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Opinion

Opinion

Natural allies must rally behind Obama

September 5, 2010

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Plenty of people are driving cars they don’t want or, worse still, living in homes they can’t afford. That’s a natural part of a consumer society, especially during a recession. But this fall we may witness a mass example of buyers’ remorse in the political world.

Over the years we have constructed shock absorbers to insulate politics from such jolts. Gubernatorial terms, for example, generally lasted only one year in 1780 — but gradually grew to two years and now, with the exception of New Hampshire and Vermont, are four years long.

But the House of Representatives was built with two-year terms for a reason: to be the barometer that measures both the pressures on the public and the pressures exerted by the public. At the Constitutional Convention of 1787, James Madison favored a three-year term, but the delegates settled on two years, in part, as Roger Sherman of Connecticut was quoted in the official notes of the proceedings, to assure that the representatives would not “acquire the habits of the (capital) which might differ from those of their constituents.”

Today, virtually no Democrat feels comfortable and confident in his House seat, especially since a Gallup poll of congressional voting preferences released the other day showed Republicans with a 10-point lead — the largest in the 68 years in which the organization has tracked midterm elections. It is double the gap the Republicans had as they headed into the 1994 elections, when they captured both houses of Capitol Hill for the first time in four decades.

Better still for the GOP: The poll shows Republicans twice as likely as their rivals to be “very” enthusiastic about voting, which underlines Republicans’ customary practice of turning out at higher rates than Democrats. It’s hard to find any good news for the Democrats in the political climate right now.

Indeed, it’s not just that the president, along with his poll ratings, has fallen to earth. It is not a coincidence that the Republicans are pillorying House Speaker Nancy D. Pelosi in districts from coast to coast and in Senate races in Pennsylvania, Florida and California. She has become one of the chief Republican punching bags and fundraising assets, supplanting Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, who died 53 weeks ago.

There are indications that, along with the president, the major factors in several congressional races are two women — Pelosi and former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska. Palin was a critical element in the Republican primary defeat of Sen. Lisa Murkowski in her home state, in congressional races in Delaware, Florida and Arizona, and in gubernatorial races in Florida, South Carolina, Iowa and California.

Both women are polarizing figures, though Palin is helping her cause and Pelosi is damaging hers. But the inescapable truth is that American voters are troubled this Labor Day weekend. They’re worried about the economy. They’re concerned about the war in Afghanistan. They’re skeptical about the situation in Iraq and, even more so, in Iran.

The remarkable element isn’t so much the rise of Republican prospects in the November elections. That was predictable. Since the beginning of World War II, the party in power has lost, on average, more than two dozen House seats in midterm elections. Though the Republicans gained eight seats in 2002 (George W. Bush), the Democrats lost 55 seats in 1946 (Harry S Truman) and 54 in 1994 (Bill Clinton). The losses have been particularly acute in years when presidents have approval ratings under 50 percent. Obama’s approval ratings are generally between 43 percent and 48 percent in major polls as the general-election season approaches.

What was not predictable was the potential magnitude of the change, particularly only two years after such an enthusiastic election of a Democratic president and such a decisive repudiation of Republicans and their two-term president.

But, as we are seeing, repudiations are made to be repudiated, and many signs point to such a phenomenon this year on a major scale, diminishing if not eliminating the Democrats’ 77-seat majority in the House and, if the two Independents in the Senate are counted as virtual Democrats, their 18-seat margin in that chamber.

The Democrats’ burden is in part a leadership problem. They would be well-positioned to argue that the Republicans were mounting an intransigence intifada if their own leaders, Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (whose re-election in Nevada is in peril at least in part because of Palin’s involvement) weren’t intransigence incarnate themselves.

Now to the president. Obama once seemed to have an instinct for pleasing everyone. Now he apparently has a genius for alienating both friends and foes.

His enemies on the right have mounted a campaign against Obama’s policies that, apart from fringe arguments that he is a Muslim and isn’t an American citizen, is not particularly unconventional, and the virulence of their attacks is not inconsistent with the assaults on George W. Bush when the Democrats were out of the White House and on Bill Clinton when the Republicans were in the wilderness.

