Banking on Crazy, Ignoring the Middle Class
by Jason Williams, Wed Feb 16, 2011 at 05:38:13 PM EST
Two items from TAPPED paint a clear picture of the collision of 2010 electoral losses for Democrats at large and the lack of clear progressive policy.
First, Jacob Hacker on the "middle class" as more than an income category, and how it's been left behind:
Americans are skeptical because government hasn't delivered. The great social-policy breakthrough of 2010, health reform, falls far short of a long-term vision for rebuilding the middle class. Emergency actions such as the stimulus package and bank bailout sought to stabilize the economy without challenging its imbalances. The recently enacted tax-cut deal means two more years of huge tax cuts for the richest. In return, the middle class received grudging extensions of unemployment insurance and a partial payroll tax holiday that will create few good jobs. While Americans say that their highest priority is to restart the economy and their most cherished programs are Social Security and Medicare, political leaders from the center and the right are embracing a deficit-reduction agenda that will threaten those two programs and preclude serious investment in the middle class to restore broadly shared prosperity.
Second, E.J. Dionne on combined 2010 exit polling:
Republicans won control of the House of Representatives because many voters who didn't really like the GOP voted for its candidates anyway. According to the major TV networks' combined exit poll, 52 percent of November voters had an unfavorable view of the Republican Party, yet 23 percent of this group voted for Republican House candidates. These are the quintessential disaffected voters, and they may be the key swing voters of 2012.
Taken together, these numbers point to a country as much dispirited as angry. True, anger on the right drove conservative turnout to very high levels. But in core Democratic constituencies and in the middle of the electorate, disappointment more than rage drove decisions, including the one to stay home.
To the extent that a "pulse" can be gleamed from exit polling, the picture painted is as clear enough to demand a rethink we're not likely to see from this administration, or Senate leadership. Obama's budget reads as political positioning against the predictable extreme's of a Republican Party caught between the juggernaut of irrational they created in the 2010 campaigns.
Boehner and McConnell thought they had an understanding with the incoming freshman that had long been a staple of GOP electoral strategies: Say what you have to to win, but let's not get all crazy up in here once the name plates are on the office doors. The tea party newbies, though, actually believe their campaign promises make for good policy in the midst of catastrophic unemployment numbers and intend to vote accordingly. Obama's budget indicates a continuation of "I'm not that team!" moderation that may play well if the hysterics continue in the Republican Party, but is not nearly enough to stop the Democratic Party from repeating history, and driving independents -- long-term -- into the arms of the GOP.
Should a fresh-faced moderate challenger emerge on the right? Different story. A disenfranchised middle-class may see a vulnerable incumbent without a distinct definition of what team he is on losing control of the debate.
Obama is banking on crazy, and let's be realistic, when Donald Trump is thinking "this is my chance," odds are he'll get it. Meanwhile, the middle class is still looking for their FDR, even if they aren't articulating it.