On 2008 we proved that the body of Americans of voting age is not right of center. The American body politic is left of center—- completely contrary to the Conventional Wisdom espoused vigorously by the Republican-leaning punditry and most members of the weary, jaded flock of political consultants and pollsters; the election of Obama proved this discrepancy. This fact has never been acknowledged by the Inside-the-Beltway permanent political party, which includes most national Democrats as well as all Republicans, as well, frankly, as all those smartass pundits, who, from the very moment of Obama’s stunning victory have done their thing, pontificating immediately that “Obama must forget his radical agenda and move right…. move far over to the center…. meet the Republicans half-way by governing through bipartisanship….. blah, blah, blah.”
That Obama, anxious not to offend, desiring actually to restore bipartisanship, and, no doubt, listening to his advisors from the Establishment, did indeed move to the right is, I believe, the source of many of his problems. He was elected by a grassroots upwelling that hungered for a new philosophy, a new set of guiding principles, a new statement of the common good—- even if they were not sure just what that might mean, other than no more Bush, and no more Bush-Republican policies. During the campaign, I believe Obama gave hints of that new philosophy and promises of a new direction, especially as the country descended deeper and deeper into recession
It is post-election that Obama, dumped on by first one than another, then another, and another major inherited problem, hassled by demands from his base, undergoing vicious personal attacks from the right (there was no post-election “honeymoon” for this president), slapped by natural and man-made disasters, and by a near-mutiny among the military, made one compromise after another, in the interests of time management if nothing else.
Unhappily, he dropped the ball of political leadership at the exact time he and the Democrats should have been framing the issues for the crucial mid-term elections. There was a window of opportunity to wrench control of the political dialog from the treacherous hands of the Republicans, and attack the long-standing Republican framework that has controlled the national dialog since the days of Reagan. It is my belief that had he done so, the debate on health care, regulation of Wall Street, alternative energy, the Afghanistan war/occupation, indeed on everything, would have been very different and probably far more favorable to the Democrats and Obama.
It did not happen, we are where we are. Obama is down in the polls, all pundits and pollsters are portentously predicting a Democratic disaster and a huge Republican wave in about 90 days. Whatever happened to all those new Obama voters who arrived on the scene just 2 years ago?
Obamaniacs spread far and wide during 2008, busily registering new voters who would be in favor of change, not the status quo. That meant heretofore invisible batches of demographics, invisible because they never participated in elections (to which pundits, pollsters, and consultants were therefore blind): the young voters, 18-30 years old; African-Americans; other minorities; the turned-off or disgusted voters, mostly young middle-aged who felt betrayed by the system and had given up on the two major political parties since they saw little difference between them. The Obama organizers registered them in droves, followed up by educating them succinctly but clearly on what was at stake—- and then hounded them into voting on the critical day of elections, so the invisible left-of-center voters suddenly became visible and had to be counted, to the consternation of the Inside-the-Beltway Establishment Party.
Post-election there was no similar follow-up. The Obama organizers did not share their treasure trove of lists with the formal Democratic organization, and that organization, frankly, did not appear to be particularly interested in integrating this vast new slew of “different” voters (I suspect the local Party Establishment feared losing power to an unpredictable bunch of newcomers).
A case can be made that there were several reasons the off-year election here in Virginia resulted in a Republican sweep of state-wide offices. I believe there is some validity to most of the reasons offered, but that the greatest factors were: 1) A feeling of disappointment and betrayal by Obama among the grassroots Democrats, which sapped their enthusiasm for further effort (“Why bother?”) and 2) Utter indifference toward the new Obama voters by the Party itself—- both of which suppressed turnout even among the so-called base. The Obama-vote evaporated.
Like it or not, the truth is that, without resuscitating the Obama vote, the Democrats are going to lose, and lose big-time this November. Scaring Democratic and independent voters by pointing out that the alternative to Obama is a return to Bushism is not the urgent motivator it should be. It is by now probably way too late to bring up new frames, hoping to replace Republican Free Marketeering, militarism, family values, deficit fear-mongering, or what have you, trying thus to change the nature of the debate. Once again, we are stuck with whatever issues the Republicans have decided to make the major issues for the election.
The only thing left to do is bring the new Obama voters back on line—- and do not think that if the tired old donkey kicks every last one of his usual “strong Democrats” out to the polls that this is enough turnout to beat the Republicans and their various fronts like the Tea Party. Do not fantasize, by the way, that the Tea Party’s extremism will scare independents into voting Democratic. Enough! If that is the Democratic game plan, the Party is clearly in denial and preparing itself meekly for defeat.
As it happens, the Recession has hit the new Obama voter demographics especially hard. Many of them have moved, and no one has kept track of them. They have not been kept abreast of the Obama agenda and the politics of what happened to it, and have no more idea of what’s been going on than Fox News lets them know—- there was no follow-through after the 2008 election, so the new Obama voters escaped into the wild, uneducated. They must be found, re-registered, and re-educated succinctly and quickly, just as in 2008 the first time around. Most of them are hurting badly from the economic downturn; they wonder where has Obama been, why haven’t the Democrats given them even a fraction of the attention and help that Wall Street received? What is the Democratic narrative about that? What are the Democrats going to do, and why hasn’t it worked so far? Whining about “things are better than it seems” will not cut it. Show them an honest-to-God plan, a program that tackles their problems, convince them it will happen only if they get out and vote Democratic so that the Republicans are reduced to such a minority that they cannot continue to sabotage progressive programs.
Then there are the newly qualified batch of young potential voters, plus the group of bitter long-term unemployed victimized by big business and the Republicans. Register these new voters and educate them succinctly and quickly as to the Democratic helpful agenda versus the Republican exploitive agenda. Many have lost their homes to foreclosures and have new addresses. Track them all down.
REGISTER, RE-REGISTER, EDUCATE.
REGISTER, REGISTER, REGISTER!
Or, and this is my guess: the Republicans will begin their return to power this fall, and have no intention of surrendering it ever again. What I mean is, that corporotist control of the GOP, combined with unlimited corporate political spending thanks to Citizens United, will impel the Republican Party irresistibly, by hook or by crook, with the ends justifying any means, to finagle a long, long run as the One Party ruler of the United States. By the time this dominance collapses, America will be so different that restoring democracy will be just another fairytale. This election may well be the tipping point.