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Obama – One and Done?

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I’m not sure if Obama is going to get to serve another term.   In fact, if things keep going the way they’ve been going the past year, I’m positive Obama will be one and done.  

It’s not because I cower in fear of our new Teapublican overlords after their history making, freedom loving, glory inducing, red, white and blue tour de force of Americana that pulled us from the brink of the abyss of patriotic damnation.  It’s not because the will of the people spoke, nay, wielded the sword of unyeilding and uncompromising truth, honesty, and justice to slay the foes of peace, democracy, and freedom.   No, I’m worried about the Democrats uncanny ability to, as the saying goes, pull defeat from the jaws of victory.

The Democrats just got slapped around.  Big time.  No doubt about that.  That’s something we should be somewhat concerned about.  But it’s not something we need to be very concerned about, provided the Democrats in power and those running the show get their sh*t together and start taking advantage of wonderful opportunity the Teapublicans just handed to us.  Make that three opportunities…

1. Mandate? The Teapublicans are certain of the mandate they were just given.  Unfortunately for them it really wasn’t an all powerful mandate, but that won’t diminish the bravado or self righteous power trip they’re high on.  Polls are divided about whether this was even a referendum on Obama’s policies – much less a rebuke of his efforts, Teabaggers were elected in a number of races but were also crushed (as loons) in other high profile races meaning they don’t have the across-the-board appeal they think they do, the American people have been giving Congress ridiculously low approval ratings so some change had to come, the economy still isn’t good (better than it would have been, but many are still hurting) so some change had to come, Obama’s huge victory two years ago put some Democrats in power that normally wouldn’t have been in those districts so it’s natural that those seats would be in great danger, the Democrats in general have done a HORRIBLE job messaging and marketing (see Lowell’s post on the issue), the minority base is usually more motivated and was so in this case with rank-and-file Republicans showing higher enthusiasm, and so on.  Point being, any rational analysis of the Teapublican victory would have to conclude that the reasons for their various victories are many, many of those reasons have nothing to do with their platform, and there is certainly no mandate.

They are going to act like they’ve just been elected run the entire Country, instead of the more modest gaining control of the House.  Which means they will be trying to shove their agenda down everyone’s throat.   And thanks to the influx of the Teabaggers, that agenda is even more extreme than ever before.  In short, the Teapublicans are going to do their thing without hesitation or reservation, so the Democrats can make huge strides by simply making sure the American people see that agenda for what it really is.  In fact, it’s so simple that I’m sure the Democrats will find a way to f*ck it up (again, I refer to Lowell’s post about messaging and marketing).   Seriously, this shouldn’t be difficult given the personalities (with chips on their shoulders) who are coming to Washington.

2. Infighting.  It’s going to be a bare fisted slugfest to see who can take the mantle of most extreme in the Teapublican party.   While the old Republican party was VERY good at controlling their people, it’s not looking quite so good this time around.  Not only can the Teabaggers sense that they are not far from toppling the old leadership, but they are also sure enough of themselves that they’d go it on their own if their agenda isn’t strictly adhered to.   Neither branch of the Teapublican party is willing to compromise with the Democrats (see above for how that’s an advantage), but they’re already showing signs of not wanting to compromise ANY of their individual beliefs, which will certainly place members of the party at odds with each other.  They’re even talking about it in sound bites, with the vague (and sometimes not so vague) “my way or the highway” rhetoric.  

Because the Teapublicans are so dead set on their principles, there will be plenty of opportunities to drive the wedge in deeper.  And the deeper it goes, the uglier the infighting will be.   They’ll be on the look out for this scenario so it won’t be easy to take advantage of, but there will certainly be opportunities.  Can the Democrats make the most of those opportunities?   If the recent past is any indicator, the answer is no – the Democrats will probably step in and try to forge a compromise for the two sides and in process make themselves look like idiots.

3. Incompetence.  Some come from the Palin school of mis-education while others will be blinded by ideology.   Either way the end result will be very bad governance.  Since we’re still in a time of economic crisis, and we’ve still got corporations screwing up the environment, our savings, our housing, and our credit, and we’re still fighting wars on terror and drugs, and we’ve still got immigration issues, and on and on, it should be easy to spot bad leadership.  In fact, compared to Obama’s (usually) good leadership these guys should look like absolute morons.

But this all gets back to messaging and marketing (yes, see Lowell’s post again).   If Faux News can convince their loyal followers that bad leadership is actually good, and then those followers make such noise that the MSM actually starts believing it (or is too scared to confront Faux and the Right), then their bad leadership will be rewarded again in two years.  So again, the Teapublicans incompetence will be a golden opportunity for the Democrats, but only if they figure out how to take advantage of it.  And again, history shows that the Democrats will find a way to let them off the hook.

Seriously, I’m thinking if the cards are played well, the pendulum will swing back just as far to the left in two years.   But they need to be played well, not dropped on the floor – face up.  So given the recent track record of the Democratic party (see yesterday’s election results if you need a refresher) I’m going to have to lean heavily toward Obama being a one-and-done President.   Please don’t misunderstand – I really do hope I’m wrong.  And I will be if the Dems can take advantage of the bounty of political opportunities the Teapublicans will provide.  But they’ve got to nail the opportunities they’ve been missing so often.