But what is different is the attacks mounted on Obama from his putative friends on the left, who criticize him for caving on the single-payer element of his health care overhaul, failing to provide a second major stimulus and cozying up to Wall Street. In the months of Clinton’s peril, allies rallied around him, especially women, who in the Monica Lewinsky affair had reason to abandon him. Obama’s friends have yet to do so.

Few of his onetime supporters are likely to vote Republican, of course, though some may stay home Nov. 2. But they have sapped the White House of its energy and deprived Obama of the comfort that allies can provide a president.

We have seen, in the Richard M. Nixon and George W. Bush White Houses, the danger posed by a president surrounded by an ultra-loyal Greek chorus. But a president deprived of his natural allies can swiftly become a president isolated — with, as the Democrats have reason to fear for the 112th Congress that gathers in January, a fearsome opposition on Capitol Hill.

— David Shribman is executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Comments

Carol Bowen 3 years, 11 months ago

How much of this is media hype? President Obama has done what he can given the parameters he has to work with. Are we so immature that each of us wants our own result immediately? Regardless of what other people want?

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jafs 3 years, 11 months ago

I think it's more that many voters, especially young ones, were affected a lot by his campaign rhetoric, which (as many do) seemed to promise that he would deliver what everybody wanted (which is impossible, since we're a diverse nation and because the president doesn't have unlimited power), and transform Washington into a better place.

Once elected, he ran into the problem of Washington not being easy to transform, was beholden to his campaign contributors (as are all politicians), and couldn't deliver on the promises.

I warned people about this during his campaign, but most didn't want to hear it - we seem as a nation to have a deep need to idealize (or demonize) political candidates, especially presidential ones. Maybe we're sort of a national borderline personality.

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scott3460 3 years, 11 months ago

And how much is the corporate media molding opinion and drumming up campaign ad business? It is maddening, but we've allowed consolidation of the media in to their hands, so I guess we get to suffer the propaganda.

Democrats, however, deserve a good spanking. Handed both Houses of Congress and the Presidency they've delivered mealy mouthed, warmed over republican lite policy. Whatever happens in November has been earned for refusing to fight on behalf of the middle class.

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Richard Heckler 3 years, 11 months ago

What is important to note about the Reagan/Bush S&L scandal is that it was the largest theft in the history of the world and US tax payers are who was robbed.

The problems occurred in the Savings and Loan industry as they relate to theft because the industry was deregulated under the Reagan/Bush administration and restrictions were eased on the industry so much that abuse and misuse of funds became easy, rampant, and went unchecked.

And, yes, substantial fraud was involved in the Bush/Cheney Home Loan Scandal. For example, mortgage companies and banks used deceit to get people to take on mortgages when there was no possibility that the borrowers would be able to meet the payments. Not only was this fraud, but this fraud depended on government authorities ignoring their regulatory responsibilities.

All of the above sets the stage for "boom town economics" that which cannot be sustained and always crashes. Big job losses across the board are the net result in which history can cite examples such as the oil boom towns. Reagan/Bush and Bush/Cheney however went for the big prize aka the nations economy.

The false economy was alive and well right here in Lawrence,Kansas in which the local powers that be cannot seem to let go. So Lawrence continues in true unchecked laissez faire government style that supports no checks and balances. AND feeds it's population tons of speculation.

The New World Order Global Economy Reaganomics is truly unchecked laissez faire government that supports no checks and balances. Super inflation was also a result of the boom town economics which is a false economy.

The New World Order Global Economy Reaganomics simply shifted the USA job market abroad. Then the bank robbers stepped in twice to finish off the economy and the job market.

AND we voters failed to heed the warnings and did not demand of our legislators to stop the BS. Instead we vote these same laissez faire government thinkers back into office time after time signaling that massive corruption is okay.

Why vote Moran or Brownback into any government level position after their Washington D.C. performances?

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mr_right_wing 3 years, 11 months ago

I'm not so sure of that.

