Our political Quote of the Day comes from The Atlantic’s Ronald Brownstein (who did superb work when he was on the Los Angeles Times). He analyzes polls showing that Barack Obama and the Democrats are being steadily weakened by the healthcare reform battle, then writes:
As the prospects for bipartisan agreement in the Senate fade, the need for Obama to unify Democrats will increase. Right now, though, he is losing Democrats from both wings of the party, even as independents soften and conservatives mobilize. Obama’s ratings in the Pew survey declined slightly from July to August among moderate Democrats (down two percentage points) and sharply among liberal Democrats (down nine percentage points).
These poll numbers suggest that health care is becoming the classic issue that wounds a president: one that unites his opponents and divides his own side. Obama probably has little hope of changing the first half of that equation; when Congress returns he’ll probably need to focus more on improving the second.
So…as many predicted when he was elected, one of Obama’s biggest tasks is satisfying the party’s liberal wing — which is showing signs of sitting on its hands and could do so in 2010.
Footnote: I recall in 2000 when liberal Democrat friends said they would either not vote or vote for Ralph Nader to teach the Democratic party a lesson since there was really little difference between the two parties. The same mind-set seems to be occurring again — and most likely the same political results will follow. All analyses about the GOP becoming a regional party and overpowered by the Demmies is inoperative if you have motivated conservative Republicans and blase or irked liberal Democrats who will stay home. The “I”ll teach them a lesson and let the Republicans win” attitude proved useful to the Republicans: once in power Republicans seem to know how to stay in power;once in power Democrats seem to know how to work themselves out of it.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.