popeye.JPGPopeye Politics
by David Goodloe

“That’s all I can stands, cuz I can’t stands n’more!”
— Popeye the Sailor Man

Nearly a year ago, on the day that Barack Obama was sworn in as president, I got phone calls from some friends, e–mails from some others, who expected me to gloat with them over the fact that a Democrat was about to take the oath of office.

These friends, you see, knew that I have been a Democrat all my life. My mother was a Democrat. My father is a Democrat. It’s how I was brought up.

I guess I disappointed my friends, though. I insisted that the new president and the Democrats’ super majorities in the House and Senate needed to devote all their time and energy to addressing unemployment.

Initially, I guess, that was motivated by selfish reasons. I was out of work then, as I still am today, and I wanted my life back. But as the months have gone by and the jobless numbers have continued to increase, my concerns have expanded beyond my immediate needs, and I have been increasingly alarmed at the plight of millions of my countrymen.

Through it all, I have continued to tell people that unemployment needed to be brought under control. And my friends — those who still have their jobs, that is — have pooh–poohed me. Unemployment always lags in a recovery, they told me. The voters understand this, they said, and they won’t turn their backs on the Democrats.

But, just to make sure, they never missed an opportunity to remind people who was president when the economic meltdown occurred. And, whenever anyone criticized Obama for not doing enough, they played the race card. I guess they figured that, between blaming/bashing George W. Bush (and, trust me, I’m not letting him off the hook, but he hasn’t been in office for nearly a year now) and racial guilt trips, they insulated themselves from criticism.

Well, here we are, a year later. The economy isn’t bleeding jobs at the rate of six figures a month anymore — but it’s still losing jobs, with the exception of a measly 4,000 that were added in November. Twice as many people are out of work as was the case last January. The unemployment rate has been stuck at 10% for three straight months.

And my Democrat friends aren’t telling me about the “inevitability” of Democratic control of the government anymore. I suppose that, secretly, they’re just hoping the party can avoid a repeat of 1994.

Good luck.

This weekend, I read an article in The Nation that called unemployment a “political time bomb.” In it, author John Nichols neatly summarizes the disconnect between elected leaders and the people.

“The 2010 cycle promises to be one of the most volatile political moments since the economically–driven realigning elections of 1958 (which confirmed long–term Democratic control of the Congress) and 1980 (which saw the Republicans reassert themselves under the leadership of Ronald Reagan).

“As in those previous years, political leaders are worried about serious domestic– and foreign–policy concerns.

“But the voters are worried about jobs and the economy.”

I don’t want to give away all of the details of Nichols’ article. I encourage you to read it for yourself. Then pass it along to your congressman and your senators, especially if they are Democrats.

If you — or they — pay attention to nothing else, pay attention to Nichols’ last paragraph.

“If the president or congressional allies think health care reforms that for the most part won’t kick in for half a decade or mimicking George Bush’s tough–on–terror blathering is going to make voters forget the fact that one in ten of them are jobless or that one in seven of them are in dire employment straits, then the Democrats are in for the rudest of all political awakenings.”

Just a couple of additional points here.

First, if you are inclined to label The Nation racist, you are mistaken. Possibly delusional. It was founded at the dawn of Reconstruction by abolitionists who supported the North in the Civil War. Nearly 145 years later, it is still affiliated with liberalism and progressive causes. Among its many notable contributors over the years have been Martin Luther King Jr., Franklin D. Roosevelt, Tom Hayden, Hunter Thompson, H.L. Mencken, Ralph Nader, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, George Orwell, Robert Frost and John Steinbeck.

Second, like Popeye, I have had all I can stand and I can’t stand no more. After a lifetime of supporting Democrats and considering myself a Democrat, I have concluded that the politicians of neither party really care about the citizens of this country until they need our votes.

I’d like to think that what is sure to happen to the Democrats in November will be the wakeup call they need. But I know it won’t be.

Some people will tell me I haven’t given Obama and the Democrat Congress enough time. I disagree. I feel I have been generous and patient. Please, don’t talk to me about “blame” anymore, OK? We can settle that later. It doesn’t really matter to me who started this. I’m tired of asking the people who were elected to do something about it to tell me what is being done — and then being lectured about racism and blame.

So I now consider myself to be an independent. I’m really going to need to believe a politician is committed to my best interests — or that politician will not get my vote.

Sorry, Mom.

David Goodloe got his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas in 1982, and his master’s degree in journalism from the University of North Texas in 1991. He publishes the thoughtful weblog Freedom Writing. This post is cross posted from his website.

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