All this stimulus money has fiscally raped many upcoming generations of Americans who will have to repay it all, and then some.

When we all really become old, and tomorrows kids are seeing what we've left for them to repay (if our country hasn't completely financially collapsed) euthanasia might become a popular term....and I won't blame them one bit. (Why throw even more money into keeping any of us alive? We were Obama's accomplices in said rape.)

The Obama administration loves to point the finger at George W, for every and anything.....but tomorrows kids will easily be able to point the finger of blame at us; and be completely justified! (For far more than 8 years; try decades.)

Notice I'm not pointing the blame at Obama only; I say "US" as a whole. To the next several generations; I'm sorry.

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beatrice 3 years, 11 months ago

invictus, you have made it a couple days now. Hang in there.

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Flap Doodle 3 years, 11 months ago

"Few of his onetime supporters are likely to vote Republican..." You want to bet on that, bub?

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jafs 3 years, 11 months ago

Because they were so happy with the Republican party before?

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Centerville 3 years, 11 months ago

The writer seems baffled by this turn of events. If he really doesn't understand it yet, maybe he'll be 're-educated' on November 2. 58 days.

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cowboy 3 years, 11 months ago

one only need to look at the possible impact of a republican majority.....

Mr. Cheeks and Tan boy running the congress.....

Help

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cowboy 3 years, 11 months ago

whats the matter Tom , forget which profile you were on ?

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cato_the_elder 3 years, 11 months ago

Shribman again hits a home run in citing Roger Sherman's statement at the Constitutional Convention that the delegates settled on two-year House terms in order to ensure that elected Representatives would not "...acquire the habits of the (capital) which might differ from those of their constituents." In other words, the single most negative aspect of our national governance today has been an issue of serious concern since our Constitution was adopted. The old saw that "term limits are enforced at the ballot box" has been proven to be totally ineffective in preventing the type of abject corruption we have witnessed now for decades. Entrenched career politicians in both parties have far too much power, and the modern-day fact of their shameful acquisiton of personal wealth while in office is a national disgrace. Term limits need not be that radical: Four two-year House terms and two six-year Senate terms, and that's it. Anyone who has served one or more House terms could thereafter serve only one Senate term. This would mean a maximum of 14 years. Office holders must know that elected positions cannot become lifetime careers. Term limits will greatly increase the number of successful, capable citizens who will choose to run for public office for a limited time and for the right reasons, not to create personal wealth for themselves through lifetime careers at the public's expense. The time for term limits is now.

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scott3460 3 years, 11 months ago

I thought that strict interpretation of the Founder's intent was the appropriate constitutional methodology and, as stated, the intent (and action) of the Founders is quite clear.

Are you suggesting our Constitutional framework can be a living and breathing thing that adjusts to the needs of the day?

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cato_the_elder 3 years, 11 months ago

It's called amending the Constitution, dummy, which is provided for in the Constitution. Perhaps you didn't know that.

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FreshAirFanatic 3 years, 11 months ago

The author seems to automatically assume the tide will favor republicans in November. Unfortunately, modern day repubs are only slightly different than dems. It's the R and D version of progressive.

November will be anti-progressive.

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jafs 3 years, 11 months ago

Except that neither the R's or the D's are actually "progressive".

I think November will be generally anti-incumbent.

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scott3460 3 years, 11 months ago

I think November will be whatever Faux "News" and the multinationals want it to be.

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Richard Heckler 3 years, 11 months ago

A Voice of Economic Populism

Speaker: David Cay Johnston

David Cay Johnston believes if you're under 45, you're probably confused.

"And I always ask: What are the reasons we created this country?"

"The modal answer—the one given more often than any other is: So we can get rich."

We shouldn't be surprised that so many Americans have lost touch with the six basic purposes of government—society, justice, peace, security, commonwealth, and freedom—laid out in the preamble to the Constitution. "If you were born after 1962, all you have ever heard in your adult life is that the purpose of government is to make people rich." This idea has been embedded in the rhetoric of every president since Ronald Reagan; younger Americans believe it because that's all they've ever heard. As a nation, he says, we have failed them by not giving them a different, stronger message about the purpose of civic life.

