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Left Out

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Support for President Obama’s re-election bid is in disarray.  His sinking poll numbers have left many Democrats hoping for a miracle (i.e. some degree of economic recovery before November of 2012).  A significant component of the party’s progressive bloc is looking for a challenger to step forward – as can be seen at the StopHoping.org website.  One of the bloggers at Corrente – Hugh – recently had a good laugh at those who were anticipating a possible Primary challenge to Obama from former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold.  Here is some of what Hugh had to say:

The point is that Feingold could have been, and should have been, if he were legit, a focus for progressive organizing.  But he wasn’t.  . . . Feingold could have been the voice of opposition to Bush and his policies, but the silence from the Wisconsin Senator’s office was deafening.  He could have played the same role opposing Obama’s right wing corporatist agenda.  He did not.  Indeed he lost his Senate seat largely because of his failure to distance himself from Obama.

There are other reasons to dislike Feingold and question his progressive credentials.  He voted for John Roberts as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He voted for Obamacare.  And he is a deficit hawk.

Many left-leaning commentators have been offering suggestions to the President as to what actions he should be taking – as well as what message he should be delivering.  Experience has demonstrated that Obama never pays attention to well-intentioned, sensible advice.  How many times has Robert Reich written a roadmap for the President to use toward saving the economy as well as Obama’s own Presidency – only to be ignored?  As the campaign drags on, try to keep count of how many commentaries are written under the theme:  “What Obama Needs to Say and Do Right Now”.  Rest assured that he won’t say or do any of it.

Meanwhile, Republican voters are currently flocking to the standard-bearer du jour, Texas Governor Rick Perry.  Alexander Cockburn of CounterPunch wrote a great essay about Perry’s unmatched political instincts and the challenges ahead for both parties in the upcoming Presidential race:

The obvious question is whether Perry, having won the right, can clamber back along the kook branch towards something vaguely resembling the solid timber of sanity, to capture the necessary independents and disillusioned folk who bet on Obama in 2008.  Hard to say.  Perry is pretty far out on the limb.  Reagan, with the strenuous help of the press, managed the crawl back in 1980, amid widespread disappointment and disgust with Jimmy Carter.  Disappointment and disgust with Barack Obama?  The president has slithered down in the most recent polls, and now is just above the 50 per cent disapproval rating.  There are still around 30 million Americans without work, or enough work. There’s the endlessly cited observation that no president presiding over more than a 7 per cent jobless rate can hope for a second term.

The progressive sector is already rallying the Obama vote by pounding out the unsurprising message that Perry is a shil and errand boy for corporate America, Amazing! Imagine that a conservative Texas Republican would end up in that corner, arm in arm with Barack Obama, messenger of hope and change, also shil and errand boy for corporate America, starting with the nuclear industry, the arms sector, the ag/pesticide complex and moving on through Wall Street and the Fed, and equipped with truly noxious beliefs about fiscal discipline, the merits of compromise.  He’s a far more dangerous man to have in the Oval Office than Perry.  We need a polarizer to awaken the left from its unending, unbreakable infatuation with our current president, despite all the horrors he has perpetrated and presided over, most significantly the impending onslaught on Social Security and Medicare.

Any Republican who wants to maintain a viable candidacy will be forced to start taking some hard swings at Rick Perry.  Jon Huntsman has already started to do so.  Michele Bachmann might not, if she wants a shot at becoming Perry’s running mate.  It won’t matter what Ron Paul says … because the mainstream media are pretending as though he doesn’t exist.  If you haven’t seen it yet, Jon Stewart ran a superb piece, exhibiting how all of the major news outlets – including Fox – were apparently reading from the same script after Congressman Paul came within 100 votes of beating Michele Bachmann in the Iowa Straw Poll.  Watching those reports could have led one to believe that Ron Paul had dropped out of the race.  On August 17, Tara Sartor of the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism provided this analysis of how the television news organizations squelched Ron Paul’s near-victory in Iowa:

In a further attempt to gauge the post-straw poll attention to Paul’s campaign, PEJ also used the Snapstream server’s closed captioning capability to assess the candidates’ television coverage in the first few days after that balloting.

