line is, she’s open to another “change”,. In fact, she’s begging for it. And, I think, she’s indicative of the feelings of many independents (not necessarily for the same reasons) – this is not the change or the guy they thought he was.
Which brings us to the second example of buyer’s remorse – this one is scathing and it’s from a “progressive”. He entitles it “How to Squander the Presidency in One Year” and then David Michael Green spends at least a 1000 words describing how that has been accomplished in detail, calling Obama the Conan O’Brian of presidents. You may not agree with much of what he says, historically, but when he finally gets to Obama he doesn’t hold back.
One point he makes resonated with me as it is a point I’ve been making for a while, in fact, as recently as Friday:
* He does not lead. Americans, especially in times of crisis, want their daddy-president to pick a point on the horizon and lead them to it. Often – especially in the short term – they don’t even care that much which point it is. They will happily follow a president whose policies they oppose if he will but lead.
Everything after the first sentence is a load. But even Green has figured out that Obama isn’t a leader and has never demonstrated any leadership. And that has consequences. Green comes to the very same conclusions I voiced Friday:
* He has therefore let Congress ‘lead’ on nearly every issue, another surefire mistake. Instead of demanding that they pass real stimulus legislation – which would have really stimulated the economy, big-time, and right now – he let those d*ckheads on the Hill just load up a big pork party blivet of a bill with all the pet projects they could find, designed purely to benefit their personal standing with the voters at home, rather than to actually produce jobs for Americans. And on health care, his signature issue, he did the same thing. “You guys write it, and I’ll sign the check.” Could there possibly be a greater prescription for failure than allowing a bunch of the most venal people on the planet to cobble together a 2,000 page monstrosity that entirely serves their interests and those of the people whose campaign bribes put them in office?
Bingo. And Green goes on and on and on. Be sure to read it all. The point, of course, is he’s managed to alienate not only the voters who would be the determining factor in any election – the big middle – but his base, which held so much “hope” for his presidency and now realize they bought a pig in a poke and should have known better. What that translates into is an “enthusiasm gap” which is going to be hard to bridge if things don’t change. And, if nothing changes, Indies will vote for the other guy (assuming the Republicans have a worthwhile candidate lined up) and Democrats will stay home.
We’ve seen president’s change before. Bill Clinton was at one time declared to be “irrelevant” yet he managed to again make himself very relevant. And George Bush was counted out more times than any president I know of, yet managed to remain relevant through the majority of his 2 terms.
Obama has got a tough row to hoe – but it is one of his own making. Back to Jill Dorson. She made an interesting statement about the last election:
You see, I felt my choice was to risk McCain dropping dead and letting the world’s most well-known hockey mom run this country …
But instead she decided on risking a junior Senator with absolutely no experience because he was so attractive:
I am ashamed to say that I was blinded by charisma. Obama was so convincing that I stopped caring about what he knew and started getting caught up in the euphoria. Imagine having a president who came from a broken home, who had money troubles, who did grass-roots community service? A young father. The first black president. It pains me to admit I got caught up in the hoopla.
Once that admission is made – and I have a feeling, bolstered by the results in VA, NJ and MA, that it is being made a lot – there’s no going back. That’s where Dorsen finds herself now. And interestingly, so does Green. Those defections translate into votes for whomever opposed Obama and an “enthusiasm gap” among his supporters which may see them sitting home.
That doesn’t bode well for Obama in 2012 unless the Republicans again run some tired old war horse that is unable to excite the base or independents, as they managed to do last time. So while Obama certainly has his problems they’re not necessarily terminal, electorally speaking, just yet. However, I’d say if the Republicans can find an attractive candidate and run a grounded, issue oriented campaign (like Scott Brown in MA) that reflects their principles of less government, less spending and fewer taxes, they have a good shot in the next presidential election.
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That didn’t take long. After essentially ignoring Senate Republicans for a year (well except when they thought they could pick one or two off to help them make something appear “bi-partisan”), Democrats are now ready to lecture Republicans about their new “responsibility”. In a talking points memo issued to Democratic Senators today, they lay out their argument. The memo is entitled:
MASSACHUSETTS ELECTION MEANS THAT SENATE REPUBLICANS HAVE MORE RESPONSIBILITY TO GOVERN, NOT OBSTRUCT
We can literally spend the entire post on just the title. Contained in that sentence is the premise they hope they can sell to the Republicans and thereby lessen the impact of losing their supermajority.
