(cross-posted at Offsprung)
I was going to title this post “Meet The New Boss, Same As The Old Boss.” But in truth, although the House of Representatives changed hands dramatically last Tuesday, that doesn’t make John Boehner or the GOP “the new boss.” In reality, Obama is still “boss” – if anyone is in our checks-and-balances system. The Senate is still in Democratic hands, albeit less firmly than before Tuesday. The main point about “meet the new boss…,” though, is the sense it conveys of “nothing changes.” Hence the title I did choose.
I’ve already written a few posts regarding last Tuesday’s election results, both here and elsewhere. In the first and third posts, I pointed out that although the election results were bad for Democrats, they weren’t devastating, and also that the GOP is going to have an internal war on its hands between the teabaggers (either the newly elected representatives themselves, or the people who elected them) and traditional, establishment Republicans. The latter as in fact already started happening.
But in my second (and longest) post, I returned to a theme I’ve been harping on for some time now: namely, that Obama and congressional Democrats (Reid much more than Pelosi) made an enormous strategic blunder by their continued willingness to try to extend the olive branch to Republicans, and by failing to notice that the current GOP minority not only loathed Obama and the Dems, but had made a strategic decision to simply oppose literally everything they proposed. By steadfastly refusing to identify any “bad guys” whatsoever (except only rarely and tepidly), and especially not naming the GOP as bad actors, Obama and congressional Dems had not only allowed the GOP to (once again) set the terms of the debate and frame the issues the way they prefer, but also gave the voters and the public permission – even encouragement – to believe that no one, least of all the GOP, were to blame for recent catastrophes that are in fact directly traceable almost completely to previous Republican policies or actions. Iraq and the fiscal meltdown at the end of 2008 are only the two most obvious; the full list is much longer. The point is the same, though: if the President himself (ably assisted by congressional Democrats) consistently and repeatedly doesn’t identify the GOP as being in the wrong on these issues or in any way to blame for them, then how surprising is it that the Democratic base – who DO believe the GOP bears the lions share of the blame for some of these things – stayed home? How surprising is it that low-information and so-called “swing” voters decided to vote Republican again, in the face of continued high unemployment and sluggish economic recovery?
I’m writing this mostly as a follow-up post to that second, longer midterm-post-mortem post for two reasons. First, because I had hoped that a significant drubbing at the polls would serve as cold water in the face for Democrats (especially Obama); reminding them that a strategy of shying away from their own accomplishments (like health care) and blaming one’s own base for not being enthusiastic enough while courting GOP cooperation that wasn’t ever going to materialize, is a losing strategy. I’d hoped that a bad outcome for Dems last Tuesday might remind President Obama that the best way to rally people to stay engaged for a lengthy project as sweeping as hope for real, fundamental change is by leading the fight for it, visibly and consistently, and that this realization might be the beginning of a new era of much more inspiring and bold rhetoric and objectives in the second half of his term.
I should have known better. Continue reading