Monday, October 25, 2010

What you want versus what you got

Two years ago I voted for McCain, not so much because I expected McCain to be a good President, but because I expected him to actually accomplish a lot of nothing, as opposed to the high promises from Mr. Obama that were almost certain to fail.  Sure, sure, sure...  McCain talked about energy independence, nuclear power, clean fuels, smart grids, electric cars, carbon trading, and all that yummy stuff.  He even talked a little bit about universal health care.  Nobody REALLY expected him to pull it all off, though.  We all pretty much knew he wasn't going to get much of that accomplished except maybe the carbon trading stuff.  Maybe.  Considering his buddy Lieberman was working on the bill before Harry Reid torpedoed the entire effort.

But nobody really expected him to pull off health care.
At best, as President, he may have steered legislation from Congress a little ways into the main stream before vetoing it, only to have Congress overturn the veto and send up one of their own in 2012.  Maybe even Barack Obama who, after all, would have had a hand in writing the legislation were he to remain in the Senate for another 4 years--legislation that would have been his first and only major piece of legislation ever, ever.

So, as President McCain may have pulled off carbon caps and been completely buffaloed by Congress on the health care agenda.

That is, if a young Senator Obama learned how to write legislation.

But at least there was a tempered expectation of what would actually be accomplished.

But instead the American people fell for the whole "change you can believe in" bit.  They REALLY believed that Senator Obama was really going to pull all this off.  They fell for the idealism.  "WE ARE THE ONES WE'VE BEEN WAITING FOR!" he told the crowd.  AND THEY BELEIVED HIM!!
The American people were expecting this young, inexperienced populist who had not served an entire term in any elected office he had ever managed to attain and had never faced a contested election and had never managed to write any legislation and had never needed to build a single coalition in any legislative body ever, ever to suddenly become a leader.  They expected the new President to enter office and steer the legislative agenda.  To initiate the remarkable era when we tended to the sick and began to heal the earth and roll back the rising tides of the ocean.

To, basically, do something he had never done before.  Ever, ever.

What they got, however, was a President who took a back seat to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.  They got a President who, instead of leading the country and using his populist support and wave election victory and overwhelming congressional majorities, chose instead to toss the legislative keys to a VASTLY unpopular congressional leadership who, no surprise to anyone, managed to fuck the whole thing up.  
Climate change?  Nah, they'd work on an immigration bill instead.  Immigration reform?  Huh?  What immigration reform?  Oh, the bill they were working on instead of emissions control and climate change?  Yea, that never existed, it was just a misdirection, you know, for politics' sake.  Universal health care?  Nah.  Modified regulations on health care in a bill that's so opaque nobody has any clue what it'll actually do?  Sure thing!  Legal codification that will set up a structure of service that will allow anyone to buy insurance separate from anything an employer offers, thus making even the unemployed and self employed able to purchase insurance above and beyond their state sponsored critical care insurance?  Nah.  Not even modeled after the Freddy Mac/Fannie May mortgage support before the financial debacle?  No chance.  Setting up a bunch of vague structures that will eventually be designed and defined by unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats?  Sure!  But won't that eventually morph into a very, very poorly designed and inefficient national health insurance program, anyway?  Yup!  Isn't that pretty stupid?  SURE IS!

What could have been never happened.  But what's worse is that those who REALLY believed, and fell for the whole style over substance approach of the campaign were let down by such a huge degree, and those of us who voted for the other guy but genuinely hoped this kid would figure out how to use that populist ground swell to really, for the first time ever, ever, get something positive accomplished that the people wanted in order to solve some real, fundamental, systemic problems facing the American Dream, were all let down.

So, those first time voters who were suddenly energized by "The One" and fell for the ruse, and all of those who were skeptical but voted for him anyway, and all of us who voted for the other guy but were willing to switch over in 2012 if he lived up to even a tiny sliver of what he said he would be...  all of us were disappointed.  All of us were let down.  All of us watched in horror as the kid tossed the keys to two of the most inept, corrupt, and ideological individuals from the "political class" took this President's idealist agenda and drove it straight off a cliff.

There's still time to right the ship.  There's still hope that the candidate will return to become the President we hoped we'd get.

Friday, October 01, 2010

We aren't as blue as they thought we were

The President recently stated that it is inexcusable for any Democrat or progressive to stand on the sidelines during this midterm election.

Presumably, when he states "Democrat or progressive" he means all the people who voted to put him and this congress in power.  The problem, though, is that those two groups are not, necessarily, the same.  And what we're finding out more and more is that those two groups--"Democrats and progressives" and "people who voted to put the President and Congress in power"--are not, at all, the same.  Sure, there's some overlap.  Without question.  But to steal the image of a Venn diagram, picture a very large circle that comprises a little more than half the electorate and a much smaller circle within that circle that comprises "Democrat or progressive".  I'm not sure how much smaller that circle is, but it's certainly smaller than the other.

 It would seem as if the powers that be got it in their head that those two circles are one in the same.  That there was some sort of vast, sudden, cultural shift where most of the country stood up and said "you know, all that stupid shit that Nancy Pelosi and the other leftist dems have been saying all this time isn't so stupid after all."  Turns out that wasn't the case at all.

The funniest thing is that this is the same mistake the conservative groups made a few years back.  They mistakenly believed that the small group of very conservative voters and the large group of centrist, moderate voters who actually voted to put them in office were one in the same.  They thought that if they boiled down their conservatism to more and more conservative ideals they would get better and better at what they do.  When, in fact, the opposite happened.  They became SO conservative that they managed to distance themselves from the vast middle of the country that actually voted to put them in office.  It took the Rs from 1994 to right about 2000 or 2002 to really, truly diverge from their right leaning moderate stances.  You know, right about the time they managed to get full control of the executive and legislative branches of the government.  They looked up and said, "hey, everyone must agree with us".  Then the vast middle watched them edge further and further to the right until the left looked closer.

Then, in 2006, the Rs lost control of the legislature.  And in 2008 the Ds, with the help of the vast middle, took over the executive.  And that's when they made the mistake of assuming that everyone agreed with them.

Guess what,

Everyone doesn't.

The vast, vast majority of those who are in the middle, who stood up and helped this President win either a primary or the general election or both, voted for a candidate who is remarkably different than the President we have today.  The candidate who was voted for said things like "there are no republican ideas or democrat ideas, only good ideas and bad ideas, and those ideas come from both parties", but the President we have says things like "only the democrats are offering good ideas while the republicans just obstruct".  The candidate was all about "us", the President is all about "us versus them".  The candidate was his own man.  This President is ruled by his party.

It's very likely that the "democrats and progressives" will not be standing on the sidelines this election term.  But it's also very likely that their numbers are far smaller than what was thought and this election, like so many others, will be decided by the vast middle and not some imagined cultural shift to the fringes of either the left or the right.