Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Few Impressed

Back in June, Rachel Maddow rattled off President Obama's legislative achievements and prononounced them "a big freaking deal" (video below). Although she acknowledged cause for some disappointment in Obama 44, it appeared, as this blogger noted, "like somebody put the arm on her and she's now in the stable."

Running down the legislative victories of almost any president during his first term will make it appear not only that he's a winner, but that the administration has been a huge success. However, Robert Reich, though an Obama supporter, observes:

A stimulus too small to significantly reduce unemployment, a TARP that didn't trickle down to Main Street, financial reform that doesn't fundamentally restructure Wall Street, and health-care reforms that don't promise to bring down health-care costs have all created an enthusiasm gap. They've fired up the right, demoralized the left, and generated unease among the general population.

This leaves the Democrats in a difficult position. They have to prove a negative proposition—that although these initiatives cost lots of money or require many new regulations, conditions would be or will be a lot worse without them.

President Obama has initiated half-way measures that change little while ramping up opposition and the enthusiasm of the Republican base, leaving, as Reich notes, "the Democrats in a difficult position." Opposition to Obama- and yes, that is more so opposition to Obama than to his policies, whatever they are- is building toward November, toward the day when Republican and many independent voters will express their hostility toward this president. That, obviously, will manifest itself in a vote against other Democrats, while liberal/progressive voters are unenthused.

Reich's article was written before this harbinger in a slightly right-of-center, but largely bellwether, state, in which CNN reports:

More than 70 percent of Missouri primary voters Tuesday cast ballots in favor of Proposition C. The measure would allow state residents to opt out of mandatory health insurance, a key part of the new health care reform law, which was pushed by President Obama and Congressional Democrats. The proposition prohibits the federal government from requiring people to have health insurance or penalizing them for not having such insurance.,,,

"Ultimately the courts are going to have to decide about states rights and federal authority when it comes to the Obama health care law. For now this is no more than another Republican talking point to use to energize voters for November and to try to keep the Democrats on the defensive," says Stuart Rothenberg, editor and publisher of the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report.

Compromise, then compromise some more, then compromise some more with Republicans (unsuccessfully) and Blue Dog Democrats (successfully) and secure passage of a health care plan which will deliver to private insurance companies 30+ million more customers with no public competition. Most Democrats were not fooled into euphoria while most Republicans seem to believe the law presages the end of the world or, worse yet, socialism. The obsession with placing a "W" (not Bush) in the win column, with legislation meaningful or otherwise was repeated recently with

The recently enacted financial regulatory legislation (which) offers another example. Although the legislation has riled Wall Street and fueled Republican opposition, it lacks many of the large-scale changes reformers were seeking. For example, it neither limits the size of big banks nor explicitly ties banker compensation to long-term performance. And despite Paul Volcker's entreaties, many risky trades will continue to be subsidized by protections the government accords to commercial banking. In short, the financial reforms do not rule out more bank bailouts down the road—a specter critics are already exploiting.

Enactment of relatively feeble financial reform legislation is unlikely to convince many Americans of the Democratic Party's commitment to economic justice and, as Taylor Marsh blogged earlier today about health care:

Whether the vote last night ends up meaning anything or not, it is a real shot in the arm to Tea Party Republicans for the midterms, while not doing much for the enthusiasm gap that’s been widening for months.

The mandate without a public option was always a loser. Missouri just confirmed it in case anyone’s still doubting, with discovery on the Virginia lawsuit certainly to be interesting to watch.

The incremental, yet defeatist, approach to governing mapped out by Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel may, perversely, assist Barack Obama in his re-election bid in 2012. In the meantime, behold its destructive impact on his party.

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