Eugene Robinson nails it in his opinion piece in today’s (3 Sept 2010) Washington Post when the headline says “We’re spoiled brats, and we vote.” He acknowledges that every poll and pundit worth his salt is predicting a Republican wave in November, a wave which many see as flipping the House to Republican rule, and installing the tanned Mr. Boehner as Speaker, all based on a gain of 45-60 House seats by the GOP. Robinson’s reaction? Wait a minute.
Mr. Robinson’s take: This is one screwed up election. True, Democratic favorability ratings at 33 percent have tanked, and “voters appear to be fed up with Democrats,” yet voters are even more disenchanted with the Republican Party, whose favorability is just 22 percent, or way below that of Democrats. Yet the polls show voters choosing Republicans, whom they despise, over Democrats whom they despise less? Now, how could that be, illogical as it is? Robinson says this election is not a Republican wave, “it’s a temper tantrum.”
“The refusal of Americans to look seriously at the nation’s situation—- and its prospects—- is an equal opportunity scourge,” because, Robinson explains, “the nation demands the impossible: quick, painless solutions to long-term, structural problems.” Precisely. We have instant coffee, instant everything, and we expect instant answers to knotty problems which have no quick, fun solutions, wrapped and done in 60 minutes (minus commercials)—- that sentence is me talking, although Eugene is more gracious than that. He says politicians running for office, including Barack Obama, encourage the quick solution of “magical thinking,” but “when they get to office, they’re forced to try to explain that things aren’t so simple.” In other words, re-structuring our economy, renewing the infrastructure, reforming entitlements, “redefining America’s position in the world,” and so on endlessly, all require long-term solutions that take a long time to implement.
When he blames Obama for not framing the hard work required as “a national crusade that will require a degree of sacrifice from every one of us,” I am in complete agreement. From the way Obama handled the health care reform bill through Wall Street financial reform and even the Iraq and Afghanistan policies, it has been my contention that Obama has shown a surprising lack of political leadership. He had a perfect opportunity to rally the nation to pull together in surmounting the Recession, and in tackling the many fractures and fault-lines in not just our economy but our social and political system, fault lines which brought on the crash and recession.
Instead, it is my contention that President Obama’s refusal to lead let the Republicans frame the issues and define him, and the magnificent opportunity slipped away forever. When that opportunity evaporated, the frustration and fear to which he could have given a noble purpose went over to the extremist Republicans, and what could have been used as positive energy in a progressive crusade was diverted into the Tea Party and the channels of reactionary hate, combined with a mis-directed libertarianism mingled oddly with authoritarianism, all of it funded by corporotists, that is, by business interests who are mortal enemies of Obama and progressives.
Eugene Robinson makes it quite clear that Americans don’t want to hear about the hard solutions, in which he includes laying foundations for a 21st century economy, weaning us off fossil fuels, building and maintaining infrastructure to support the new economy, fixing Social Security, improving schools, developing a reasonable immigration policy, and requiring sacrifices from all of us, including the rich (who must pay more taxes). We are, in other words, impatient, we want “quick and easy solutions that won’t hurt a bit.” Therefore, don’t blame politicians for peddling snake oil, they are only “offering what the public wants to buy.”
Democracy, as we know, is the worst form of government, until you consider all the others. It is also the only system which requires of its participants that they act like adults. This is a test.