We are less than seven weeks from the November mid-term elections and it looks like the Democrats are headed for major losses in both houses. In the many conversations I have had in recent days with those who claim to be in the know, including some former members of Congress, it appears that there is not much anyone can do to turn that around.
It looks like White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs may have been right when he predicted Democrats would lose the House. I don’t believe that was an ad libbed remark but, rather, came from discussions with people like David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett, whom I hear have come to the conclusion that a GOP victory in the mid-terms would help the president win a second term in 2012.
This is a sad state of affairs for the party that roared to victory in November two years ago. There are many reasons for this upcoming loss. But there will be one person to take the majority of the blame and that is President Obama. What happened to that silver-tongued candidate who moved people in his campaign with talk about lofty goals and hope and change? Perhaps it was inevitable that he would come back down to earth.
The millions on the National Mall and those glued to their TV sets for his inauguration couldn’t help but be disappointed when they realized they had elected a mortal as president and not a miracle worker. They had elected someone with very little experience who promised more than anyone could deliver.
They elected a man who hadn’t really made clear what his positions were, and where he would draw a line in the sand on any issue. Whether it was the stimulus package, health care, unions, education, LGBT rights or immigration legislation, no one was sure exactly where he stood or what political capital he would invest in the various fights.
As it turned out, even when he did spend his political capital on the yearlong health care fight he did so at the expense of many other things. And this all played out against a backdrop of two wars, the inability to close Guantanamo and a recession that just wouldn’t recede as fast as he hoped. Then came three months of the gulf oil spill headlines and environmental promises that couldn’t be kept.
There were some things that could have been done differently to at least make the upcoming elections less devastating than where they now appear to be headed.
President Obama, for example, should have supported civil marriage equality. His position now is so muddled as to be hypocritical and does not appear to be based on any religious belief but rather a misreading of the political situation.
On repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” he speaks up but doesn’t appear to follow through. So instead of working on the mid-term campaigns of their local members of Congress, many in the LGBT community are planning another lobby day to advance repeal.
We are going to lobby Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), a senator that Obama has supported and worked to re-elect. He should have simply said to her one of the tradeoffs for national support for you is your vote for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Maybe one of the reasons she is so far behind in her race and faced an expensive primary against a union-supported opponent is that she abandoned basic Democratic Party principles when it came to health care and other issues.
Then there is Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev). A call to him from President Obama to demand the defense authorization bill move to the floor for a vote would clearly make a difference.
I hope that some Democrats and the president will look at the Blanche Lincoln race and realize you just can’t have things both ways. Maybe it’s better to lose with dignity — like Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky did after she supported Bill Clinton’s 1993 budget — than to win by compromising your principles.