Advertisement

Opinion

Opinion

Obama poses dilemma for Democrats

May 23, 2010

Advertisement

— Halfway through the 2010 primary season, the fundamental tension in the American political system is becoming more clear: A liberal government is struggling to impose its agenda on an electorate increasingly responsive to an activist conservative movement operating inside the Republican Party.

Most evident in the periodic eruptions of tea party support for right-wing candidates for governor or senator, the counterrevolutionary forces have just begun to test their strength directly against the Democratic majorities that seized power from George W. Bush in 2006 and made that takeover more complete in 2008 with the election of Barack Obama.

Saddled with the burden of attempting to enact the progressive measures on which they were originally elected and to meet the costs they inherited from two wars and the massive recession that ushered them into office, the Democrats are facing a populist backlash against the interventionist, expensive policies that Obama and others have pursued.

The struggle has dominated this session of Congress with protracted fights over health care and financial regulation that have widened the ideological gap between the parties.

The intensity and constancy of the legislative warfare have denied the public one of the main goals voters sought in electing Obama — a truce between the parties. But it is not yet clear that Republicans will be punished for declaring war on the president.

The Republicans have exploited this new emphasis on governmental austerity with significant election victories in such normally Democratic states as New Jersey and Massachusetts and signals of potential losses for Democrats in Illinois, Delaware and Pennsylvania.

Meantime, the voters in both parties are showing the instability of past preferences by rejecting seemingly well-established incumbents in favor of untested challengers in states as diverse as Utah, Florida, Arkansas and, once again, Pennsylvania.

This has made Pennsylvania’s five-term Sen. Arlen Specter the archetypal figure for this year, a man who was literally run out of the Republican Party by the challenge of a junior former House member and the ill-financed tea party movement, and then upset in his new home in the Democratic primary by an even more unknown Joe Sestak, a stranger to most voters across the state until his ads began three weeks before Election Day.

In his unwarranted euphoria after beating Specter, whose party-switching was a conspicuous example of the calculated self-interest that voters associate with professional politicians, Sestak proclaimed that his victory was “a win for the people, over the establishment, over the status quo, even over Washington, D.C.”

By adding the capital to his list of losers, Sestak seemed to signal his disrespect for Obama, who had warmly endorsed Specter. And that spotlights one of the great unknowns in the unresolved tension now confronting Democratic candidates: whether to run with Obama or against him.

Republicans in Congress made their choice more than a year ago when they decided to fight Obama even on the stimulus bill that pumped billions into their own recession-crippled districts. As time has gone on and the signs of economic recovery have become clearer, Obama has shown increasing force in defending his own early action and decrying the Republican opposition.

But Democrats remain nervous about lining up behind Obama. More of them are ready to rest their hopes on the Republicans’ allowing themselves to be dragged too far to the right than are signing up to promise to sustain the president in future battles to cope with the challenge of fiscal deficits.

The combination of a volatile political environment and the rapid approach of the midterm voting makes it hard for Democrats to rally behind the president. But so far, they have discovered no other strategy.

— David Broder is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group. davidbroder@washpost.com

Comments

Tamara Degner 4 years, 7 months ago

I believe right now it is not a consideration of the party one belongs to; it is how you want the country you live in to grow and prosper all. With the Obama administrations excessive spending and entitlement programs, forced healthcare that we now know will cause a financial burden for many, many years to come and environmental changes that have not yet been proven completely accurate. Where are we going? I feel most Americans are worried at what the next year, decade, and beyond will actually be like if we continue to spend money we do not have. The elected members of Congress, will have to without any doubt,represent Americans getting back to work, and becoming more prosperous again. Obama has failed miserably in the creating jobs area and has failed miserably at being a President. This election cycle will inevitably be one for the history books (if they actually let this in the history books, but that is another story). Not even the die-hard Obama supporters want help from the White House during their campaigns. What does that tell you about the President?

jafs 4 years, 7 months ago

Deficit spending is a real issue.

Were you concerned about it when Bush/Reagan/Bush were president?

