Sep 3, 2010

Those Who Wrecked the Car Want the Keys Back.... (Some Thoughts on the November 2010 Election)

It's the economy, stupid. September has been good on Wall Street but no so good on Main Street. Anywhere between 25 and 35% of our working force has felt the effects of unemployment since the Republicans were in office in 2008. The latter are saying now that the Dems haven't fixed the problems of the Great Recession in 1.5 years that they created when they controlled the government.

Unfortunately there's a big percentage of Americans who have short memory and float from side to side and often decide elections. They are low information voters, moved by impressions of power and outcomes. For the life of me, I can't see why voters would return control of the House to the Republicans. The congressional GOP has one strategy: to frustrate any Dem initiatives and make Obama one-termer. The hell with the country. Controlling one chamber (the House) will produce more dysfunctional government. Indecision, delays, bad laws, inaction, and a protraction of the economic crisis all are bad for Obama in 2012 and the Dems.

We can consider ourselves a bit lucky that the biggest threat to the Republican party right now is the tea parties. If it weren't for the teabaggers wrestling control from key GOPers, the Dems would also lose the Senate this year. Take for example Dem Harry Reid in Nevada. He would be trailing by double digits today if his opponent wasn't such a nutcase. Instead he's ahead by a couple points. 

Now, what has the Dem in the White House and those in Congress done? Not much. They have managed to alienate their most reliable and active base--the progressives and those groups that believed the country would finally get bold leadership to pull it our of the morass the conservatives had sunk us in. But, no such bold leadership came despite huge majorities, a huge electoral win, and high approval ratings when Obama took office in Jan. 2009. 

Drildo. Many voters will be satisfied (one way or another) in November
I've written lots on this wasted opportunity and how the Dems have been incompetent in managing their good fortunes after the last general election. Let's look to the future now. But, in a democracy with popular elections there has to be some kind of strategy, good communication with the public, and, yes, a clear & bold policy. The president usually wins public fights with Congress if he knows how to play the game. He has to be out there every day saying articulating a clear policy while pointing to the obstructionists. The current president should see how Clinton played the Republicans when they shut down the government via their congressional leadership.

The economy will be a major factor in this election and it ain't getting much better between today and election day. But, from Labor Day on the voters pay more attention to politics and begin to form their opinions. 
  • Bigger than 5% points in polls by end of this month will be insurmountable by election day. Time to act is now.
  • In a low turnout midterm election the more energized base produces huge advantage. Thus far, the Dem leadership has failed to energize its base. Why? Because, they shied away from legislation (jobs bills, tax breaks for the rich, immigration, etc) even if there are big majorities in favor of such bills. The Times has an article on college voters, here.
  • Obama must set forth a clear agenda now and make a promise to implement it one way or another. He should establish clear objectives and send a clear message to the Republicans and Dems that he's going to be a stronger leader than he's been so far.
With fewer Dems in the Senate and a minority in the House it's imperative the Dems show more solidarity. Their electoral fortunes in 2012 will depend on this. And, the country will be better off. The Republicans are going to have a brawl with the teabaggers one of this days or the GOP will cease to exist as a party that represents a big chunk of the country. Tea party candidates are way out of the mainstream and I don't think they can sustain their initial success, but then again they may capture the GOP whose white, southern (regional) stronghold is shrinking.

The bottom line is who can convince the voters that they can do a better job with the economy after the November election. In theory there should be no contest, but in reality... well, we're seeing it right now. I just think there's a small (and getting smaller) window for the Dems to stem their loses and retain control of the House. Yet, I wouldn't hold my breath on this one.