October 19, 2010
Democrats Confounded by Voter Frustration
"Part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now and facts and science and argument does not seem to be winning the day all the time is because we're hardwired not to always think clearly when we're scared," Obama said on Saturday during a fundraiser event, Politico reports.
The president and his party have been lambasting the opposition for supposedly tapping into that fear. "The biggest mistake we can make right now," said Obama, "is to go back to the very same policies that caused this mess in the first place." With the economic recovery stalling and Democratic candidates across the country distancing themselves from the administration's landmark legislative achievements---health care and financial reform---its new message of "hope" is apparently that Republicans will do even worse if elected.
There is certainly a lot of anger on the right. The huge electoral defeats of 2006 and 2008 left the Republican Party rather without direction, allowing loud and controversial opinion makers as Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin to fill an ideological void.
What restored coherence to conservative America was the interventionist economic agenda of the Obama Administration. Tea Party activists rallied against health care reform. Stalwart Republicans once again championed constitutional conservatism. Libertarian candidates and congressmen as Rand Paul of Kentucky and Paul Ryan of Wisconson won primary elections and crusaded for less government in the immediate aftermath of a crisis that Democrats blamed on the free market.
Presuming that unbridled greed and unregulated capitalism caused the downturn, it is difficult for Democrats to understand why millions continue to oppose their Big Government solutions. Even BP's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico this summer wouldn't convince tea partiers. White House chief of staff at the time, Rahm Emanual alleged that Republicans saw BP as the aggrieved party under the circumstances, not local fishermen. "They think that the government's the problem," he exclaimed in disbelief.
The whole Tea Party phenomenon was not taken very seriously by Democrats initially. Since it became evident that the Tea Parties were a force to be reckoned with however, as they marched by the hundreds of thousands and helped elect populist candidates in GOP primary elections, the left has been quick to label them as radical and extremist.
Since the start of this year, different commentators and lawmakers have alleged or suggested that the Tea Parties are racist. A recent study by the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, which is an organization critical of fringe and racist movements, entitled Tea Party Nationalism, "found Tea Party ranks to be permeated with concerns about race and national identity and other so-called social issues," contrary to the movement's self proclaimed focus on government excess. "Tea Party organizations have given platforms to anti-Semites, racists, and bigots," according to the report. The MSNBC documentary Rise of the New Right further tied anti-government protests to militias and fanatics, conveying the notion that the whole of this "new" right is inclined to violence or at least willing to sanction it.
On the campaign trail in April 2008, Obama said that he understood how people could become embittered and "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them" in times of economic hardship. Since then, millions more Americans have lost their jobs while government stimulus measures have delivered little more than trillion dollar deficits.
Democrats meanwhile continue to blame Republican policies for the "mess" America is in and warn that their return to power will only herald greater inequity and despair. The White House is now theorizing that "secret foreign money" is paying for Republican campaign advertisements and the president himself doesn't even talk about health care anymore.
Less than two years after promising "hope and change," Obama and his party don't appear to have much of a message, let alone vision, for the upcoming elections anymore---which are a referendum on the presidency whatever the administration may like to pretend. Democrats' inability and unwillingness to defend their own policy record of the past two years is a dismal sign of weakness and failure, one Republicans eagerly exploit. Democrats don't seem to understand why people are so upset. The president said it best in April of this year when he talked about Tea Party protesters. "I think they should be saying thank you."
Originally published at the Atlantic Sentinel, October 9, 2010.