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How the Left failed Obama

In Opinion/Editorial on December 12, 2010 at 3:00 pm
Copyright 2010 Universal Press Syndicate

Since the historic election of Barack Obama in 2008, the Left has gone from a state of euphoria to mannerisms resembling that of a snarling pitbull. As a liberal myself, I have watched the base of my own party begin to self-destruct since January 20 of 2009 as the other half of the country has refused to simply roll-over to some sort of progressive agenda. Sadly, many Progressives have failed to agree on just what that agenda ought to be in a not to dissimilar fashion to many Tea-Party advocates. The difference being, that the Tea-Party has now picked up the ball that the Progressive movement has dropped and kicked around since Obama’s inauguration. The results of this are striking. We have the most liberal president since Jimmy Carter being thrashed at his own left-flank, confused swing voters attempting to reach for solutions that have yet to materialize with an economy in tatters. As the Left postures to preserve its ideology, its stance no longer resembles pragmatism, but rage. That rage has not equated to the sort of grassroots organizing seen in the 2008 election cycle, but that of a drowning victim thrashing in the waters of electoral defeat.

Electoral defeat is the primary reason why the Obama Administration will soon have its hands tied far more than the Left-Wing could have surmised. As Ezra Klein points out well, the gender and racial breakdown of the voting public between the 2008 Presidential Election and 2010 Mid-Term Election didn’t change significantly. The breakdown among voters ages 18-29 as well as those over 65 however, has proven to swing the nation this past year. Voters ages 18-29 went from 18 percent turnout in 2008 to just 11 percent in 2010, while seniors over 65 went from 16 percent to 23 percent in that same time. With the partisan swing in Congress coming to down to less than 10 percentage points and closely matching the turnout numbers among swing voters, Democratic strategists and organizers lost focus in the 2010 cycle, just as they had during the healthcare debate in 2009.

Copyright 2010 Creators Syndicate

From pundits such as Paul Krugman this criticism from the Left has gone from one of merit to that of hyberbole. For Krugman it has come to such an extent as to contradict his own economic theories in recent weeks. His recent comments on Obama’s tax-cut deal with congressional Republicans is but the tip of the iceberg.

But while raising taxes when unemployment is high is a bad thing, there are worse things. And a cold, hard look at the consequences of giving in to the G.O.P. now suggests that saying no, and letting the Bush tax cuts expire on schedule, is the lesser of two evils.

Bear in mind that Republicans want to make those tax cuts permanent. They might agree to a two- or three-year extension — but only because they believe that this would set up the conditions for a permanent extension later. And they may well be right: if tax-cut blackmail works now, why shouldn’t it work again later?

America, however, cannot afford to make those cuts permanent. We’re talking about almost $4 trillion in lost revenue just over the next decade; over the next 75 years, the revenue loss would be more than three times the entire projected Social Security shortfall. So giving in to Republican demands would mean risking a major fiscal crisis — a crisis that could be resolved only by making savage cuts in federal spending.

Krugman’s analysis here only proves the truth of Republican victory in this year’s mid-term. The Republican’s will agree to a multi-year extension with unemployment benefits renewed in the process. Yes the G.O.P. is attempting a long-term starve the beast strategy with the tax-cuts in relation to the overall national debt, but history has proven that strategy will ultimately fail. President Reagan attempted a similar feat and only ended with a higher national debt and coming recession during the term of George H.W. Bush. Furthermore, the Clinton era proved that a healthy economy is possibly the only period by which the national debt and revolving deficits could be reversed. Raising taxes with high unemployment and a stagnant economy is not only bad, it is the most important issue in the current economic and political climate. Krugman has stepped away from his Keynesian roots and become an intellectual polemicist. Without the beginnings of a solid and sustained recovery, there is no second term for Obama. The Left and its pundits expect Obama’s chance at a second term will depend upon appeasing them. They couldn’t be more wrong.

