Democrat polling woes begin with the flawed notion of electoral salvation through health care reform. It was the Democrats’ false belief that failing to reform health care in the early 1990s is the reason why Republicans swept Democrats out of office in 1994. However, polling has shown the opposite. While most voters want health care reform, they do not approve of the manner in which it was handled. Voters did not approve of the reform that did take place — which was short on market-oriented fixes and long on government heavy-handedness. While polling was favorable in some instances for reform overall, Democrats ignored the fact that most people, some 70-percent, were happy with their present health insurance.
Yet, all of the same complaints remain: The two years spent on passing the legislation has doomed Democrats, while the economy has failed to recover. The Obama stimulus package came on the heels of an already unpopular TARP bailout by Bush. With spending at record levels, confidence in the American economy has fallen. Obama’s promises of unemployment staying below 8-percent are long and distant memories. Unemployment has hovered near 10 for over a year, and much higher in struggling industrial states where Democrats made major gains the last two elections.
To counter their own failures, Democrats are attempting to remind voters of who they replaced, namely Bush, who they say sank the economy by kowtowing to corporate-Wall Street interests. A dubious connection to make, given the dirty hands of those like Charles Rangel, Maxine Waters, Chris Dodd and federal institutions like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
There are numerous problems with this strategy. The statute of limitations on blaming the White House predecessor has long-since passed. The open condemnation of Bush by Obama, in press conference after press conference, fell strikingly flat. It was also unprecedented. New presidents take responsibility for the present condition of the country they govern, but this was lost on Obama and hasn’t reflected well upon him. It ran opposite of the hope-and-change feel-good rhetoric the Obama campaign was founded on. Despite this, the administration is set on picking fights with the old administration, as well as dissenters in the media such as Jim Cramer, Rush Limbaugh and others.
This strategy has been a failure for many reasons. Republicans such as McConnell or Boehner have little public recognition outside of Washington or circles where partisan minds are already made. Turning its focus to Bush hasn’t work, but the party with an unpopular agenda is finding it has little choice.
With such an untenable position, no wonder Democrats are lashing out with groups using expletive-laden names and dubious agendas. And it’s no wonder why voters are lashing out. In the months leading into the 2010 midterms, Democrats have showed they aren’t capable of a serious campaign, let alone serious government.
B.J. Bethel is a journalist based in the Midwest and writes about politics, sports and film.
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