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Altered Consciousness: Dems down in the dumps

Published: October 8, 2010
Section: Opinions


GRAPHIC BY Ariel Wittenberg/The Hoot

The conventional wisdom around the Beltway is that the Democrats will lose their majority in the House, while possibly retaining the Senate by a razor-thin margin. Why is this the case? What are the factors that led the Democrats into this precarious predicament?

The first and most obvious cause for this situation is the economy. The unemployment rate stubbornly hovers around 10 percent. Exports are down. Deficits and the federal debt are sky-high. Consumer confidence is extremely low as consumers are choosing to save rather than spend their disposable income. Banks are not lending, and credit for businesses remains scarce.

Yet all of these factors signify something greater: a sense of hopelessness and the fear that the American dream is dissipating. Quite simply, there does not seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Foreclosure, bankruptcy, downsizing, and poverty seem to be the new norms, as opposed to vibrant economic growth, prosperity and upward social mobility.

The blame for this state of affairs falls squarely on the shoulders of the ones in power, the Democrats.

Yes, President Barack Obama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Harry Reid have attempted to stimulate the economy in a number of ways.

Yet political constraints and constant obstructionism from the Republicans have greatly hampered their ability to do so. Thus, the policies that the Democrats have passed are half-measures that cannot fill a hole that amounts to more than $3 trillion. Also, the party’s attempts to blame President George W. Bush for their economic problems two years after he left office sound rather pathetic.

Another reason why the Democrats will suffer a crushing loss in November is the health care bill. Its passage involved just about everything people hate about Washington; back-room deals, relentless partisanship, the enormous influence of special interests and politicians who seem completely out of touch with their constituents. These factors in turn greatly lowered the American people’s expectations for Congress and Obama, who had hoped for an era of bipartisanship, unity and less division.

Additionally, what of the bill itself? Most liberals considered it to be a relative success, despite the fact that it did not include, say, a public option, further health care cost reductions or an expansion of Medicare. However, independents and Republicans saw the legislation as an expensive, misguided attempt at social engineering as well as increased government control over their lives.

Additionally, many people still have no idea what the bill would do for them, in part because the Democrats would rather distance themselves from it than explain it for them. Therefore, health care reform continues to remain unpopular to this day. 49.6 percent of the public opposes the law, while 39.9 percent favors it, according to Pollster.com.

A third factor that accounts for the Democrats’ impending doom is the dreaded enthusiasm gap between liberals and conservatives. People on the left remain deeply disappointed and frustrated primarily due to the economy and Obama’s tepid response to stimulating it. Democrats have also abandoned cap-and-trade, meaningful immigration reform and card-check, increased our troop commitments in Afghanistan, kept in place many of Bush’s homeland security policies, and, as mentioned before, did not go far enough with health care as well as financial regulatory reform. Furthermore, the attitude by some in the White House suggesting that liberals are naïve and unrealistic does not help very much in this regard.

Finally, the Democrats lack a unifying message and fail to inspire in the same way that they did in 2008. Every Democrat running for Congress this year seems to be running his or her own independent campaign. Some of them prioritize local issues, others embrace Obama’s agenda, while others run as far from the White House as they possibly can. As for the President, instead of hearing the soaring rhetoric about hope and change that we are used to, we get some half-baked analogy about a car in a ditch, a professorial attitude instead of empathy and incessant whining and moaning about his opposition.

Yes, Democrats look like they are done for, despite the fact that the Republicans have no solutions for our problems besides tax cuts for the rich and repealing Obama’s initiatives.