  • Old Redneck

    I agree with everything you say about the Teahadists and the GOP.  They are far from unified and the forces threatening to tear them apart are strong.  The Palinistas, biblethumpers, Becksters, old-line rotary-club Republicans — can’t exist together.  

    IMHO, if you think the GOP is planning to go after President Obama, I suspect their attack on Sarah Palin will be even more intense.

    Having said that, I gotta tell you President Obama lost me in his 3 November press conference.  Wants to work with the Republicans!?!?!?!  GIVE ME A BREAK.  The Republicans announced two years ago their goal was to destroy him.  For two years not single Republican supported anything he said or did and he expects them to start reaching across the aisle now??  What is this man smoking??

    The rightwing has been describing Obama as a “Southside Chicago thug.”  I wish they were right.

    He should have come out blasting, reminding the public of how the Republicans got us in the shape we are in and how they are not likely to get us out.

  • Jim Webb Dem

    then people might speculate.

    I was particularly impressed with the President’s news conference. I think Jimmy Carter’s advice to the President is sound. That advice being … the President needs to get away from the tele-prompters and speak directly to the American people without notes. It shows his depth of knowledge and core concerns are not “contrived” …. helps him connect.

    The Tea-baggers and cultural warriors in the Republican party are not necessarily allied. The unity of the Republicans is certainly facilitated by the bull$H!TTJz horn of FOX news …. but now they have to legislate. The stark contrast between policy choices  to be offered up by Republicans vs. the President  will provide a clear narrative (message) on which the President can run.

    Lots can happen … or just Gridlock. But for sure the Presidential campaign season begins mid-January 2011 as the new Congress is sworn in. Obama can be conciliatory now …. and wield a veto pen as needed.  I have a lot of faith in this President …. meanwhile the Democrats need to follow the lead of people like Tom Perriello … understand the issues, take a stand and come out swinging.

  • Hugo Estrada

    In a big way, Republicans didn’t win, Democrats lost.

    Really, why couldn’t they focus on the radical message of the Republicans? Among the tea party, they are talking about ending Social Security. We know this is actually a mainstream Republican goals because Bush and his congress tried to destroy it in 2005.

    I guess the right word is being cowards and wimps. When Gandhi practiced nonviolent action, he made a big point of pointing out, and keep pointing out, the moral failings of his opponents. The Democrats couldn’t do that; instead they just hid back on their Republican-lite mantle that has served them soooo well in the past.

    And it has nothing to do with ideas, it is between sanity vs. insanity. Most of the Republican party is either directly insane or ideologically insane now. It shouldn’t be hard to run against them.

  • Eric

    I realized I missed an important point about the supposed Teapublican mandate – the massive influx of cash due to a decision by the “activist judges” on the Supreme Court.  Democrats were, for the most part, heavily outspent.

    This year we did see some examples of massive spending not resulting in a win, but in general it’s not good to be way behind the cash curve.

  • VADEM

    seemed to me in his presser yesterday that Obama has given up. It appeared to me that he might not even want to run for a second term. As usual, right out of the gate, he started talking compromise when right down the street they’re bragging there will be no compromise.

    Here’s a compromise me and millions of others could live with—extend the Bush tax cuts for everyone for a year-or two and in return another unemployment extension is granted for 20 weeks. Think anyone would bring that up? NOT. Instead what we’ll see is the tax cuts extended and we get zip in return.

    We need a clean slate. WH advisors need to go. Summers and Geitner gone. Tim Kaine out. Reid needs to step down. Get a kick ass DNC chair in now to prepare for 2012. That would be some changes I could believe in.

    We have a year to get our act together.

  • Catzmaw

    and speculation about Obama losing his mojo.  Look, the Dems lost for a variety of reasons – among them being that they aren’t very good at spreading their own message, that they were heavily outspent by the “independent” “organizations” which had no discernible staff and post office box addresses, that they were facing reelection in a year when Americans are truly in a panic about what will happen next and how we’re going to fix the mess.  Nothing new there.  It’s what ALWAYS happens in a down economy.  We have to remember that the vast majority of Americans, to their own discredit, keep themselves woefully uninformed of the realities of politics and economics and process.  That’s why it’s so easy for such as the Tea Party and Faux News to come in and persuade people that all they have to do is feel “mad as hell and unwilling to take it anymore” so they can “throw the bums out and start over.”  It sounds great if you’re functioning on a visceral level as a voter – which unfortunately way too many Americans are.  

    Well now the Republicans have gotten what they wished for.  They asked the American people to put them back in charge in Congress and they had part of the wish granted in that they retook the House and carved back the Democrat-dominated Senate.  Um, has anybody noticed that we KEPT the Senate?  What now?  How does one form policy around “mad as hell” and “start over”?  Already there is bickering between Tea Party and the establishment Republicans.  What are Mitch McConnell and other members of the Republican establishment doing?  They’re completely misreading the meaning of their win, taking it as a mandate to gut and repeal health care reform, to stop spending on stimulus and other programs; in other words, to limit any opportunity the government might have to expand jobs.  

