The polls are flip flopping up and down; Democrats up here, Republicans are up there. The rumors say the Democrats are in for big losses and that this mid term election will be a repudiation of the mandates of 2008, but will it? With just two weeks left before the November election - and with some states already doing early voting, the mood of the country appears to be poised for some kinds of changes. What are the reasons for this mood shift in the brief time since our last national election? How much has the suspect money controlled by Karl Rove and others through secret PACs influenced this turmoil? Have the Democrats traditional allies, the unions, had their voices overwhelmed in this avalanche of partisan ads? Will the usual ground game be enough for the party in power? Are the Democrats still fired up enough to get out there and fight for their message?
We have an articulate President who has effected some significant social changes with health care and Lily Ledbetter, moved cautiously on the foreign stage and effectively withdrawn from Iraq, so why are he and the Democratic Party seen as unpopular? He apparently is beset from the Democratic right and left; one group saying he went too far with health care and the other side saying he did not go far enough and conceded too much. One group liked getting out of Iraq but did not approve of increasing a presence in Afghanistan, while the other bemoans a continued presence in Guantanamo, despite the Congressional prohibition against jailing the prisoners on American soil. And – this just includes critics from his friends! When one is pummeled from both sides, the end result is still painful.
Other topics still needing resolution include: the immigration debate which has stalemated, “don’t ask don’t tell” which remains frozen while a military review is awaited; the deficit grows and the greater economy is stagnant. Even as gains have been made by the Stock Market, big financial institutions and the auto industry, Main Street has not yet seen an economic bump up. Foreclosures and home values remain problematic, unemployment is still an issue and stimulus dollars are moving slowly. Democrats have split into yellow dogs, blue dogs, and hot dogs; (something the opposition would never allow), while we pay the price for being divided. We, as a party need to learn three things:
1. How to disagree amongst ourselves without a poison pill,
2. When to really come together, rather than running from an agenda which we helped to create,
3. How to appreciate the fine lines necessarily drawn in compromises, which really are the Art of the Deal.
Why are we not making the point loudly that we did not get in this mess overnight and we cannot make it go away by wishing it so? Why are we not doing a better job of pointing out the wing nuts whirling around us? Many people fought against Medicare for 40 years until it was enacted; now the same people who are saying get government out of my life are saying don’t cut my Medicare. Those who talk about waste in government, are also saying leave Medicare Advantage (the HMO section that has been found to be overpaid and wasteful) alone; makes little sense -- but Congress is running scared. Our 8th District Congressman, Chris Van Hollen, speaking before a hostile audience earlier in the year, said it well -- government keeps the planes from crashing into each other with the traffic controllers, and keeps our medicines safe through the FDA, and keeps our country moving with interstate commerce and the Department of Transportation, which one do you wish to give up? More electeds should make this case.
This is a country used to IM, texting and 24/7 media. Change is desired, but it is somehow expected to be achieved as rapidly as the next seasonal cycle. President Obama wanted change, but we have a tiered government. Congress is holding up his desired appointments, so many departments are not at full strength in leadership; a President should have a pre-determined period of time to establish his people in place. There are the legislative, the judicial and the executive branches, and each has derailed some of the changes sought. Republican opposition has stalled action on necessary bill passage in the Senate, requiring cloture votes on the simplest measures. The Supreme Court decision on corporate spending has unleashed a torrent of right wing money to help oppose any agents of change. The White House correctly moved quickly on getting its programs identified and proposed, but seriously erred in allowing compromise and concessions to the Republicans; this allowed the Senate to slow down the momentum, while the opposition geared up spawning the Tea Parties and other fringe groups.
Since it appears the Congress will be less friendly to our goals than before, it is up to Progressives to limit anticipated gains. We must get out the vote and stand behind our candidates. Progressives need to decide just what our agenda is; do we want to stand on the sidelines allowing ourselves the satisfaction of purity of thought? Or are we going to unite, get out there and fight to give President Obama some support with a Congress which has a mandate to make this country work? Are we going to expect our President to wave a magic wand to obtain change or are we going to help him do the more difficult work of repairing this polarized country and finally make real differences happen? Or are we going to dig in, insist on 100% or nothing, and end up with nothing? Are we ready to accept the challenge?