Today, “What’s Left” is an apt name for this paper’s Democrat weekly piece. If posed as a question, the answer is “not much.” We lost, and lost big time. The meaning of it all is quite clear: America is angry at the fact the country has not recovered from the “Great Recession.” They took their frustration out at the party in power at all levels of government.
This year, the Democratic Party had the wrong idea about the election. It was not a choice between the future and the past, and it was not about “giving the keys back to the people who drove us into a ditch”– these guys are worse. Also, it wasn’t a referendum on Obama as the Republicans proclaimed. But, as Talking Points Memo notes, “To the victors go the spin,” so that is all you are going to read in the “What’s Right” column and what you’ll hear on the news. The people saying this was a referendum despise everything Obama has done, will do and even has considered doing. They are the 46 percent of the country who voted for McCain in 2008.
The reality is that Republicans have never feigned interest in working with Democrats, despite being served a large portion of humble pie not two years ago; they’ve made the country eat it instead. They proclaimed from the start that they wanted Obama to fail as a president, and healthcare reform was to be his Waterloo. Senator Mitch McConnell – the minority leader in the Senate – announced last week that their primary goal is to make Obama a one-term President; thus not reducing the deficit, addressing unemployment or our two wars. Also, Speaker Boehner has declared there will be “no compromises.”
At Wednesday’s press conference, Republican leaders might as well have said, “Mission Accomplished.” In politics, you build the ladders you climb, and they reached as high as they could climb last Tuesday. They campaigned against the illusions they’ve spent two years creating; higher taxes, death panels and socialism (not to mention the flames of race bating and religious prejudices they’ve stoked). Now these guys will run the House of Representatives.
Every Republican victor wants to reduce the deficit and decrease spending, but how do they suggest accomplishing this? If enacted, their proposals will only exacerbate things. They want to continue to keep taxes low without identifying programs to cut to pay for them. The only benchmark they have given is to reducing spending to 2008 levels, which were still higher than under President Clinton’s administration. Their “Contract from America” does not even address the bloated military budget – which is more than half of our discretionary spending – or earmarks in general.
So the 46 percent of the country who voted against Obama in 2008 did the same against Democrats in 2010. Not all of the 53 percent who voted for Obama turned out and some even voted for the GOP. Did the Democrats deserve this? Yes, they did.
In 2008, Democrats won historic majorities and had an overwhelming mandate for “change” in every area of government. What happened? They squandered their opportunity for making serious reforms on Wall Street, healthcare, immigration, environmental policy, you name it. They also cowed with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the stimulus, if you will). They were timid; they allowed their policies to be demonized and the opposition to get away with historic abuse of the filibuster. They also failed to take credit for their accomplishments. To put this in perspective, the Senate was split 50-50 during the early years of Bush’s administration and he got nearly all of his policies passed. How, you may ask? Vice President Dick Cheney did his constitutional duty, breaking voting ties in the Senate. (Take note, Joe Biden; running your mouth is not in the job description).
Obama was correct in calling the Republicans in Congress the “enemy” last week; he needed to recognize that in 2009 when they declared war on his administration. Michael Barone, the conservative political pundit, spoke at Colgtate last week about the upcoming elections. He identified two types of political campaign seasons using military analogies: trench warfare and open field battle. For the last two years Republicans have waged nuclear war and this week the Democrats feel the fall out.
Mr. Boehner was right about one thing in his victory news conference: “America wants to change course.” The Democrats were wrong about prioritizing healthcare over a full and comprehensive job creation program. President Obama should do as Republicans say and listen to the business community. The Sunday before the election, Fareed Zakariah interviewed the CEOs of Google, Coca Cola, IBM and Alcoa, and each of them called for more innovation to create jobs. How do they think this can happen and what’s government role? They identified a stronger need for government to sponsor research and development, improve education and enhance job training programs. The Obama administration has made the first two a priority and must continue to do so. Now, he and the 112th Congress must work to help America create jobs in a twenty-first century economy.
Now lets look toward 2012: Barack Obama and Evan Bayh versus Chris Christie and Sarah Palin. Get your popcorn ready…