The only 4 years in the last 35 during which we haven't had budget deficits were during the Clinton administration - do you support their policies?

cato_the_elder 4 years, 7 months ago

Broder remains locked within his inside-the-beltway liberal psyche. He blames the Tea Party movement for the inability of the hard leftists currently in power to achieve government control over all aspects of our lives, failing to realize that the Tea Party movement was born out of a direct reaction to precisely what those same hard leftists have been attempting to do. Broder will be in for some personal misery in November in the event many of his hard left and RINO pals are swept from office.

Stuart Evans 4 years, 7 months ago

Obama is a puppet for the man. the man, being a group of people who were not elected by anyone, but merely owns and controls the money supply, and sets American & international policy. I've said it before and I'll say it again. politicians are nothing but professional wrestlers for the public's entertainment, while the Council on Foreign Relations and the Bilderberg group toy with our enslaved lives for their own financial success.

have a nice day.

Kirk Larson 4 years, 7 months ago

The flaw in your logic is that the republican party is the man.

Mike Ford 4 years, 7 months ago

are you kidding shewmon, Dubya screwed up this country bad enough that candidates in 2016 could run on the aftermath of a dumb country voting for a dumber president. How many terms did FDR have to use to clean up Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover's messes of Laissez Faire doomed economic policies in the 1920's? and what solution did Hoover use to counter FDR prior to the 1932 election? FEAR!!! Not much has changed has it? and to quote a man of the 1920's who rebelled against the materialistic, moralistic 1920's GOP, H.L. Mencken, "Never underestimate the stupidity of the American People". He had a special love for the stupidity of the 1920's moralistic Midwest full of Prohibitionists KKK members, Brown Shirts in Michigan, and Tent preachers against John Scopes. What dumb people being racist, moralistic, and anti-science? Not much has really changed has it?

Richard Heckler 4 years, 7 months ago

Republicans pose a threat to the entire nation and world financial markets. This has been going on since 1980 which is to say that the repub party has some smooth talkers plus taxpayers short memories.

Myths of the Deficit - Marty Wolfson http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2010/0510wolfson.html

==========================

Important Social Security facts and history http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2005/0505orr.html

==========================

Still A Bad Idea – Bush Tax Cuts ( Talk about big government entitlements) http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2001/0301miller.html

========================= Tea Party Economics - more Big Government ENTITLEMENTS http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2005/0705rebne.html

========================= Reverse Mortgages - The next financial Fiasco http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine-archive/september-2009/personal-finance/reverse-mortgages/overview/reverse-mortgages-ov.htm

========================= IMPROVED Medicare Insurance For All - still the only way to go. The movement is very much alive http://www.healthcare-now.org/takeaction/events-calendar/

========================= Reagan/Bush Savings and Loan Heist http://rationalrevolution0.tripod.com/war/bush_family_and_the_s.htm

========================= The Bush/Cheney Home Loan Scandal http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2009/0709macewan.html

========================= What did Bush and Henry Paulson do with the bail out money? AN EYE OPENING BIG GOVERNMENT ENTITLEMENT FOR WALL STREET BANKS!

http://www.democracynow.org/2009/9/10/good_billions_after_bad_one_year

Flap Doodle 4 years, 7 months ago

Woo hoo! Haven't seen that set of links in at least a day and a half! Way to go, merrill. Extra points for the Reagan reference.

paliddy 4 years, 7 months ago

Well I say let the people decide in the mid terms. If they are dumb enough to entrust themselves to the Republicans I say bon voyage America. Democracy can't work effectively in this country when you have such clear bipartisanship. We are being asked to vote for a Republican philosophy of market knows best and reduced government spending. Don't interfere with our freedoms, don't tax the rich, let all of us wage slaves slide further and further behind. Brilliant ideology with a clear history of failure and a lock-step march back to all the woes of early 1900s. Brilliant way to fail. Not once, but multiple times. The definition of stupidity is doing the same over and over again and expecting a different result. Wakeup stupid!

Liberty275 4 years, 7 months ago

I saw a cool bumper sticker this morning that said "Sorry" and the "o" was the obama campaign seal. I chuckled.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.