For the average voter, a mid term election has about as much allure as a mid term exam did in school... in a subject you hated.
Even for me, who ran an unprecedented ten piece series leading into the 2008 presidential election here at Intrepid Media, this particular mid term election has the appeal of standing in line at the post office, which I hate. My local branch always has a long slow line no matter when you go. People mailing odd shaped who knows what. Making special requests. Getting in and out of line. I'm hearing "Anything Liquid, perishable or hazardous?" over and over again. And I'm standing there thinking about the election as I wait, knowing I'm expected to write something about it in advance of November 2nd for the Intrepid bosses. And all I can think is - I'm just frustrated.
Obama says something about "being clear" in an awful lot of his speeches (ever noticed?). Anyway, for the record, "Let me be clear" that I'm not against voting for either a conservative or a liberal candidate for office. I voted for former President G.W. Bush at least once, and a lot of other Republicans in my day. But in 2008, I was very excited about voting for Obama.
And now? My sentiments were best explained by a voter speaking to Obama on CNBC:
Yes, I am frustrated. But, let me be clear, I do feel a little guilty for losing hope. I mean, I live in the internet / drive-thru age, where I can get virtually anything on demand. But fixing a financial crisis? What do I know about fixing a financial crisis? Amy Grant was right when she said how it takes a little time to get the titanic turned back around, and perhaps a global financial crisis is a big deal that may not be stopped instantly even though you and I as voters want it to end.
But then I think about FDR and the "New Deal." I am no history expert, but by my grasp of if, FDR seemed to have fixed a comparatively worse financial situation at a much faster rate than Obama has. Or, depending on how you look at it, how Obama still hasn't.
Unemployment, the fact that many people are opposed to "Obamacare", and with Obama at one of his lowest approval ratings, a majority of Democrats running this mid term are distancing themselves from Obama. In that case, if they are elected, will Obama be hindered by his own party in continuing its initiatives? What is the path Democrats from the mid term expect to take to take otherwise if elected?
Of course, the conservatives have monkey wrenches in their plans as well. Following in the footsteps of "Maverick", Sarah Palin, who incidentally quit her good paying job as Governor of Alaska in the midst of the financial crisis (presumably to show her solidarity with all her fellow Americans who were out of work, or something like that anyway), other non-mainstream candidates have captivated right-wing voters and media outlets alike this season utilizing all policies contrary to Obama's, and most often identifying themselves with the "Tea Party."
I was reminded earlier this week of a quote by President Barack Obama made in January right after Scott Brown, the first Tea Party Republican, was elected to fill the late Ted Kennedy's seat:
"The same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office... People are angry and they are frustrated."
Was this a prediction of Republicans sweeping in November? And even if Republicans win, at what cost?
To me, for one, it seems to mean going backwards. Restoring Bush's tax cuts, repealing health care, attempting to take back a lot of what Obama has done. Then what? For as much as Obama hasn't made us feel change, undoing everything will not solve our problems. And I've heard no real solutions from the GOP.
And second, even if the Republican moderate ideas are working, some of these Tea Party candidates want to repeal even more, like federal departments that have been around for decades. The less government call from some outsiders are more than some remaining old-guard Republicans may tolerate. Even if conservatives sweep the election, the party is poised to have as much internal strife as the Democrats.
I was thinking of this seeming no good option for the midterms. What do you do when it all seems hopeless?
And I was gazing absently though the closed half-glass door to my Intrepid Media office, when I spotted Russ' poster of Tricia Helfer as Caprica Six in Battlestar Galactica on his wall. "All of this has happened before and all of this will happen again", I thought.
It was from this bleak message that I understood. The way I see it, our choices for the election may not be good. But the message at the center of Battlestar Galactica was to hold continued hope, even when it seemed like there was no reason to hold it. Even though I do know not which party will dominate after this election, I can be reasonably certain that the cycle will happen again, like it has before. The pendulum of power will go back and forth. The worst, in time, will pass.
And maybe there will be hot lady robots.
ABOUT JEFFREY D. WALKER
A practicing attorney and semi-professional musician, Walker writes for his own amusement, for the sake of opinion, to garner a couple of laughs, and to perhaps provoke a question or two, but otherwise, he doesn't think it'll amount to much.
This past Sunday, Obama spoke to an audience at Ohio State. He referred to special interests who "would profit from the other side's agenda" and said that "the only way to match their millions of dollars, is all of you, millions of voices who are ready to finish what we started in 2008. That's where you come in."
Later, he returned to the mantra that pushed him into the White House: "In two weeks, you have the chance to say once again, 'Yes we can.'" And I had to shake my head, and say, "There's no WE about it."
