2010 Mid-Term Elections

Of Obama, the Democrats and “Change We Can Believe In!”

A little over a year into the Obama presidency, with the healthcare bill debacle and a sprinkling of a few other squandered opportunities by the Democratic Leadership, there is gathering concern that the wheels may have come off the “Change We Can Believe In” train.

The Democrats appear dazed and on the lurch---some are even calling for re-treat, opining that they probably took on too much too quickly. Emboldened, the Republicans are charging forward in grand style to capitalize on the anti-incumbent mood and further define the debate.

But there really isn’t anything novel or uncharacteristic about these tendencies. In fact, these hearken to some enduring pillars of the American ideological divide; inescapable fundamental truths about contemporary American political reality.

Republicans are meaner, laser-focused, callous, and decisive. They generally appeal to the baser impulses of the national psyche and often have no qualms running roughshod over political enemies or patterns of thought.

Democrats, on the other hand, tend to be timid, wimpy, inclusive, nuanced, cerebral and humanistic. They tend to be typically more inclined to the finer instincts of the social contract.

I am frankly not persuaded that the Obama Administration has fared as badly as the pundits and pollsters in the Washington Beltway would have us all believe. Quite on the contrary, it truly has accomplished quite a bit compared to one or two administrations prior.

Yes, the healthcare bill was botched and terribly mismanaged. And yes, the Democrats managed to accomplish the unthinkable in losing the senate seat that Ted Kennedy maintained for 40+ years! The same Ted Kennedy that made universal healthcare his life’s cause. What irreconcilable absurdity!

But look at how far we have come. Few would disagree that the Obama victory was euphoric, symbolic and psychologically liberating. It was like the curse of the Bush years of swash-buckling go-it-alone-and-damn-the-rest-of-the-world foreign relations had finally lifted. It represented an end to that nativist, arrogant American penchance for dominance; the dawn of a new era of infinite possibilities – a new era of leadership bounded by dialogue and diplomacy.

The Obama Economic Team took bold action, controversial as some of them obviously were, to save the global financial system from cataclysmic collapse. Granted that the bailout of the Wall Street financial institutions (banks and insurance companies that were deemed too big to fail) was stupendously unpopular and infuriating, most economists believe that things have thankfully leveled-off; some even think we are now on the rebound. The Dow Industrials regained more than 4,000 points and the loss of as high as 700,000 jobs a month has now dropped below 10% of that figure.

Then there were the Children’s Health Insurance Reauthorization Act (allowing children covered by the policy to keep it), the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (that helped end pay discrimination against women), and the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act (a consumer protection act that reigned-in credit card issuers by banning unfair rate increases, preventing unfair fee traps, requiring plain language in plain sight for disclosures, increasing accountability all around, and instituting protections for students and young people).

The problem is that the Democrats appear to have abdicated responsibility for fervently advocating for or selling their brand. By allowing the Republicans to continually frame the debate and downright obfuscate the facts, they are creating an atmosphere that might result in a thorough trouncing at the upcoming mid-term elections. This outcome would certainly change the “Change We Can Believe In” profoundly.

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