But let’s be real – the election of Brown imposes no such obligation or responsibility on minority Republicans in the Senate anymore than it did on the Democrats when they were in the minority there. What the election of Brown does is make it hard for the Democrats to “govern” in the manner they’d prefer (unilaterally), so they’d like to lay this “responsibility” premise on the Republicans while they’re a bit euphoric over the win last night and might readily agree to that role.
Instead it is the role and responsibility of the GOP to do whatever they think is necessary to block bad legislation that unnecessarily increases the size, scope and cost of government. That’s what Brown promised to do and that’s why he’s going to the Senate. If the Democrats prefer to characterize that as “obstruction” then so be it. Time to grow a thick skin for once in your lives. And a spine wouldn’t hurt either.
During this last year, the Republicans haven’t had the power to “obstruct” anything and the Democrats know it. Now Republicans do. The fact that the Democrats are left sitting in the legislative ruins of their own making is no skin off the GOP’s nose. They had their chance and they blew it. If the GOP isn’t completely deaf, what they heard last night with the election of Brown was the people don’t want what the Democrats are selling.
So what should happen? The GOP should reject that premise outright and upfront and they should adopt one that is the polar opposite of that which Democrats are trying to push in their talking point memo.
Specifically: The GOP has the responsibility to obstruct/block/say “no” to the Democratic agenda as they have determined that agenda unnecessarily increases the size, scope and cost of government.
So who are you going to listen too, Republicans? The people or the Democrats?
Yup – That’s test question number one and it’s not multiple choice.
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Few will disagree that Scott Brown’s solid victory last night was meant to send an important message to Washington. Sure, there will be some whistling past the graveyard, but for the most part the political punditry and policy-makers will understand that something needs to change, and fast. Like dog whistles and Irish brogues, however, not everyone will hear the same thing.
It will not escape those who are truly paying attention that the Senate health care bill currently residing in the House was a huge catalyst behind Brown’s come-from-nowhere win. Brown’s potential cloture-busting vote looms large in a debate where Washington elites have tuned out those whom they mean to rule. It looms so large, and its power to lure slightly more than half the registered voters to the polls on a snowy day for a special election with nothing else on the ballot sends such a strong statement, that even Barney Frank seemed to get the message:
I have two reactions to the election in Massachusetts. One, I am disappointed. Two, I feel strongly that the Democratic majority in Congress must respect the process and make no effort to bypass the electoral results. If Martha Coakley had won, I believe we could have worked out a reasonable compromise between the House and Senate health care bills. But since Scott Brown has won and the Republicans now have 41 votes in the Senate, that approach is no longer appropriate. I am hopeful that some Republican Senators will be willing to discuss a revised version of health care reform because I do not think that the country would be well-served by the health care status quo. But our respect for democratic procedures must rule out any effort to pass a health care bill as if the Massachusetts election had not happened. Going forward, I hope there will be a serious effort to change the Senate rule which means that 59 votes are not enough to pass major legislation, but those are the rules by which the health care bill was considered, and it would be wrong to change them in the middle of the process.
Virginia Senator Jim Webb said much the same thing last night:
In many ways the campaign in Massachusetts became a referendum not only on health care reform but also on the openness and integrity of our government process. It is vital that we restore the respect of the American people in our system of government and in our leaders. To that end, I believe it would only be fair and prudent that we suspend further votes on health care legislation until Senator-elect Brown is seated.
Yet, somehow, even while recognizing that Democrats playing a legislative game of keepaway with the bill before the House (that was drafted behind closed doors, it should be noted) will only serve to undermine public confidence in the law (and Congress), progressives like Jane Hamsher still think that’s what’s called for now:
In the wake of Martha Coakley’s defeat, both Representative Barney Frank and Senator Jim Webb have said that jamming a health care bill through before Scott Brown can be seated is not the right thing to do.
They’re right. Health care legislation would be viewed — with some justification — as illegitimate.
But many on the Hill tonight are saying that the Massachusetts defeat also means that health care reform is dead, fearful that what happened to Martha Coakley will happen to them, too, in 2010.
That’s about as feasible as Wile E. Coyote trying to turn around and run back across the bridge that is crumbling behind him. There’s only one way to go.
The non-budgetary “fixes” like banning the exclusion of those with pre-existing conditions have already passed the Senate. A public option — or an expansion of Medicare — can be added through reconciliation, which takes 51 votes. The Republicans certainly had no fear of using reconciliation when George Bush was in office. And the Democrats are going to need to do so in order to make good on their promise to fix the excise tax to benefit of the middle class, which will cost roughly $60 billion. But their options for doing that are limited by the process itself: they can pay for it by the savings from a government program like a public option or an expansion of Medicare. Or, they can piss everyone off and raise taxes.