John Perry Barlow helped me focus my thoughts a few weeks ago, when he tweeted, "Obama was a genius in producing hope. But he seems not to have the capacity to produce trust. Why?" And I responded that it was because "A campaign of 'we' became a presidency of 'I'." Or, as has been readily apparent in recent weeks, a new campaign of 'us' and 'them'."
Obama is right in one regard: it's time to go back to 2008. Not to finish what "WE" started, but to actually get started.
10.18.10 @ 10:43a
Lay off the Peace Prize. Even he said he didn't deserve it.
And, as far as the recession ending last summer, I'm pretty certain that economists said that, not the White House. It's not as if he got on an aircraft carrier in front of a banner reading "Mission Accomplished."
He may have said he didn't deserve it, but it's not like he refused it. Honestly, I don't care about the Nobel prize; my point is, that's the kind of thing that the average voter is going to remember about Obama's first year, that glorious honeymoon when the world was ready to pull down the moon for him. They're gonna hear "the recession is over" and snort derisively as they scan the help wanted ads. And as long as Obama is in the WH, he gets to be the figurehead/scapegoat/whipping boy for that frustration.
Who cares about how green we'll be in our electric cars? Who cares what the French think of us? We're more concerned with whether or not our insurance premiums are going to skyrocket. We're gasping over another year without a COLA bump for our salaries or Social Security...or a continuation of unemployment benefits.
It's tough to get excited about long-term legislative victories when the short-term realities are unemployment hovering near 10% and foreclosures continuing to pile up, no matter how many bank suspensions there are. I'll always be among the first to preach, "Don't mortgage the future to pay for today's problems," but today's problems can't be given short-shrift just because the future -- which is always subject to repeal -- is going to be better.
It's like building a dike while most of your city is still flooded and telling people to be happy because they'll never flood again. That's not what people want to hear; they want to hear how you're gonna help them get the water out of their houses.
10.18.10 @ 11:43a
So it's obvious you've thought about this problem, too, Russ. As I see it, we're stuck with continuing to chase the Democrat plan to recovery (to the degree continued aspects of it would be passed), vs. the Republican remove all helps and maybe then some and see what happens.
Which of the lesser evils do you go with?
10.18.10 @ 11:57a
One evil is lesser? I wish I could believe that. We're trapped between the duplicity of the oligarchs and the ignorance of the polity.
I'd love to see a politician address the latter, just to see what would happen.
10.18.10 @ 12:25p
Well, sure. I think we'd all love to see the "you're all mindless sheep" campaign really take off.
10.18.10 @ 1:18p
It's tough to get excited about long-term legislative victories when the short-term realities are unemployment hovering near 10% and foreclosures continuing to pile up, no matter how many bank suspensions there are.
Sorry; just rereading your post, Russ. "It's tough to get excited." Sorry to hear that. Try to get excited anyway. I don't know if anyone followed my link above, but here's a quote:
"Less than halfway through his first term, Obama has compiled a remarkable track record. As president, he has rewritten America's social contract to make health care accessible for all citizens. He has brought 100,000 troops home from war and forged a once-unthinkable consensus around the endgame for the Bush administration's $3 trillion blunder in Iraq. He has secured sweeping financial reforms that elevate the rights of consumers over Wall Street bankers and give regulators powerful new tools to prevent another collapse. And most important of all, he has achieved all of this while moving boldly to ward off another Great Depression and put the country back on a halting path to recovery.
"Along the way, Obama delivered record tax cuts to the middle class and slashed nearly $200 billion in corporate welfare — reinvesting that money to make college more accessible and Medicare more solvent. He single-handedly prevented the collapse of the Big Three automakers — saving more than 1 million jobs — and brought Big Tobacco, at last, under the yoke of federal regulation. Even in the face of congressional intransigence on climate change, he has fought to constrain carbon pollution by executive fiat and to invest $200 billion in clean energy — an initiative bigger than John F. Kennedy's moonshot and one that's on track to double America's capacity to generate renewable energy by the end of Obama's first term.
"On the social front, he has improved pay parity for women and hate-crime protections for gays and lesbians. He has brought a measure of sanity to the drug war, reducing the sentencing disparity for crack cocaine while granting states wide latitude to experiment with marijuana laws. And he has installed two young, female justices on the Supreme Court, creating what Brinkley calls 'an Obama imprint on the court for generations.'"
So maybe the short-term is bleak. I don't know about you, but I don't really want a myopic president.
10.18.10 @ 1:50p
Awesome. Sell that in Flint, Michigan.
10.18.10 @ 2:23p
You think they'd be doing better in Flint without Obama bailing out the automakers?
10.18.10 @ 3:06p
I'm saying that most of what RS trumpets in that article is irrelevant to a good chunk of the population with more pressing matters on their minds. Flint is practically basking in prosperity (13.9% unemp.) compared to some locations (Yuma, AZ - 30.4%).
