Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Under-Achievement is the Culprit

"Democrats are being told (and telling themselves) that they over-reached, but what became clear as the months dragged on is the Democratic party under-achieved, and so did its president."
Coakley's loss in Massachussets is now being analyzed and picked apart by pundits and politicans alike to understand what happened that a blue state went red. William Greider of The Nation has a compelling and right-on-point article, Coakley's Loss; Pie in the President's Face.

The humiliation, I decided, could become a good thing for this presidency if it forces Obama to rethink his political strategy and rearrange his governing order. For all his brains and talent, for all the brainy people around him, the Obama White House seems tone-deaf and blind on many aspects of the popular reality. Too full of itself to listen closely. Too condescending to recognize the rage and fear are about more than right-wing frothers.

On healthcare, Obama played coy while his White House aides cut private deals with the drug industry and other sectors. The legislative process was drawn out month after month in an addled bargaining marathon with hostile Republicans (who stiffed him in return) and industry-leaning Democrats (who got whatever they demanded). The liberal base was conned, ignored and bullied, as its vital issues were one by one discarded. Labor unions were stroked and intimidated by the White House, then double-crossed as Obama's reform extracted greater costs from union members than it demanded from the drug makers. People at large were confused, then frightened. They could not understand what reform would do for them, and some of their doubts were well-founded. The longer it went on, the more people wondered why Democrats weren't talking about their problem--jobs and incomes.

Obama's mild-mannered faith in bipartisan deal-making seemed strangely out of touch. Didn't he realize Republicans were going to maul him at every turn?

The bankers, meanwhile, did their own tap dance on the new president, putting a paw on his shoulder while gobbling up public resources. Obama kept holding meetings with them, urging them to do the "right thing." They practically laughed in his face.

People were meanwhile agitated by the swelling budget deficits and easy prey for right-wing propaganda. Instead of explaining the economic necessity of deficit spending in a straightforward way, Obama adopted these worries as his own. He has promised to reduce spending, but he cannot deliver on this if he truly expects recovery.

Obama's style became an inadvertent formula for sapping the life out of the political majority that elected him, deflating the reach of reform and turning off the electoral base that came together in 2008. Democrats are being told (and telling themselves) that they over-reached, but what became clear as the months dragged on is the Democratic party under-achieved, and so did its president.

Obama's most disturbing quality is that he evidently intended this from the start. Soaring rhetoric notwithstanding, he managed the presidency as a pragmatist in search of the possible. The real goals for change were minimalist, not visionary. This has to change and soon, if he is to revive his presidency.

Obama, in other words, has to change himself. That may sound too wishful and maybe it is. But we know he is a brilliant politician, astute in his political vision. The great politicians, when faced with new circumstances, revise themselves. We will see if Obama can.

First, he has to clear out the cobwebs of his hopeful aspirations and take on the fight. To do so, he also has to clear away a lot of the people around him. If Rahm Emmauel was the chief strategist, the guy who made the private deals and told the senators what they could accept, he failed big-time and should be replaced. Find a new manager whose thinking was not shaped by cynical triangulation in the Clinton era.

The president chose Larry Summer and Timothy Geithner to speak for the administration on the economy. Can you imagine finding anyone less convincing? Both are active advocates of the Wall Street status quo, neither has any feel for what's happening in the country. The bean counters led the president into the trap he now faces. Permissive bailouts created flush financial giants that sit on their profits and ignore the public need for lending. Dump the bean counters now.[...]

If comprehensive healthcare reform is out of the question, Obama Democrats can break it down into smaller pieces and try to pass worthy measures one by one. A bill to prohibit insurance companies from banning people with pre-existing ailments? Pass it the House and try to pass it in the Senate. If Republicans want to filibuster, make them filibuster. A measure to allow cheaper drug imports from Canada? Let Republicans vote against that. Repealing the antitrust exemption for insurance companies--Democrats support it. Democrats need to start a fight on taxes too. Do Republicans want to tax Wall Street banks or not? Obama has proposed it, let's have a roll call. The attack strategy will focus on all the reforms people want and need and create a new political dynamic.

Read the complete article here.

I find it interesting that the media seems to be taking the Republican talking point that Coakley lost because people don't want sweeping health care reform. It really is just the opposite. People do want health care reform. They just want reform that will benefit them and not the insurance companies. What Congress has passed, especially the Senate, has chipped away at a robust package and created a broken bill.

Ask yourself, what is President's Obama's position on health care? My point exactly...I don't know. Under-achievement is the culprit!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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