These days, the Obama administration can’t get anything right.
It failed to adopt an effective strategy with respect to health care reform, and instead forwarded a policy of compromise that forced President Barack Obama to make repeated concessions while allowing the Republican minority to frame the health care debate. It, in the words of Vice President Joe Biden, “guessed wrong” regarding the longevity and severity of our current economic downturn, predicting much rosier unemployment rates than actually occurred. Then its promise to begin a phased withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan was replaced by a politically sour surge of troops in Afghanistan. Its pledge to end the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy has been abandoned — at least for the time being. What happened to the hope and change we were promised?
I understand it has only been a year since Obama assumed office, but it’s clear that the Obama team has had trouble transforming an energized and relatively flawless campaign model into a policymaking model. No wonder morale among Democrats has plummeted. Republican Scott Brown’s surprising win in the Massachusetts U.S. Senate race last week perfectly encapsulates and foreshadows a growing problem of Democratic malaise. If a state where only 12 percent of registered voters identify themselves as Republicans elected a conservative to replace the late Edward Kennedy, famously known as the “liberal lion of the Senate,” the Democrats should know they’re in trouble.
In short, despite the left’s claims, Obama and the Democrats’ performance has been less than satisfying. In such disappointing times, the temptation is to stab the Democrats in the back and elect some good-lookin’, truck-drivin’, tax-cuttin’, gun-ownin’ Republicans like Brown.
The problem with such a strategy: Republicans have largely been worse than the Democrats.
Let’s remember that for the vast majority of George W. Bush’s dreadful tenure in the White House, Congressional Republicans were more than happy to rubber-stamp his proposals. Let’s not forget that the economic recession was in large part caused by a relaxation of financial regulation, a cause championed by the Right. And let’s keep in mind that a majority of Republicans still denies that climate change is occurring. Or consider their eagerness to kill health care reform without making any concrete alternative proposals. And, while we’re at this depressing exercise, let’s recall all the moronic statements Sarah Palin made — such as referring to Africa as a country — even as she is lauded as a potential savior of the Republican party.
All this would be irrelevant if the Republicans showed any sign of repentance, but they seem more defiant now than ever before, uniting against any Democratic efforts at reform. And the consequences of placing yourself on the opposite end of change amount to indirectly promoting the status quo fostered under the Bush administration. Indeed, despite the criticisms of the Bush years, the Republicans seem determined to re-institute the Bush era under the guise of opposition to Obama’s supposedly “socialist” agenda. When I think about the Republican platform for the 2010 midterm elections, I’m left to borrow from the rhetoric of their beloved late President Ronald Reagan: “There you go again!”
Let me relate the current situation to the case of my home country of Italy. The current Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, is considered by many to be an undignified and corrupt politician with the added benefit of being the laughingstock of the international community. So why do Italians keep electing him? Because the left — mostly composed of communist politicians who conveniently became champions of democracy after the fall of the Soviet Union — isn’t any better. Just because the ruling party is less than satisfying is no reason to shoot yourself in the foot and support the opposition in backlash against the Democrats and without any consideration of the Republican platform — or lack thereof.
Looking forward to the midterm elections later this year, I think it’s likely that the Democratic majority in Congress will evaporate. No doubt, the Democrats will largely have themselves to blame for the losses. But I ask you to consider if Democratic underperformance is any reason to reward the Republican Party — a party that lately has had no ideas except bad ideas.
Gloomy times call for gloomy measures. Sometimes the least worst option is the best option. It’s time to hold your nose and give the Democrats a second chance.
Tommaso Pavone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.