In the political sphere, the expectations game is in constant flux. It really comes from time honored strategies of negotiation and compromise. Focus on what it is you want, aim high and frame the negotiation around false expectations, and bear down until you have compromised enough to hit the desired target. Its the long form of the traditional bidding process found in used car dealerships every day and it works, except when it doesn’t. The Left has created an expectations game for Obama that was never possible, even under ideal conditions. The prime example of this is the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy for gays in the military. While this policy is entirely immoral due to its requirements for deception, it has been around for decades and as such cannot be so easily dismantled. The congressional G.O.P. has been using a circular argument in relation to DADT even as the Secretary of Defense comes forth to recommend repeal. This stalling tactic now gives the G.O.P. the capability to stand firm and hold up any vote until January lest a lame-duck Congress can be convinced to act surreptitiously. As Secretary Gates suggests, all roads on this issue lead to Congress. The G.O.P. has stalled this vote brilliantly until after the mid-term at a time which the odds would favor their position. This example once again highlights the political storm that has arisen from the 2008 election. Just as the Left found itself on the rise, the Tea-Party movement came in as an equal reactionary force to stem the tide, thus proving Isaac Newton correct. The election of Obama served as an example that political movements from the ground up are still possible, but also created such high expectations from the Left combined with a reactionary conservative force making Obama’s agenda a truly up-hill battle. If the Left has any chance of pushing anything that resembles a liberal agenda forward, they must begin to unite over shared values and drop the rhetoric of slash and burn on their own party leadership.

 

 

 

 

 

Journalistic and Epistemological Dissonance

In Opinion/Editorial on November 12, 2010 at 1:05 am

As speculation about the meaning of this year’s election continues to pour in, we need to step back and understand the nature and structure of how our government is formulated.

From The New Yorker commentator Hendrik Hertzberg to GOP pundit Miguel A. Faria, Jr., there seems to be confusion in the press as to why the Democrats retained control of the U.S. Senate while the U.S. House was swept up in a Tea-Party tidal wave. For Hertzberg, “The Democrats retained their Senate majority by the grace of the Tea-Party, which in Colorado, Delaware, and Nevada, saddled republicans with nominees so weighted with extremism and general bizarreness that they sank beneath the wave so many others rode.” According to Faria, Jr. “if the entire Senate had been up for re-election in the same fashion as the House of Representatives, it is very probable, almost certain, that the Democrats…would have lost control of the Senate.” Now, granted Faria is a GOP air-horn, it is nonetheless disingenuous to treat the U.S. Constitution as an inconvienence. The very same document the GOP claims to champion cannot be made to justify any loss in the Senate. With respect to Faria, though, he gets the reasoning better than The New Yorker’s own Hertzberg.

The U.S. Senate is constructed to produce such an occurance as our nation saw in this year’s election. With 6 year terms and staggered elections, the constitutional framework carried out its task. It is important to note that this rarely happens to be the case, but a highly polarized political atmosphere should be seen as the most plausible moment by which such an occurance may come to pass. With that said, lets turn our attention to Hertzberg’s notion as to “the grace of Tea-Party.” The idea that somehow Tea-Party extremists in the GOP ranks caused a loss in three states and thus a retention of the Senate by the Democrats is foolhardy. Buck, Angle, and O’Donnell were hardly the only extremists running for office via the Tea Party Express (colloquially, that is). Political strategy is one thing, but every election is governed by the founding document and as such, must be analyzed with the U.S. Constitution at the starting line, not without a word, as in Hertzberg’s case, or as an inconvenience to one’s agenda, as Faria’s column suggests.

Putting aside the politics of the U.S. Senate, the over-arching question “what did the people truly say in this year’s election?” remains. Without question, the White House is feeling that it got shellacked, John Boehner is calling for change in Washington, and Mitch McConnell has a little spring in his step this fall. The numbers tell a bit of a different story though. In 2008, just over 53% of voters chose the Democratic candidate for the U.S. House, whereas just under 53% this year chose the Republican as Hertzberg rightly notes. The results were nonetheless more striking than these numbers suggest, but the numbers have a far deeper meaning than simple electoral victory and defeat. Our nation is simply divided. It is polarized to a much greater extent than many of us realize. This is the parsimonious reality of American politics today. The numbers don’t show a landslide, a mandate, or a call for sweeping change yet again just two years after many on the Left felt that Obama’s election had done just that. This year’s mid-term is reflective of a public that is anxious, unsure of  the nation’s needed course, all while more than 9.5% of them are unemployed.

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