"Politics is the method by which we divide scarce resources," said Johnston. He pointed out that all the capital investment Broward County made in the convention center, and all the investments the hotels made in land and buildings, are worthless until they hire employees to make it all run. "But we treat the people who do the work that makes the investment valuable like they're a cost—a bad thing. Since the late 1970s, we have been seeing rising returns to capital, and decreasing returns to labor"—in other words, the capital owners keeping more of the profit, rather than sharing it with the people who make their businesses go.

Using inflation-adjusted data gleaned from income tax returns—"the only form of reporting people attest to under penalty of perjury," notes Johnston—he showed a variety of charts and figures demonstrating the widening gap between the country's haves and have-nots. He cited income growth figures showing that the bottom 90% of Americans saw their annual income increase by $12,438 between 1950 and 1975, while the top 10% got a $45,609 increase. The rich do grow richer; but in the postwar years, they did it at a leisurely pace—the ratio between the two groups' gains is about one to four.

Contrast that with the era of Reagan—1981 through 2005, the last year figures are available. Over this same 24-year period, the bottom 90% lost an average of $7 per year in total income, while the top 10% saw an average income gain of $719,779 per year.

That's a 1:5,000 ratio. And it's indicative of a lot of inequity.

The upshot of this is that the upper 10% are capturing more of America 's wealth than at any time since the Depression. In another chart, Johnston showed that in 1973—the year income levels peaked for the bottom 90% of Americans—that group got two-thirds of the annual wealth pie, while the top 10% got the remaining one-third. By 2005, the bottom 90% were getting 51%, while the top 10% was getting 49% of the total wealth created.

http://www.uua.org/events/generalassembly/2008/commonthreads/115777.shtml

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Richard Heckler 3 years, 11 months ago

David Cay Johnston then boggled the crowd with a blunt assertion: "We pay billions of dollars in taxes that never get to the government." Much of the sales tax we pay at big box stores and shopping centers is diverted to the large companies that own the stores. It's just one of the many swindles these chains have learned to perpetrate against city and county governments. This is so effective that the Cabela family, which owns a chain of big-box sporting goods stores, receives 137% of its profits from taxpayer subsidies. If they couldn't work this scam, they wouldn't be in business at all.

The heart of the wealth transfer is tax increment financing (TIF). Store owners come to town leaders and offer to build a new store that, they promise, will "create jobs." In exchange, the city gives them the land, builds the store to their specifications, and finances it all with tax-free municipal bonds (which are usually held by associates of the store owners). To cap it all, the store keeps the sales tax generated in the store to pay off the bond holders. If the store is built on government land, it's also exempt from paying any property taxes.

Why do city governments take such a blatantly bad deal? Many of them are struggling, and believe that a new Wal-Mart will bring in shoppers from all over—shoppers who will stick around and shop in their town. It never works out that way. Under stiff competition the small shops go out of business, taking the town's tax base with them. Schools, parks, recreation programs, and libraries are starved. Almost always, these city councils would be far better served putting the money in upgrades to local Main Street businesses, rather than financing the competitor that will kill them.

Johnston also noted that as a result, the nation is losing mom-and-pop businesses that are often more efficient in real terms than the big box stores, which carry tremendous overhead in management and distribution. He suggested that audience members do an experiment: first, eat at a chain restaurant like TGIF—and then go the next night to a local family-owned place. Not only will you spend half as much in the family place—the people working there are probably making more money. That's what real efficiency looks like.

Other scams Johnston noted: http://www.uua.org/events/generalassembly/2008/commonthreads/115777.shtml

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Flap Doodle 3 years, 11 months ago

How many threads did you post this same drivel on today, merrill?

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scott3460 3 years, 11 months ago

Excellent reading material, Merrill, and why I stopped shopping at the mega stores years ago. It's my money and I'm happy to spend it with people I know and want to support.

