Will Rogers, America’s beloved humorist of the 1930s, claimed he was not a member of any organized political party. “I’m a Democrat,” he quipped to the guffaws of his Great Depression audiences.
Today’s Democrats find themselves still disorganized but also the victims of Murphy’s Law: When things go bad, they’re only going to get worse.
The pinnacle of what’s gone haywire is the election of Republican Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts in what many believed was the bluest of blue states.
As Rogers would say, I only know what I read. Well, I read that about half of the registered voters in the Bay State were independents. I read that polls were showing independents across the country were leaning Republican because of the economy, massive government spending and disenchantment with the Obama administration domestic agenda.
Top that with the Democratic candidate Martha Coakley running an inept campaign dissing Red Sox Nation and avoiding old fashion retail politics — you know, glad-handing the peons and kissing babies — while her opponent did and said all the right things.
The Republicans were quick to slap a label on the Democrats: They were arrogant. That label will stick through the year culminating with the midterm elections in November.
I read the post mortems same as all of you. I’ll even stick my neck out and claim the Democrats cannot govern any better and perhaps worse than the previous eight years of the Bush administration. They fall divided as a group.
Jon Stewart, who is transforming into the sage of the political world but funnier than Will Rogers, says on his “Daily Show” that when George W. Bush wanted something passed by Congress, he got it. No questions asked.
The Democrats with a 50-vote majority in the House and until Brown is seated a 60-vote supermajority in the Senate squandered nearly every opportunity to pass critical legislation. The laws which were signed by Obama were so watered down one could argue they did as much damage as they did good. We learned the hard way that, at least in the Senate, minority rules.
Much of the blame falls at the feet of Obama and the political operatives who run the Democratic Party.
Voters elected Obama for a variety of reasons they believe they saw in the candidate. Liberals saw an opportunity to reform the health care field with a public option which Obama never promised. Anti-war advocates believed Obama would lead us out of Iraq even though the initial steps were made by Bush. They refused to believe Obama when he called for more troops sent to Afghanistan.
Obama wanted the landmark health reform legislation finished before the August recess. He turned it over to select Senate committee chairmen who blew it. That launched the birth of the teabaggers (for lack of a better name).
The Republicans became the Party Of No and drove wedges into the Democrats as if they couldn’t divide themselves without outside help.
While Obama allowed the health care debate linger into December, the American people no longer considered it all that critical even though Obama’s assessment is correct that the economy cannot be repaired until the escalating costs of health care gets under control. We are talking about one-sixth of the economy, after all.
Americans’ number one focus has been on jobs jobs and jobs and the prospects of losing their homes. That was one part of the disconnect with the White House and Congress.
The other part was Main Street’s newly found hatred for Wall Street. While the TARP funds salvaged a global financial collapse, all it accomplished was an infusion of equity to continue the same high-risk investments that turned historic losses to profits and a continuation of rewarding the risk-takers with obscene bonuses.
Obama’s Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is the bad guy in this scenario. Where are the regulations that were to prevent future financial institution crashes. The banks are fighting back with millions of dollars seeded from TARP funds to keep the status quo.
The progressives in the House have passed bills but the moderate Democrats in the Senate have stalled them into limbo whether it health reform, climate change, bank reform, immigration reform and even resistance to shutting down Guantanamo Bay prison.
In short, the Democratic Party is a coalition of liberals, moderates, ethnic groups and academia all with their own agendas under the common misbelief that Obama represents them and only them.
One needs to look no farther than Rahm Emanuel for creating a moderate block of Democrats who gained office in Republican or at least conservative districts. As leader of the Democratic Congressional Election Committee, Emanuel forged a Democratic landslide in the 2006 and 2008 election cycles. But, that has come back to haunt the party progressives as these incumbents become even more conservative to hold on to their seats.
Talk about bad news following bad news, the Labor Department said initial claims for unemployment aid rose by 36,000 to a seasonally adjusted 482,000 this past week. The national unemployment average remained at 10%. It was only two weeks ago Obama said his administration was focusing as a laser on ways to increase jobs. This is a con game played by all administrations. Fact is, presidents have no control over job markets although policies on interest rates and availability of money can have an effect through Treasury and Federal Reserve.
The banks, which should kiss the rings of both Bush and Obama administrations, are threatening to sue as unconstitutional if Obama enacts a tax on the richest banks. Newsweek’s business reporter Daniel Gross said the industry argues the tax would mean less money available for lending. He claims it would be a piddling amount compared to the bad loans each bank suffers. The tax amounts to 15 basis points on the net liabilities that have assets greater than $50 billion. It would range from about $1.5 billion annually for JPMorgan Chase while a merely large bank as US Bancorp would pay about $100 million per year.
The blame game has run crazy on the political blogs, as one headline noted: “Mass Hysteria.”
That gray old lady, the bastion of liberal causes, is kinder on the president than I am at the moment. In the New York Times editorial, it worms its way around a reason.
There are many theories about the import of Scott Brown’s upset victory in the race for Edward Kennedy’s former Senate seat. To our minds, it is not remotely a verdict on Mr. Obama’s presidency, nor does it amount to a national referendum on health care reform — even though it has upended the effort to pass a reform bill, which Mr. Obama made the centerpiece of his first year.
Mr. Obama has done many important things on the environment, and in foreign affairs, and in preventing the nation’s banking system from collapsing in the face of a financial crisis he inherited. But he seems to have lost touch with two core issues for Americans: their jobs and their homes.
Mr. Obama’s challenge is that most Americans are not seeing a recovery. They are seeing 10 percent unemployment and a continuing crisis in the housing market. They have watched as the federal government rescued banks, financial firms and auto companies, but they themselves feel adrift, still awaiting the kind of decisive leadership on jobs and housing — in terms of both style and substance — that Mr. Obama promised in 2008.
It’s going to get worse. The Supreme Court opened the door in a decision yesterday that removes restrictions on businesses and labor unions contributing to presidential, House and Senate candidates.
It’s Murphy’s Law, you know.
Jerry Remmers worked 26 years in the newspaper business. His last 23 years was with the Evening Tribune in San Diego where assignments included reporter, assistant city editor, county and politics editor.