Rant #12 MAKING A STAND
President Obama’s offer to negotiate on Republican demands that he keep Bush’s tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans is an early indication that post election Democrats will continue drifting rightward. But Democrats abandon their progressive roots at their own peril, as a close look at the exit polls and history shows.
National exit polls asked voters whom they blamed for the financial crisis: 35 percent said Wall Street bankers, 29 percent former president George W. Bush and only 23 percent said President Obama. But of the 35 percent who identified bankers as the guilt party, a majority (56 percent) voted for Republican members of Congress! This is an historic reversal for the hapless Democrats who are now seen as defenders of plutocrats.
Obama could learn a lesson from the embattled Harry Truman who came out swinging after losing both chambers to the G.O.P. in the 1946 midterm election. He dared the Republicans to enact their reactionary agenda of ripping apart the New Deal safety net. Two years later against all odds Truman won the presidency. His biographer David McCullough writes this was because “there was something in the American character that responded to a fighter.”
Obama will prevail in 2012 only if he is ferocious in setting a bold progressive course.
For further information on Obama’s prospects and a post-mortem on loses by Congressional Democrats, see the November 3 interview with Harold Meyerson at http://www.jonwiener.com and Frank Rich’s November 7 opinion piece at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/07/opinion/07rich.html.