Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mainstream Thinking Clouds Reality For Midterm Elections

Here we sit 13 days until the 2010 midterm elections and all across the mainstream media all I see is how the Democrats are about to get rolled by the Republicans/Tea Party candidates.  It may very well happen and to some extent it always happens that the midterms mean losses for the President’s party, but certainly not to the extent that some are projecting.  The talking points are that the losses will be because of: the economy; a distaste for big government; fear of the deficit/national debt; high taxes; health care reform; the need for divided government are the main drivers of the backlash against Democrats and Obama. 
In a vacuum all those individual issues/talking points seem like valid reasons for Democrats to be in trouble this coming election season.  After all those are many of the supposed purposes for forming the Tea Party movement in the first place.  The problem with this “conventional wisdom” is that the candidates slated in many races against don’t actually represent those interests whether they spout about them or not.  The other problem is that the Democrats having taken to the fetal position in being afraid in the supposed bad environment to actual stand up for what they believe in, thus only making the passionate claims of their opponents resonate more. 

The only legitimate complaint in the afore mentioned list that lacks hypocrisy is the fact that while the economy is positive in terms of GDP and the stock market have rebounded the job situation has not to a nearly satisfactory extent.  An argument can be made that the GDP would be better and that the jobs picture would be better if Republicans had worked with Democrats on the stimulus and stopped filibustering all jobs bills in the Senate, but I will leave that alone for now.

The easiest claim to make and the one that is made every time a Democrat sits in the White House is that big government is destroying the country.  No Democratic administration expanded the role of government and more specifically the executive branch than George Bush in his eight years (see Guantanamo, Patriot Act, Wiretapping, etc).  Beyond that there is a slate of candidates out there who want to use government to control access to legal abortions; stop equality from being extended to gays and lesbians in regards to marriage and serving in our armed forces among other social expansions of government.  So the government taking taxation for services and social programs is too much government in our lives, but now the government rightfully has a place to tell you how to socially and “morally” live your life.  Someone will have to explain to me how that equals out to smaller government because I just do get it.

The fear of the debt/deficit to me is the biggest hypocrisy going out there right now because not one of the people crowing about it as an excuse to stop anything Democrats propose said a word about passing on the bill for the Bush tax cuts, the medicare drug benefit and both wars all of which were not funded a single dime when a Republican Congress and Republican President passed them.  To further that you have Republicans in Congress who have spent two years claiming you cant do anything without paying for it fully, demanding permanence of those Bush tax cuts without paying a dime towards them and adding 4 TRILLION dollars to the debt.  This applies to Blue Dog and labeled Conservadems as well.

The claim that taxes have been raised on anyone under the Obama administration to this point is such a joke that it isn’t even funny.  The same people complaining about how bad taxes are forget to mention that all working families under 250,000 a year got a tax cut, that small business taxes continue to get cut and to protect the rich, Republicans would rather let those tax cuts on middle class families die then pass them without get the rich ones too.

Health care reform is an issue that causes consternation on the right and a degree of apathy on the left.  On the right the claims of higher costs are legitimate in the short term, but the scare tactics ones are not.  On the left the historic advancement is viewed with scorn for not going further to fixing the problems in the system.  Both sides have their arguments to be made but the funniest thing to me is watching Democrats run from all the good in health care while they voted for it and Republicans run on all the good in the health care bill while they voted against it.  The biggest problem for me with the health care bill is not the lack of a public option or even an early buy in to medicare, but that to play the political game in terms of the budget/deficit numbers many of the most important elements don’t kick in for 3 more years.  That in many respects is the Democrats problem because it is tough to run on a reform that doesn’t feel like it is fixing the problem, because it isn’t in affect yet to show positive effects.

Personally a divided government for me is not a bad idea and is one I have believed in for many years.  The problem with my theory of divided government and what we already have in this government is that it requires a willingness to actually work together.  The appeal to divided government for many is that it helps to balance the extremes on both sides and forces outcomes that end up in the middle, either slightly center-left or center-right.  That simply will not be the case with the way the government is running already.  If anyone thinks we don’t already have a divided government simply based on the abusing of the filibuster requirements in the Senate, then they have been asleep the last 21 months.  Divided government is an idea based on majority rule with minority rights so that the “loser” is not subjected to the tyranny of the majority. 

In order for elections to have real consequences though there must not be a tyranny by the minority as we have seen the last two years.  I am not at all arguing that when an election happens the minority should lie down and let the majority do whatever it wants.  What I am arguing though is an election big or small sets a vision each candidate has for where to take their role in the country and in 2008 the vision pushed by Barack Obama and the Democrats resoundingly won in the eyes of the American voting public.  Republicans certainly were not supposed to be happy about that nor were they to green light everything the new President wanted.  The flip side though was they were not supposed to pout and take the ball and go home deciding that politics was more important than solving problems.  You have a problem with the stimulus, get your feet dirty and work to fix it.  You have a problem with health care, get in there and work to solve it.  This idea that you can say no to everything and hold the ball until the next election while simultaneously saying that the other “guys” didn’t solve your problems is a farce.  The bigger problem is that it appears they will be rewarded for it and if you think the gridlock of the last two years was bad and nothing got done, just wait until rewards come for the behavior.  Do you think they will then want to actually work on solving problems or do they just rinse and repeat hoping for even more rewards in Congress and control of the White House in 2012?  Does anyone think Democrats wont try the same playbook if they lose the House and/or Senate?

The biggest problem I have seen on both sides in the last two years is there is no more honest debate in this country.  It is all scare tactics, fear mongering in order to set up a political play.  Maybe my bias sees it as coming more frequently from the right than the left, but it has clearly happened on both sides and until our politicians stop playing politics and start doing the people’s work again this country cannot fully recover.

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