The sample included the three network Sunday morning panel shows on August 14, the morning and evening network news programs on August 15 and four hours of prime-time cable and one hour of daytime from each of the three major cable news networks on August 15.

According to that analysis, Paul was mentioned just 29 times. By comparison, Perry was mentioned 371 times, Bachmann was mentioned 274 times, and Romney was mentioned 183 times.

I hope that the anti-Paul conspiracy helps to energize those voters who had been ambivalent about supporting the “other Texan” in the race.

At some point, the progressive Democrats are going to be faced with the ugly reality that they don’t have a candidate in the 2012 Presidential campaign.  As has been the case with Ron Paul and his supporters – the Left will be left out.


 

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That Sinking Feeling

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December 10, 2009

President Obama must have thought that a regimen of constant speechifying on television would maintain his popularity.  While enduring criticism from his fellow Democrats after his most recent speech on December 8, Obama must be aware that the poll numbers show how his continuous oration strategy is not working.  During these desperate economic times, the voters — even Obama’s own supporters — want more than speeches.  On December 1, poll results released by Rasmussen Reports not only revealed that the President’s approval rating sank to 48 percent — his disapproval rating actually reached 52 percent!  On December 9, Quinnipiac University published the results of a poll conducted during December 1 – 6.  The results gave the Preisdent a job approval rating of only 46 percent, and those disapproving Obama’s performance amounted to 44 percent.  Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, discussed the results:

“President Barack Obama’s job approval rating continues to slide and it’s evident the deterioration stems from voter unhappiness over domestic policy matters,” Brown added.

American voters disapprove 54 – 41 percent of Obama’s handling of the economy, down from a 52 – 43 percent disapproval November 18 and his worst score ever on this issue.  The biggest shift is among Democrats who approve 71 – 24 percent, down from 77 – 18 percent three weeks ago.

The biggest drop in Obama’s overall approval is among independent voters, who disapprove 51 – 37 percent, down from 46 – 43 percent disapproval.

Although the health care issue had an impact on the poll’s results, the Quinnipiac team found that the deterioration in support for Obama resulted from those favoring the public option, despite the spin effort in many quarters to suggest that the poll revealed dissatisfaction with the public option itself:

Voters disapprove 52 – 38 percent of the health care reform proposal under consideration in Congress, and they disapprove 56 – 38 percent of President Obama’s handling of health care, down from 53 – 41 percent in a November 19 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh- pe-ack) University.

But voters support 56 – 38 percent giving people the option of being covered by a government health insurance plan, compared to 57 -35 percent November 19.

The Ipsos/McClatchy Poll, taken during December 3 – 6, gave the President an even 49 – 49 percent split on his approval rating.  The interesting segment of these results was the breakdown on voter satisfaction concerning particular issues.  That section of the poll revealed that Obama received his highest “unsatisfactory” rating on the issue of  “jobs and the economy” with 45 percent giving the President an unsatisfactory grade (D or F) while only 36 percent gave him a satisfactory grade (A or B) and 19 percent gave him a C.

The disappointment expressed by Obama’s supporters concerning his handling of the economy was not limited to polling results.  Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor during the Clinton administration, wrote a piece for his blog on December 8 entitled:  “The Preisdent’s Job Initiative Doesn’t Measure Up”.  Reich was not alone in his assessment of Obama’s performance to date:

No president in modern times walks a tightrope as exquisitely as this one.  His balance is a thing of beauty.  But when it comes to this economy right now — an economy fundamentally out of balance — we need a federal government that moves boldly and swiftly to counter-balance the huge recessionary forces still at large.

