Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Day Late and a Dollar Short

In retrospect, perhaps showing up on The Daily Show wasn't the best idea.  No doubt the White House saw it as a great opportunity to sit down with a friendly crowd -- largely young, liberal, politically-aware and -motivated -- especially given next week's election and Jon Stewart's and Stephen Colbert's dual rallies this weekend.

What could go wrong?

Well, it's not so much that anything went wrong, but it could be argued that nothing went particularly right.  Not only did the President "step in it" by resurrecting a heckuva painful Bushism, he continued to display a shocking inability to connect with the frustration so many of his supporters feel with him and his administration.  In his defensiveness, he's telling us that we're not paying attention, when, in fact, it's quite the reverse.

Lost in the flood of articles about the straits Obama and his White House are in is the fact that none of this started on Inauguration Day, 2009.  The election cycle before Obama was elected President, the country delivered huge wins to the Democrats. Electing Obama (and even more Democrats) was the culmination of a wholesale rejection not only of W. but of the Republicans in general.  The voters had cleared a political path for the new President; all he had to do was follow it.  But he did us one better: not only was he going to follow it, he was going to widen it, straighten it, put in some nice benches and lighting, etc.  He told us that we were the ones we had been waiting for, but -- let's face it -- we all knew he was the one we had been waiting for.

So what happened?  To the detriment of his -- our -- agenda, he made good on the one campaign promise no one really cared about:  changing the political climate in Washington.  Instead of getting in there and kicking some Republican butt, he decided to make nice.  Wasting precious time and political capital, he let them water down everything and then watched them still not vote for anything.  And this is when they were not filibustering everything else!  Suddenly 60 votes were required in the Senate to move anything forward.  Happily, the Democrats actually had 60 votes...thank God, right?  Not with this herd of cats.  The only person who lived up to the agenda the Democrats campaigned on was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi; but, thanks to the lackluster performance of the rest of her party, she's about to be demoted. Ironic, no?

It is against this backdrop that Obama is trying to defend the last two years.  To be sure, the administration has made some herculean efforts to patch up the sinking ship of state they inherited; and, to be fair, Obama has always said the road would be long and the climb steep; but they cannot run away from the fact that they have squandered opportunities and have been completely inept at communicating what they've done and what they've been kept from doing.  On last night's The Daily Show, Obama said "we've done some stuff that folks don't even know about."  Really?  And whose fault is that!?

Jon Stewart should have asked why, despite poll after poll showing the majority of Americans trust the Democrats more than the Republicans and given all the President has said his administration has achieved...why are the voters about to leave him and his party in droves to support the GOP?  The answer is that no one wants a bunch of kumbaya in Washington; they want results and they want action.  Starting in 2006 and followed-up in 2008, the electorate gave the Democrats all the tools they needed to affect change.  They were told to expect more, and they did.  And now they're underwhelmed...and don't want to be told:  it's not us; it's you.  You're being unrealistic; you're making the good the enemy of the perfect; you're not paying attention; you need to stop whining and buck up.  Etc., etc., etc.

Bottom line: our dream team got played by the tattered remains of a party completely bereft of vision other than lower taxes.  They got away with pulling pigtails and shooting spitballs and succeeded in completely gumming up the works.  Obama should have been calling them on it every single day.  Harry Reid should have been calling them on it every single day.  Every Democrat on Capitol Hill should have been calling them on it every single day!

Hopefully, in the long-term, the President and his administration and party will learn a lesson following next Tuesday's predicted drubbing:  people want results and they want leaders who lead. Perhaps, if Harry Reid loses as currently expected, we'll get a new leader in the Senate...maybe someone like Chuck Schumer who isn't afraid to poke some eyes out and call spades the dirty, nasty shovels that they are.  One thing's for certain:  Obama will no longer have the "luxury" of commanding majorities that allow him to continue to take the high road; he's going to have to get down and dirty and fight for every single thing.

It'll be good for him.

[Shepard Fairey's Hope poster via Wikipedia.]