”I hear you loud and clear, Barack Obama. You don’t represent the country that I grew up with. And your values is [sic] not going to save us. We’re going to take this country back for the Lord. We’re going to try to take this country back for conservatism. And we’re not going to allow minorities to run roughshod over what you people believe in!” — Jason Rapert, Arkansas State Senator (2011)
This midterm election is the most expensive in the history of the United States. Four billion dollars was spent to make this election about one man: Barack Obama. The GOP continues their marketing strategy of Obamaphobia, and Democrats (as usual) run way with their tail between their legs when they feel the political winds change.
Yes, the GOP used the old standbys to get out the vote: fear, racism, lies, and voter suppression. They know the party faithful in their camp has a pathological hatred for the black guy who lives in the White House. That’s why the GOP and their blowhards in the media have doubled and tripled down on the memes that move the public opinion needle into negative numbers for Obama. But racism only goes so far to convince people the country is worse off now since Obama took office in 2008 and was reelected in 2012. You have create a general sense of unhappiness, disgust, and anxiety over the fact that Obama looks rudderless on the economy, jobs, on battling ISIS, student loan debt, and whatever else is grabbing headlines. Once the approval rating for Obama got into the forty percent range, the GOP knew they had more than a race-based strategy that could be transformed into a number of messages that had nothing to do with race, but everything to do with Obama.
How does the Democratic Party react to this? They scatter, disassociate themselves from the president, and deny they even knew him (or voted for him if they can get away with it). What does Obama do? He stays out of the spotlight and agrees not to give the GOP any more ammo than they already have.
Stupid. Just plain stupid.
As a liberal, progressive, Democratic Party voting individual who’s held his nose and pulled the lever for centrist Democrats like Clinton, Gore and Obama — figuring a quarter loaf was better than nothing — I know a thing or two about having few alternatives and seeing your heart break at every spineless move so-called party leaders take. I had no illusions that Obama was anything but a centrist. I had hope that he was going to be a visionary leader, but as Cornel West said about Obama’s politics, ”It’s like you’re looking for John Coltrane and you get Kenny G in brown skin.” Harsh? Yeah it is. But so many people thought Obama’s election was going to be a real progressive moment, and had their hearts broken year after year. Welcome to the party, kids. Now you know how liberal-progressives feel.
Instead of crying in my Kale shake, I put half of the blame squarely on Obama’s shoulders. He is the leader of the DNC and as the leader of his party, he’s been loath to talking up his wins, connecting with voters in states where his popularity is waning, and laying out a vision for America. Instead, he’s remained aloof, distant, and cold with the public and even members of his own party. The other half of the blame is with every Democrat running on a ”I don’t always agree with Barack Obama” strategy. If Democrats lose control of the Senate and the GOP makes gains the House, it will be due in part to the Democratic Party’s aversion to taking credit for when things are improving. Bill Maher — that anti-Islamic, pot-smoking, atheistic crank who hosts a weekly show on HBO — said something similar to what I’m writing about on his show last week. The economy is in better shape now than it was two years ago. Unemployment numbers are down. The market indicators from the Dow, NASDAQ, and the S&P 500 have seen explosive growth since Obama took office. We are still at war with Islamic fundamentalism (and its latest off-shoot, ISIS), but we haven’t been attacked like we were on September 11, 2001. The number of hybrid and electric cars on the road saw an impressive spike in October — which is starting a trend to reduce carbon emissions among every day folk in the U.S. But most importantly, because of the Affordable Care Act, 28 million people now have health insurance.
Is it all perfect, rosy, and morning in American again? No way. Long-term joblessness is up. Underemployment is rampant. Corporations park money offshore (which is really in Manhattan) and refuse to use the massive profit they’ve made as ”job creators” to fucking hire people for full-time jobs. Tech companies make tons of money from the data we freely give them, but the amount of hiring going on in the halls of Facebook, Google, Apple and even the bro start-ups who want to develop an app to park on your iPhone or Android device is paltry.
What does this all mean? It means Democrats have election issues to run on. If GOP framed the election on Obama’s record as president (which they have), then don’t run away from that fight. It tells voters the GOP is right and Democrats are wrong. If the predictions of a GOP sweep happen, it’s because Democrats didn’t give enough of a damn about the progress made and the challenges we face.