Saturday, December 22, 2012

Neither Democrat Nor Republican But An Obama

Barack Obama won re-election by 3.7% (outside of the margin of error in most national presidential polls), snaring 332 electoral votes to Mitt Romneys 206.   While the GOP maintained control of the House- due solely to gerrymandering by Repub-controlled state legislatures- Think Progress notes "Based on current tallies,Democrats now lead Republicans 59,343,447 to 58,178,393 in total votes cast for their House candidates — meaning that the American people preferred Democrats over Republicans by nearly a full percentage point of the total vote."

The results of Senate elections were even more lopsided and impressive.   The Democratic Party had to defend 23 seats, Republicans only 10, in the 33 contests.   A year ago, one might not have been able to get odds on Democrats picking up two seats in the U.S. Senate; it might have been, as gamblers put it, "off the board."  It was considered likely the GOP would gain undisputed control of the chamber with 51 votes and very likely would snatch the 51 seats necessary for the majority it would need if the Democratic president were to be re-elected.  Yet, the Democratic Party picked up two seats, ending up with 55.

Now it is approximately six weeks since Election Day and President Obama addresses the nation after the Repub caucus rejected "Plan B."  He maintains

In 10 days, under current law, tax rates are scheduled to rise on most Americans.  And even though Democrats and Republicans are arguing about whether those rates should go up for the wealthiest individuals, all of us -- every single one of us -- agrees that tax rates shouldn't go up for the other 98 percent of Americans, which includes 97 percent of small businesses. Every member of Congress believes that.

A few moments later, he would add "Averting this middle-class tax hike is not a Democratic responsibility or a Republican responsibility.  With their votes, the American people have determined that governing is a shared responsibility between both parties."

With their votes, the American people did nothing of the sort, instead declaring the Republican agenda too extreme.  In contrast, when Democrats got creamed in the 2010 off-year elections, President Obama rushed to label it a "shellacking.   Now that Republicans have been rejected, Americans have politely asked that everyone work together, and they all want the same thing.  Sure they do.

Nancy Pelosi has been trying to get the House GOP leadership to sign a discharge petition so that extending the tax cuts on middle-class incomes, approved months ago by the Democratic Senate, can receive a vote in the lower chamber. Thus far, though, Republicans have refused to go along, preferring that taxes on all incomes rise in the new year.    On Thursday, Speaker Boehner pulled his bill to allow taxes to rise (only) on incomes above $1 million because it was clear he did not have majority support in his caucus. Given a chance to give a break for all- taxes would fall on the first $1 million for everyone, wealthy or not- most Republicans were ready to say "nyet."   If taxes have to go up for millionaires, they must go up for everyone.

"Every single one us agrees" that tax rates shouldn't go up for "the other 98 percent of Americans," President Obama asserts.  Republicans and Democrats (except himself, of course) all agree.  They're all the same, equally to blame in Barack Obama's evaluation.   Democrats finally can undermine the image of the GOP as the agent of middle-class tax cuts and enhance their own reputation as the protector of social insurance, defenders of Medicare and Social Security. by drawing useful distinctions between the ideologies and values represented by the two parties.  Instead, Barack Obama says "There's a mismatch right now between how everybody else is thinking about these problems-- Democrats and Republicans outside of this town -- and how folks are operating here. "

President Obama put on the table cuts to Social Security and Medicare in his quest for the "grand bargain" with Speaker Boehner which eventually fell apart.  He took $716 billion out of the Medicare program (not in direct benefits) to help fund the Affordable Care Act and was attacked by presidential candidate Mitt Romney, despite his running mate's inclusion of it in his own budget.  Now the President is proposing chained CPI in order to reduce Social Security benefits.   Barack Obama has run his last race, but not so other Democrats, who will have to suffer the consequences of a President whose policies and rhetoric seem designed to sink what is ostensibly his own Party.

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