With the advent of the 2012 elections approaching many hopeful Democrats are waiting to catch on fire as they did prior to the 2008 elections. There is something missing today however that propelled the “Yes We Can” candidate to a record majority vote just less than 3 years ago?
Following President Obama’s re-election announcement last week there was pretty much a lack-luster response from his base and many others. The excitement that permeated the political scene in 2008 and created momentum the essentially steam-rolled over his political adversary as it did for many Democratic candidates seems seriously lacking.
The Great Recession that began in Bush’s final year soured a lot of people’s attitudes before Obama took office and carried over to his administration by a well orchestrated campaign of Astroturf organizations funded by corporate money in the fossil fuel and health insurance industries. The belief that somehow Obama was responsible for the massive job losses and home foreclosures enabled his adversaries to get poorly informed voters in 2010 to reject what they had just supported two years earlier and put back in a more extreme element of those who had collaborated with a self-serving few that were responsible for the collapse of our economy.
One of the enduring threats of any democracy is to hope that an educated and well-informed public will prevail. As Ben Franklin was leaving Independence Hall at the Close of the Constitutional Convention in 1787 a lady approached him and asked“Well Doctor what have we got, a republic or a monarchy. A republic”replied Franklin, “if you can keep it.”
Before the Obama administration and the Democrats could correct the civil-rights violations and the heavy-handed policies the GOP had pushed through that favored the wealthy, the economic collapse created an animosity between Main Street and Wall Street as, first George Bush and then later President Obama, bailed out private industries while millions of Americans were losing their jobs and eventually their homes.
It is likely that without these bailouts the economic crisis would have deepened but the ideological angst that was overcome with shock and horror from those on the right who were unwilling to concede that their precious free-market system had failed and those on the left that were angered by the lack of government’s response to aid working families, were too emotional to gather their collective wisdom and allow Obama’s stimulus package to do its thing.
By the time the economy started to rebound from these efforts there was already a successful movement afoot to disparage everything the President did and conceal his achievements as anger still simmered with many Americans whose income had either been lost though unemployment or reduced by employers struggling to hang on. An educated and well-informed public was nowhere to be found.
Sadly, the problem we face today is not that Obama and his supporters have not tried to close the political divide in this country but that there has been no sincere effort on the part of the those in GOP politics to concede to the mandate of the 2008 election and work in harmony with this administration. Yet Obama has been slow to see this and it is this over-optimistic view with him and his advisors that continue to bend to the will of the minority in this country rather than standing up to them and defending the measures that most Americans support. It is this apparent kowtowing to the extreme fringes on the right that kills any inspiration at this time to rally to the President’s side as he attempts to jump-start his campaign for re-election in 2012.
His lack of leadership in the fight for health care reform and climate change legislation was and has been mostly absent. Had it not been for the efforts of Nancy Pelosi in the House and Harry Reid in the Senate, we would not have the health care reforms we have today. The arguments those on the right put out there to oppose these hugely important issues are weak and without merit yet the President has not taken the bully pulpit to dismiss what is basically nonsense and non-science.
He is too reticent to defend the EPA’s right to monitor the air quality impacted by fossil fuel generated power plants. He has allowed deep-water oil drilling to resume without actually confirming that new and real safeguards are in place to prevent another BP oil disaster. He has failed to fight vigorously to defend our legal system by shutting down Guantanamo and he was sheepish in his meager efforts to criticize those haters who demonize an entire religion because some wanted to build a community center near ground zero.
Our deficit crisis is NOT purely a spending issue as the GOP claims and his failure to hang tough to keep the Bush tax cuts in place for the wealthiest 2% conceded the right’s claim that the revenue this tax increase would generate would not help lower our debt. There has been no elaborate speaking out on how the rich are getting richer through tax loop holes while the rest of us pay our fair share of taxes as our wages diminish. Federal spending has proven itself to stimulate the economy during recessions yet Obama has bent to the failed policy arguments that trickle-down economics will somehow rejuvenate the economy even though this practice has been proven false on so many fronts.
And now there is talk that when the President addresses the nation tomorrow on budget decisions he will be considering that Medicare is now subject to some cuts even though it has successfully covered the health care needs of millions who would otherwise be unable to afford private health insurance policies. Medicare has its issues with costs but most of that stems from fraud and high private sector costs that Republicans seem unwilling to address seriously.
The options to correct what ails Medicare can be eliminated with other cuts to Defense spending, eliminating corporate welfare subsidies and raising the limit on wages that can be taxed for Medicare so that more of the wealthy’s income can be brought in to play here; those people who already pay less than most middle-income Americans because of a flawed tax structure that benefits them.
I understand that from a political perspective there are stands that have to be tempered with reality and that politics has to be hashed out in order to achieve the victories in the future. Giving in to something is necessary on occasion to win enough support from the moderates and independents who are really that part of the electorate that throw the victories to one camp or the other each election cycle. But also what matters and what get’s out the consistent support of voters are signs from our elected officials that indicate they are willing not to bend too far and give up too much; playing politics as usual to sustain the status quo.
As Obama moderates his positions too much he becomes just another politician in the eyes of voters who are not steeped in what makes the political machinery operate in this country. When this happens, those of us who will continue to support him because the alternative is far worse, will fight an uphill battle because there will be less sophisticated voters who are not inspired enough to contribute campaign resources, vote at all or worse, go over to the other side believing that somehow the GOP has been reborn again into something better.
We need that inspiration Mr. President but for most of us it will only come when you begin to show more signs of leadership as a fighter for things worth fighting for and then stick with it. Like the character Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof”, we can only bend so far or else we will break.