You can extol Obama's successes all you like. I'm not arguing that he didn't achieve them. I'm arguing that they don't matter to a nation of voters to whom Wall Street is a nebulous concept and $200 billion (taken from corporate welfare to invest in clean energy, apparently!) is an imaginary number.
It boils down to this: If Obama himself is saying, as Jeff quoted, "The same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office... People are angry and they are frustrated," then clearly there's a disconnect. I don't see the people as LESS angry or LESS frustrated because Big Tobacco is, at last, under the yoke of federal regulation. Or because there are two young, female justices on the Supreme Court.
10.18.10 @ 3:27p
Oh, I agree that people don't care about the long-term. I just think that maybe they should. I'm not naive enough, either, to believe they will, by the way. I'm just bothered by the nearsightedness of the "Me first now" mentality. And I'm sure I'm guilty of it, too.
If you're just observing the prevailing zeitgeist in the country right now, then you're right. But if you're making a judgment call that long-term planning is premature in the face of short-term difficulties, then I'd respectfully disagree. Both need to be done. To extend your metaphor above a little further, what's the use in spending all of your resources in getting water out of people's houses today if the next storm is just going to flood them again next week? It makes more sense to me to build the dike first so that when you do bail out my basement, the water doesn't simply flow back in.
10.18.10 @ 3:58p
People stopped carrying about the long term around the time of the 2nd Eisenhower administration. (I'm not being flippant, that's where I really perceive it as starting.) It's taken this recession to finally pound into some people's heads that spending more than you earn is not a good idea and that responsibility for you starts with...you. But I don't expect a sea change in personal economic habits any more than I expect one at the federal level.
It still doesn't change the fact that people need jobs, and people need a place to live. And, if nothing else, that those same people want to look to Washington and see a president who is addressing their basic needs and championing them, the way he promised to in the campaign.
People feel like Obama dropped the "WE". That is the disconnect, and that's why it stings now to hear him bring it back. Sure, maybe he did all those things that he did for us; but was that what WE wanted him to do? Looking long-term, it's easier to say he knows better what we need, versus what we want. But without shoring up the short-term, he's only helped perpetuate the frustrations of the here-and-now, which has bruised the people's trust, his effectivess and potentially his political future.
10.18.10 @ 4:45p
Agreed. But that doesn't make it right.
So do you see the solution to be the Obama administration making more short-term concessions to people's immediate needs, or do you favor a full upheaval of the sort called for by the Tea Partiers? I mean, obviously neither of those things will actually help the underlying cause you mentioned above regarding personal responsibility.
I'd also point out the irony of people voting against the democrats in a backlash against what they may perceive as the government not helping them. I mean, really, who's more likely to champion the unemployed and/or homeless? The republicans?
10.18.10 @ 5:02p
An apparent limit to the number of characters permitted in this column means I must limit my response: Rollback to Bush is wrong. Tea Party is wrong in spirit. Turnover in Congress would be good, if only to remind remaining old guard that they are expendable. There must be accountability, and Congress must lead by example. Obama, for his part, needs to lead. Drop accusatory rhetoric and speak about solutions.
10.19.10 @ 3:44p
Here's the thing, though. How many of our problems can be solved by Obama and how many can be solved by congress? While I wish that Obama took more assertive leadership positions on some issues, I put a lot of blame for our current problems on congress and their inability to get shit done efficiently. Too many congresspeople - on both sides of the aisle - are more focused on keeping their jobs by trying to make everyone happy than on solving our country's problems by tackling them head-on.
But then I think about FDR and the "New Deal." I am no history expert, but by my grasp of if, FDR seemed to have fixed a comparatively worse financial situation at a much faster rate than Obama has.
I'm no expert, but he did this partly by instituting a government-sponsored building project. Obama took a baby step in this direction and the right squealed about the expansion of government and a waste of money. If he had pushed for more building stimulus, more people would have gone back to work, and maybe those extra voices would have changed our perception of the stimulus. This is the same problem I see with healthcare: not enough people are immediately touched by it for us to see whether or not it will be an improvement. And we are a country that demands immediate gratification.
As for the rhetoric, I blame the people for that because we (as a collective) demand theater instead of politics, and I blame the journalists for feeding that desire instead of encouraging us to ask for more. I mean, look at this speech by Lincoln. It isn't exciting. He only attacks his opponents obviously once or twice. It is mostly a statistical look at the voting records of the signers of the Constitution. It wouldn't fly today. It's too reasonable. But, at the end he says "Let us be diverted by none of those sophistical contrivances wherewith we are so industriously plied and belabored - contrivances such as groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong, vain as the search for a man who should be neither a living man nor a dead man - such as a policy of "don't care" on a question about which all true men do care ... Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves." Lincoln knew what it was like to be unpopular, but instead of backing down he went out and tried to explain his position. He had convictions. Right now, I think our politicians have fads.