This Hopey-Changey Stuff
Sometimes it feels like I’m the last supporter of Barack Obama still out there. Maybe ‘supporter’ isn’t the right word, as there are still many people who respect his intelligence, who understand the difficulties he inherited and who recognize that the opposing party is filled with crackpot ideologues who would continue to drive the American economy off the cliff.
Perhaps ‘well-wisher’ is a better word, because the most depressing political event of the last two years wasn’t how fast the Republicans regrouped, demonized the president and ‘energized their base’. The most depressing thing was how fast his would-be supporters on the left cut him adrift, folded their arms and threatened to take their toys and go home until the next easily-vilified Republican president was elected. Progressives tend to hold their ideals dearer than their leaders; right-wingers stick with their elected politicians no matter what. In a vastly-oversimplified manner, can this not help explain why lefties have such trouble staying in office?
Also depressing was the CNN coverage of the midterm elections last week, with the ‘Republican tidal wave’ storyline prepared and locked in long before the first results arrived. Rather than focus on the Democrats’ failure to get their base to the polls (along with the fact that young voters never turn out for midterms in the same rate they do for presidential elections), the anchors and pundits suggested that all of Obama’s voters had turned Republican as “punishment” for the economy, for the size of government and for healthcare reform (How dare he!).
Thus the story of the night became whether Obama “got the message” (because clearly, the voters spoke with one voice) and whether he would change course. Reporters from across the board seemed shocked when the president, in his press conference the next day, didn’t accept their premise that the Democrat’s loses were a repudiation of all his policies and that he didn’t reverse himself entirely and embrace far-right neo-conservatism. Imagine what they would have said about him if he had.
No, polls seem pretty clear that while one segment of the electorate equates expanded health insurance and employing more workers with government contracts as Nazi fascism, they are counteracted by voters who thought health reform and the stimulus package didn’t go far enough. These are the supporters who didn’t come out in the numbers they did in 2008 and who Obama will need to woo back in time for his re-election bid.
You’re never going to please everyone, especially the columnist/blogger caste, who have the luxury of treating one issue in isolation (bank bailouts, ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’, climate change) as their sole deal-breaker. The average American middle and working-class voter has very few luxuries these days, and the Democrats have to continue to work for them, softening the recession while passing legislation which will prevent future greed-fuelled financial meltdowns. The contrast shouldn’t be too hard to draw as Republicans, for all their lip-service about the ‘heartland’, are distracted with holding on to the Bush era tax cuts for millionaires.
America still needs ‘Change’.
America still needs ‘Hope’.