Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Truth Hurts

"Theoretical physics can prove an elephant can hang from a cliff with his tail tied to a daisy. But use your eyes, your common sense."

Kevin Costner
JFK (1991)

I know there are Democrats — many of them, in fact — who believe, all evidence to the contrary, that "The One" can do no wrong. Anyone who has the audacity to suggest otherwise must be racist.


Perhaps they will pay attention to the words of Newsweek's Eleanor Clift.

Regular readers of my blog may remember that I referred to Clift in a post last summer. At the time, I pointed out that she is one of those folks in the media who are on Obama's side — "She leans so far to the left," I wrote last July, "that, during the Clinton administration, she was nicknamed 'Eleanor Rodham Clifton.' "

So the usual manipulation that Democrats use to distract and deflect isn't effective when it is used against Clift — even though she has advice for Republicans based on the Obama experience.

She labels it a cautionary tale.

"The election that swept Barack Obama into the White House wasn't about health care," she writes, "even though it seemed that way to a lot of Democrats still smarting over President Clinton's failed effort 16 years earlier. Obama was elected because of the collapsing economy and his opposition to the war in Iraq. And his focus on health–care reform after the election was interpreted by voters as inattention to their paramount concerns: jobs and the economy."

Some people will argue that Obama has not been inattentive, that there have been too many issues to deal with. But most voters, as Clift understands, are not policy wonks. Most voters don't really pay any attention to most of the details of governing. Most voters are interested only in the big picture, the bottom line.

And here's the bottom line on the Obama presidency, in Clift's words: "The White House didn't do enough to connect the dots between health–care reform and economic security, and the Republicans filled in the blanks by frightening voters about the real and imagined impact of a changed system engineered by one–party control in Washington."

Wouldn't you like to think somebody learned the right lesson in the last year? Obama, as Clift observes, didn't learn the right lesson from the election in 2008 — and, apparently, the Republicans didn't learn the right lesson from the experience of 2009.

"[T]he GOP is on track to make big gains in November," she writes, "and they are likely to interpret those gains as affirmation for a strategy that is narrowing the party's appeal and offering no new ideas."

The reality may not be what the voters think it is, but, for many of them, perception is reality. And therein lies the key, I think, to a riddle that, inexplicably, bewilders Democrats whose stock answer to questions about the economy and unemployment is ... "It was Bush's fault."

Democrats, particularly those who feel they are well informed because they follow policy developments so closely, may think that Obama has been actively promoting job creation, but that contradicts what most voters see.

And many voters haven't liked what they've been seeing. Consequently, Obama's approval numbers have declined dramatically — from the stratospherically (and, by definition, unsustainable) high numbers of a year ago to the perilous mid–40s range in February 2010. Newsweek, for example, recently reported that Obama's approval rating has fallen to 43%.

I hate to state the obvious to Democrats who are so well informed, but somebody has to. If they don't want to listen to it, that is their option. But the truth, while painful, is good to know, especially at a time when there is so much pain in America.

And here's some truth for you. The price of health care insurance is way down the list of priorities for unemployed Americans, especially those whose unemployment benefits have run out. They're more concerned about keeping a roof over their heads and putting clothes on their bodies and food in their stomachs.

But back to that "cautionary tale" I mentioned earlier.

"Republicans fault Obama and the Democrats for legislating like they had a bigger mandate than they did," Clift writes, "and now Democrats are paying the price for overreaching."

But the Republicans have an "absence of ideas," Clift says. "You can't claim a mandate if you don't have a platform. If the GOP won control of Congress tomorrow, all they could claim they were elected to do is not pass health'care reform."

Seems to me both parties have things they need to learn between now and Election Day.

1 comment:

Polimom said...

"Seems to me both parties have things they need to learn between now and Election Day."

I think you're right. I also doubt that either party will "get it".