    I’ve seen Dem bloggers claiming that showing a willingness to compromise and negotiate is weakness.  They have it all wrong.  Here in the little bubble world called “Democratic Bloggerland” that might sound like a good thing.  “Let’s be tough,” they say.  “Obama looks like he’s caving if he offers to negotiate,” they rant.  Stuff and nonsense.  Didn’t anybody pay attention to all the after-vote interviews, the hours of call-ins to C-Span, the man-on-the-street commentaries?  What were people saying?  Were they saying “the Dems didn’t act aggressively liberal enough and that’s why I voted Republican”?  NO.  They were saying that they were worried that there was too much control by one party of the government and hopeful that having another party in power over at least one part of the government meant that the two parties would start working together to fix this country’s problems.  They were accepting the Republicans’ offer to do it right this time if they got another chance, just as Eric Cantor claimed they would do when he was interviewed on the Daily Show last week.  People voted for the Republicans because they thought it meant they would be bipartisan and work with Obama.  Obama gets it.  He must have listened to those people because that’s what he’s doing, going out there and telling the American people that they’re right and the two parties should work together to fix this country’s problems.  The Republicans DON’T get it.  They actually think they have a mandate to act like 24-carat jackanapes all over again.  They are already fulfilling one of the other things brought up in those exit polls – the fact that over 50% of those interviewed thought that their hopes would not come to fruition and the Republicans were likely to let them down.

    I’m predicting that if the Republicans don’t change their tune – and soon – not only will Obama cruise to an easy re-election, but the Democrats will take over the House again in two years.

  • hereinva

    The only predicable thing about politics is that an obit is written for the losing party and a power “dynasty” is written for the winning party. After the GOP “shellacking” in 2008 it only took two years for the GOP to recover. A dismal economy and GOP’s non stop bellyachin’ and “Just Say NO” legislative approach seemed to help. So did the Dems failure to provide continuous updates (messaging) on accomplishments of Obama’s first two years. I found talking points on various blogs and web sites..but it was too little too late.

    I heard more about “birthers, witches, and 2nd amendment

    remedies”..than Dem accomplishments which brings up a separate discussion on political distractions…

    In 1982, Reagan faced low approval ratings, unemployment was just over 9%, the Dems roared back in Congress at the midterm elections…but Reagan still won re-election in 1984..two short years.  

  • Cool_Arrow

    Guys I hated Tuesday but I am ready to move on. On the House level yes it really sucked to lose the approximately 65 seats that we lost. Many of those seats we will be very hard pressed to win back (like Rick Boucher’s) but on a statewide level this year proved that campaigns and candidates DO MATTER. I posted this in another thread but I think it can’t be understated is that on a state wide big picture level where both parties put resources in typical battleground states and felt like they had a chance we took lumps and losses but we were hardly blown out. A caveat here is that in many times the GOP arguably nominated a weaker candidate in #2, 4 and certainly #5.

    1. OH Governor we lose by 2 points in a very competitive race

    2. FL Governor we lose by 1 point in a very competitive race

    3. PA Senator we lose by 2 points in a very competitive race

    4. CO Senator we win by 1 point in the most expensive race in the country (as far as outside money)

    5. NV Senator we win by 5 points in an ugly race. This was the GOP’s #1 scalp that they wanted. They came after Harry with everything that they had but he beat them convincingly. He should send the Tea Party a bottle of Champagne that says “You underestimated me suckas”!

    Bottom line is this year really sucked. The economy is terrible for a lot of people. Our messaging, framing the debate and ability to mobilize our base voters didn’t happen. Still in those always critical battleground states I don’t think that you can say that we were blown away convincingly. While a loss is a loss (just ask Al Gore) a Presidential race involves a lot of unknown variables. Right now looking at those 5 states and it’s hard to argue that Obama won’t be competitive. This was a year where just about everything went the GOPs way. While it could happen in 2012, Presidential electorates are typically younger and less white then midterm electorates are and given the GOP’s amazing outreach to these groups it will be hard to see gains here for the GOP. Very early to speculate but the House Republicans are going to prove to be a great political whipping boy for Obama.  

  • oddsox

    here’s my view from the cheap seats in center-field:

    America likes Obama.  We voted for him, we chose him over Hillary and McCain.  He’s our guy, we want him to succeed.  We’d like to re-elect him if at all possible.  Mr. President, please do something to help us in that regard.

    Talk to Bill Clinton, he had it right: it’s about jobs and the economy.

    Come November 2012, if GDP growth has revived (4% or better) and unemployment is in the low 8%’s and trending downward, then we can still blame it all on W and say “Welcome Back, Barack!”  

    But if we’re still limping along at over 9% unemployed, then you and Michelle may have to start packing.

    Unless the Republicans nominate Sarah Palin.