That looks to be where Gerald Nadler and Anthony Weiner are headed tonight. They indicate that “the only way they could sign on to the Senate bill is if it was accompanied immediately, or even preceded by, a separate bill, making a number of major preemptive changes to what they regard as an inferior package,” per Brian Beutler.
It’s called sidecar reconciliation. And the 65 members of the House who have pledged to vote against any bill that does not have a public option should be looking into it seriously tonight.
Got that? Passing a bill that circumvents Brown’s vote will be viewed “with some justification” as illegitimate, so let’s go ahead and do just that! Do these people even listen to themselves? Using the reconciliation process (“sidecar” or otherwise) to shove health care legislation down Americans’ throats simply eschews the very legislative process that Barney Frank and Jim Webb cited as the reason to forgo further action on health care until Brown is seated. Yet, Hamsher and her cohorts advocate for legislative legerdemain anyway. Cognitive dissonance in action.
The reason, of course, is that passing health care legislation is such a fundamental issue for progressives that they have thrown all sense (such as was possessed) to the wind. It has nothing to do with what people want, but instead with what progressives want people to want. Apparently it doesn’t even matter that the rosy economic projections upon which these health care bills are based have little to no basis in reality. I guess, since the ultimate goal is a utopian fantasy, employing imaginary thinking is the only way to get there.
If nothing else, the reaction of progressives to the Massachusetts race reveals how dangerous they are when wielding power. Inconvenient facts are dismissed, and constituents are ignored, because what the progressive lacks in having any grasp of reality is more than made up for by resounding confidence and self-righteousness. Fortunately for us, the electorate does not appear to be willing to indulge their fantasies anymore.
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As Democrats survey the aftermath of a devastating defeat in yesterday’s Senate race in of all places, Democrat friendly Massachusetts, they have to be wondering how safe their own seats are. Even Barbara Boxer, whose polls have shown weakness, has to be a little concerned. If you can’t hold on to a Senate seat in a state where you outnumber the opposition 3.5 to 1, what seat is safe? Couple that with the fact that their super-majority in the Senate is gone and their legislative agenda in jeopardy, and they have a fine mess on their hands.
So that brings us to the broader implication of the Scott Brown victory yesterday. Does it mean Democrats will back off, heed the message and either kill or drastically reduce the health care bill? Or does it mean they plan on doubling down, pushing that monstrosity through as quickly as possible and hope to have the time to repair the damage before the midterms? Because that’s the choice they’re going to have to make and make soon.
If you listened to Nancy Pelosi yesterday, indications are they plan on doubling down. She’s quoted as saying that no matter what happens with Scott Brown, she plans on seeing health care passed. And, of course, Harry Reid – trailing badly in the polls in his home state – is of a similar mind.
The question is, how? There are several means of accomplishing the task. One is to pass the Senate version unchanged. That would only require a majority in the House and the bill can be sent to the President for signature. However, the Progressive caucus along the the Democratic pro-life wing aren’t at all keen on the idea and they carry enough votes to kill it.
That brings us to another method which seems to at least be the preferred method of the Olbermans, Matthews and Maddows of the world – reconciliation. It requires only simple majorities to pass legislation. But because it is aimed at budgetary legislation, it will mean a pared down health care bill that Democrats can ram through and at least have something to show for it. The question is would that be enough and, will it save them in November. The answer to both questions are probably “no”. However they may be left with little choice but to resort to this method.
And that’s because that last method is a compromise bill (what they’ve been working behind closed doors to craft) which will most likely please no one on the Democratic side (Republicans have lined up solidly against it already since they were shut out of the process) and they’re now facing a fight in the Senate they’re likely to lose (word is Joe Lieberman is again iffy on the bill).
Fun times in DC. But at least it’s a game again with the minority should be armed enough to stop the most outrageous of the liberal agenda. I’m not quit sure how the health care fiasco will play out – hopefully if not dead, it is at least a drastically reduced bill that can be repealed in the future prior to going to going into effect – but I’d say cap-and-trade is in serious trouble if not dead, and immigration reform is going to require Democrats to at least approach Republicans to pass anything meaningful.
Or to put it succinctly – the Brown win brought the blessing of divided government again. It’s by a very slim margin, but it is there again. And that is the model we should always strive to have at a federal level.
Republicans stand to pick up significant gains in November of this year. You can only hope that they’ve learned a valuable lesson from this election as well. The people want smaller and less intrusive government. They’ve once again begun turning to the Republicans to see that wish enabled. The question is will the message be heeded or will Republicans again ignore it as they did previously when in power and end up again handing it back to the Democrats?
We shall see, won’t we?
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