Finding Their Own Way
As a follow up to my post yesterday about a 2011-2012 Democratic strategy for dealing with what may be a GOP/Corporate America-dominated Congress, I wanted to put forward a few other thoughts as I wait to see if my SF Giants can squeeze out one win in Texas.
Without getting too psychological, and without going so far as to ascribe the Tea Party support to overt racism, I think it would be fair to say that fear and resentment are integral to Tea Party support, as well as plain old ignorance. Older, white voters are largely the Tea Party and remaining GOP base, but in truth today's Tea Partier was yesterday's Bush 24%-approving supporter. These are the people who would have stuck with Bush no matter what he did. But they are also joined by people who want this country rooted in some respect for traditional values and past generations, without overt messaging that implies a rejection of the past. All "change" agendas come across in varying degrees as rejections of the past. Add to that the fiscal conservatism of the elderly, and a perception that billions of taxes will be required to bail out bankers, slackers, and the uninsured, without caring to learn the nuance behind these actions, and you get what we have now. What you end up with are millions of angry white voters who can be easily manipulated by Big Oil, Big Coal, and the usual right-wing elite that are only too happy to take advantage of the Supreme Court's fascism in Citizen's United and Karl Rove's strategic vision.
Sure, this convergence coupled with having the right wing media demonize Obama's every action plays a large role in what has happened to Democrats. Yet it wasn't the GOP and Tea Party that unilaterally disarmed itself on accountability and messaging, it was the Obama White House. No one walked away from his campaign promises except Barack Obama, and no one except Barack Obama is still naively talking about compromise even after John Boehner and Mitch McConnell have issued a "our way or the highway" threat. Many of these wounds are self-inflicted by a candidate who said one thing during the campaign and has done another since getting into office, and his party is now paying a price for that.
As I said yesterday, even after the drubbing on Tuesday, all is not lost. But Democrats in Congress will need to focus on messaging, and a simple-to-communicate commitment to Main Street over Wall Street these next two years. The Democratic leadership in Congress will have to frame every day as a distinction between their focus on doing what's right for the middle class and those who face financial pressure, and the GOP's ownership by Corporate America and unnamed forces behind the scenes. Democrats can force the GOP to oppose a massive infrastructure program and foreclosure assistance program that keeps people in their homes and reduces their debt burden. Democrats can draw distinctions between their "Main Street America" agenda, and a GOP agenda that favors Corporate America and hidden interests at home and abroad who bought in secret the 2010 Congress while pocketing taxpayer money after destroying the middle class. Democrats even have an opportunity to reach out to medium and small businesses in the next two years in a variety of ways, while the GOP does the bidding of the multinationals in the US Chamber of Commerce who don't give a damn about these businesses.
A singular focus on jobs and the "kitchen table" these next two years, without being led astray by typical right wing Rovian social issue diversions, will get Democrats in Congress back in a positive light. Being out of the leadership these next two years, and on the attack against the real agenda of those who bankrolled the Tea Party and GOP Class of 2010 can cure much of what hurts the Democrats now.
As for the Obama White House, frankly I have little hope. Obama can get reelected in 2012 simply as a rejection of those who are likely to run against him. But the man has no spine or consistent compass, and therefore there's few reasons to recommend him other than the "D" next to his name, which he uses as an appliance rather than a set of convictions. It would be wise for Steny Hoyer and Dick Durbin to plot their own course and to come up with a limited set of core policy prescriptions that all Democrats can agree with apart from the White House, with Main Street and the kitchen table being the guideposts for that agenda.