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It is astonishing how many Democrats in the past three months have been making the worst case scenario for their prospects in the November mid-term Congressional elections. Do they believe that the most craven Republican Party in history needs their help in such a self-fulfilling prophecy?
The arguments that the Democratic pundits, along with some elected lawmakers, are giving focus on the slowing of the recessionary economy and the “natural giveback” to the Republicans of the hitherto safe seats that they lost to the Democrats in 2008.
The mass media-exaggerated aura of the Tea Party, pumped by Limbaugh, Hannity and the histrionic Glenn Beck, has put the Democrats in a defensive posture. It is giving the puzzled Republicans an offensive image. I say puzzled because they can’t figure out the many disparate strands of the Tea Party eruption which includes turning on the Republicans and George W. Bush for launching this epidemic of deficits, debt, bailouts and unconstitutional military adventures.
Being on the defensive politically becomes a nightmarish self-replicating wave among that 10 percent slice of swing voters who can make the difference between a big win or a big loss. These are also the non-hereditary party voters whose philosophy is to “throw the bums out” again and again until they get the message.
Gallup’s most recent poll predicted the Republicans taking the House of Representatives. While political scientist, Larry Sabato, with a 98% predictive accuracy in Congressional races over ten years, sees the House gone and the Senate as a toss-up. But it is still early.
The Democratic Party’s problems are much deeper than the Sunday talk shows indicate. First the Democrats do not have a progressive political philosophy. They could learn from a four time winner—Franklin Delano Roosevelt—when it comes to being perceived as the working families friend.
One has only to listen to the debates on C-Span between Democrats and Republicans running for Congress or the Governorships. Too often, apart from a Libertarian or Green in the mix, there are very few bright lines or contrasts between the Republicans and Democrats, however much they try to magnify personal differences. Indeed, the freshman Blue Dog Democrats, who won in 2008, go out of their way to criticize their Congressional leaders and President Obama, with the full encouragement of the national Democratic Leaders. The latter stayed away from the hustings during the long Congressional recess. The Democrats lost August to the Republicans and the right-wing radio and cable yahoos who speak of the stimulus, the health care law and the proposed restoration of Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy as “job-killing agendas” and a disaster “for families and small businesses.” Such Republican false statements fill the Congressional Record.
What keeps the Democrats from making their case? Is it their desire to keep raising big money from big business at the cost of muzzling a far more effective political message than their post-Labor Day offerings of more small business tax cuts and a ten year $100 billion tax credit for corporate research and development?
Do they believe those two actions are vote-getters or balm for getting more campaign money from business? Indeed, the tax credit mainly goes to super-profitable computer companies (Cisco, Intel, Microsoft) and big drug companies that already have outsourced their production to China and India.
And small business, which is receiving eight tax cuts under Obama, is waiting for consumer spending to increase. President Obama should fulfill his campaign pledge in 2008 to raise the federal minimum wage to $9.50 per hour by 2011, which would increase that buying power. Even that increase, while worthwhile, still wouldn’t equal the minimum wage of 1968, adjusted for inflation.
The Democrats might listen to some of the articulate callers to C-SPAN radio or WPFW in Washington, D.C. to catch the powerful vernacular of protest. One caller succinctly made the case for policies, including using the tax code, to encourage companies to bring back industry and outsourced jobs that were shipped to China and other repressive or low-wage countries, with Washington’s help no less.
People are really upset about where corporate globalization, one-sided trade treaties, and costly foreign wars have taken our country. Working Americans who have lost their jobs can stay at home in November and cost the Democrats elections as they did in 2004. Voters look for politicians who take a stand, who know who they are and can show they side with the people, not global companies that have no allegiance to the country that bred, subsidized and defended them.
How did Reagan, even as a big business apologist, hold the 54 GOP Senate seats and only lose 26 House seats in the mid-term election of 1982? Reagan was, in the words of Jim Kessler, “facing 10.8 percent unemployment, 6 percent inflation, a declining GDP, an approval rating barely above freezing and the indignity of having drastically increased the budget deficit over the previous year after running as a fiscal hawk.” Maybe it is because enough voters saw the “Gipper” as knowing what he stood for and showing steadfastness and better times coming soon, in comparison to the wavering, concessionary posture of the then-majority Democrats in the Congress.
RALPH NADER is the author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!, a novel.