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beatrice 3 years, 11 months ago

No politician should ever feel comfortable. If people aren't happy, then they will vote people out. If Republicans do take control of the House in November ... and that is still a very big IF ... it won't be because everyone is in love with the Republican agenda. They still score lower than Democrats as far as people having trust in them. The state of politics right now isn't anything to celebrate on either side. It is still our country we are talking about, not a sporting competition.

However, I'd rather be in a position to possibly lose the majority than not be in the majority at all and struggling to get there. If the Republicans don't take the House, then there will be some real crying come November.

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Richard Heckler 3 years, 11 months ago

We all should be able to agree it will take more than one or two summers to recover from...

What is important to note about the Reagan/Bush S&L scandal is that it was the largest theft in the history of the world and US tax payers are who was robbed.

The problems occurred in the Savings and Loan industry as they relate to theft because the industry was deregulated under the Reagan/Bush administration and restrictions were eased on the industry so much that abuse and misuse of funds became easy, rampant, and went unchecked.

And, yes, substantial fraud was involved in the Bush/Cheney Home Loan Scandal. For example, mortgage companies and banks used deceit to get people to take on mortgages when there was no possibility that the borrowers would be able to meet the payments. Not only was this fraud, but this fraud depended on government authorities ignoring their regulatory responsibilities.

All of the above sets the stage for "boom town economics" that which cannot be sustained and always crashes. Big job losses across the board are the net result in which history can cite examples such as the oil boom towns. Reagan/Bush and Bush/Cheney however went for the big prize aka the nations economy.

The New World Order Global Economy Reaganomics is truly unchecked laissez faire government that supports no checks and balances. Super inflation was also a result of the boom town economics which is a false economy.

The New World Order Global Economy Reaganomics simply shifted the USA job market abroad. Then the bank robbers stepped in twice to finish off the economy and the job market.

0

Richard Heckler 3 years, 11 months ago

We all should be able to agree it will take more than one or two summers to recover from...

What is important to note about the Reagan/Bush S&L scandal is that it was the largest theft in the history of the world and US tax payers are who was robbed.

The problems occurred in the Savings and Loan industry as they relate to theft because the industry was deregulated under the Reagan/Bush administration and restrictions were eased on the industry so much that abuse and misuse of funds became easy, rampant, and went unchecked.

And, yes, substantial fraud was involved in the Bush/Cheney Home Loan Scandal. For example, mortgage companies and banks used deceit to get people to take on mortgages when there was no possibility that the borrowers would be able to meet the payments. Not only was this fraud, but this fraud depended on government authorities ignoring their regulatory responsibilities.

All of the above sets the stage for "boom town economics" that which cannot be sustained and always crashes. Big job losses across the board are the net result in which history can cite examples such as the oil boom towns. Reagan/Bush and Bush/Cheney however went for the big prize aka the nations economy.

The New World Order Global Economy Reaganomics is truly unchecked laissez faire government that supports no checks and balances. Super inflation was also a result of the boom town economics which is a false economy.

The New World Order Global Economy Reaganomics simply shifted the USA job market abroad. Then the bank robbers stepped in twice to finish off the economy and the job market.

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commuter 3 years, 11 months ago

Merrill just loves cutting and pasting the same thing over and over again. I think he is obssessed with Reagan and Bush!!!!!

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jafs 3 years, 10 months ago

Given that we had 20 years of Bushes and Reagans in the White House, perhaps he thinks that 20 years had some significant impact on the country.

Do you disagree?

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Godot 3 years, 11 months ago

Natural allies of Obama: tax cheats (Geithner, Daschle, Rangel, to name a few); guys and dolls on the take, like Dodd, Frank, Waters, Murtha; self dealers, like Pelosi and Reid; race based groups like La Raza, NCAA, CAIR; leftist unions like NCAA; SEIU; UAW; NEA; and just plain America hating folk like Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro. These are the natural allies of Obama.

Saints. All of 'em. They all have the best interests of the middle Americans at heart. You know, the middle America to which Obama wants to "re-commit."

"Re-commit." sounds like "repeating a crime," doesn't it? Words have meaning . Elections have consequences.

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