Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Bleak Outlook


On Twitter, Matt Stoller recently claimed that Democrats need to come to grips with the reality that Barack Obama was a "badPresident."  An interesting exchange eventually developed:

In a modern version of realpolitik, Dean Steitz seems to say "sure, he was a severely flawed President but Democrats love him." 

Admittedly, with the popularity of former President Obama higher among Democrats than even the popularity of former President GW Bush among Republicans, a Democratic aspirant cannot complain about the first black President because.... well, if I continued I'd merely be redundant.

Others have explained some of the failures of the Obama Administration, among them: a weak recovery from the Great Recession while infrastructure reform was ignored in the stimulus package; promiscuous use of the Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers; absence of a public option in the Affordable Care Act, coupled with a severe rise in insurance rates; American forces bogged down in war in the Middle East (with American bombs raining down on Yemen).

Stoller, who has emphasized operation of the financial system, faults the 44th President because his Administration "let big bank executives off the hook for their role in the crisis," "encouraged foreclosures through "explicit" policy of the Treasury Department, and presided over "a record wave of mergers and acquisitions." 

 Voters were aware of the landscape.  Reuters reported that in a nationwide Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted on Election Day 2016 of 10,064 individuals who had already voted (with an incomplete tally of responses)

- 75 percent agree that “America needs a strong leader to take the country back from the rich and powerful.”

- 72 percent agree “the American economy is rigged to advantage the rich and powerful.”

- 68 percent agree that “traditional parties and politicians don’t care about people like me.”

- 76 percent believe “the mainstream media is more interested in making money than telling the truth.”

- 57 percent feel that “more and more, I don’t identify with what America has become.”

- 54 percent feel “it is increasingly hard for someone like me to get ahead in America.”

In a variation of the classic "right track, wrong track" survey, Gallup in the days before the 2016 election asked "In general, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time?" While 37% were satisfied, 62% were dissatisfied. Surprise! Donald Trump was elected (albeit aided by racial and gender bias).

In the 2019-2020 primary season, while most Democrats will imply that all the ills of the nation arose during the previous 3-4 years, most if not all will strategically avoid criticizing the Obama Administration.

They will not, as we already can see, avoid criticizing any and all actions by Democratic presidents. It will be politically safe and personally validating to slam selected acts by previous Democratic Administrations. Thus, we have a journalist skilled at critiquing the financial services industry tweeting


The "Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994" (though it will not be referred to with its name) will be slammed indirectly and directly throughout the campaign. Largely renounced by its creator (President Clinton), it was enacted- under very different circumstances than prevail today- a quarter century ago, and is viewed as injurious to the most important segment of the party's base.

Condemnation of the law is low-hanging fruit, not to be defended by the nation's liberal-left party (whose members would imply racism on the part of any supporter) nor by Republicans.

A general election run against a President Trump or a President Pence might feature an incumbent party unable to escape revelations of criminal conduct and favoritism toward Russia or an economy plagued by recession. If not, however, the Democratic nominee will be confronted by voters who understand that the rich and powerful benefit at their expense, that the plague of drug addiction is dragging the nation down, life expectancy is not rising as they had been lectured it always would, natural disasters are posing an ever-greater threat, and workers are stuck in a gig economy in which they are devalued.  Prospects for a job which would sustain a middle-class life for the children of voters, themselves voters, are not improving.





Among the lessons the Democratic Party should have learned from the 2016 presidential and congressional elections was that no amount of support for immigrants and the rights of gender, sexual, or ethnic minorities can fully compensate for the discomfort and fear among voters. Nor can the crowing about the number of its members of Congress who are women, "of color," or Muslim.

Americans realize that history has not ended, that the upward trajectory of American life no longer prevails. This was the fertile ground upon which candidate Trump planted the gross exaggeration that the previous eight years had featured "possibly the worst president ever." The Democrat who wins the nomination will have to respond to widespread dissatisfaction by pivoting to a recognition that those years did not produce the paradise the party's politicians and officials seem to believe it did.




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