Reich implied that the time for the “balancing act” is over.  It is now time to solve problems:

The word in Washington is we’re out of the woods.  The rate of unemployment dipped from 10.2 percent in September to 10 percent in October.  In our nation’s capital, a one-month trend marks a turnaround.  Don’t believe it for a moment.  The real story of October was the increasing number of Americans who dropped out of the labor force, too discouraged even to look for work.

Whether or not one agrees with Reich’s proposal of spending $400 billion over a two-year period to put people back to work, even Reich’s opponents would likely agree with his assessment of Obama’s initiative:

We don’t know exactly how much the President is proposing to spend, but sources tell me it’s in the range of $70 billion, redirected from the $200 billion in TARP savings.  The President’s small, calibrated attempt to balance a stimulus with deficit reduction will in fact make the deficit worse over the long haul.  It postpones the day when we’re back to near full employment, when almost all Americans who need a job get paychecks on which they pay taxes.  This isn’t really balance at all.   It prolongs the economic imbalance.

At The New Republic, William Galston wrote a piece entitled “Obama Has a Problem Prioritizing his Agenda” which he began by discussing the importance of timing:

Timing is to politics what location is to real estate.  Good policy ideas are useless if the time is not right.

*   *   *

But the larger point is that the president is beginning to realign his agenda.

But he’s just beginning.  To complete the pivot and make 2010 the year of jobs, two other things must happen.  First, the White House must fully integrate the jobs focus into the president’s schedule.

*   *   *

Second, the legislative agenda for 2010 must reflect and reinforce the renewed focus on job creation.  That means postponing items that the American people are bound to regard as diversionary as long as unemployment remains high.

*   *   *

Great presidents from Lincoln to FDR have understood that “now or never” is the ultimate false choice in politics.  All too often, now means never.  The “fierce urgency of now” should be reserved for what is truly urgent.  As for the rest, patience is more than a virtue; it is a necessity.

On of my favorite centrist commentators, Dan Gerstein of Forbes.com, wrote a piece on Wednesday entitled:  “Obama Not Cutting It On The Economy”.  Although Gerstein began by complimenting Obama on his “balancing act”, he moved on to focus on the absence of “hope and change” promised during the election campaign.  As we have seen, Gerstein was not alone in emphasizing the need to immediately address this problem:

Indeed, we’re confronting an unprecedented combination of grave economic challenges that, while not as immediate as the financial collapse we avoided last fall, may be more consequential.

Gerstein explained how Obama’s initiative is a step in the right direction, but just a step, nonetheless:

The modest job-creation proposals the administration unveiled Tuesday individually have their merits, and they seem much more mission-focused than the mish-mashed stimulus bill that Congressional Democrats constructed.

*   *   *

That’s because the new jobs plan was not designed to be a policy game-changer but a political stopgap, to tide the public over and buy the White House time for the second half of the stimulus plan to kick in.  They are betting the national farm — soy beans to servers — that the old stimulus combined with the new “stimulus lite” will provide enough demand to spur enough new hiring to calm the country.

Gerstein provided a good explanation of the core difficulty the President faces in tackling the multitude of problems arising from the economic crisis:

This unwillingness to make tough decisions strikes me as arguably the worst leadership failure of the Obama presidency.  That’s in large part because cutting outlays and shifting resources would be such a relatively easy lift in this environment.  For starters the federal government is filled with programs and set-asides that are either outdated, wasteful, largely symbolic or designed to serve narrow interest groups.  And the administration (not to mention many think tanks) has already identified dozens of suitable targets in budget hit lists.  No one would be better positioned than Obama, given his baseline support on the left, to call for the elimination and reduction of programs that we can’t defend as national priorities at this moment.

*   *   *

This was the great missed opportunity of the president’s speech — the watchdog that didn’t bark.  He could have done more than repackage his economic policy; he could have helped restore public confidence in his leadership and our shared future.  Instead, the juggler-in-chief did the opposite of his Afghanistan speech — he settled for the safe play and in doing so dropped the most important ball.

That’s great advice!  If only the President would listen to it.



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