“The public is a savage animal when you disturb its deeper beliefs and awaken its fears. There is no purpose whatever in trying to reason with it, explain what you can do and what you cannot, tell them how difficult it is. All they want is results. They do not care how you obtain them. They don’t want to know the details or the costs.” – Farrier’s Lane, Anne Perry, 1993.
“I’m all for idealism, but only to a point, When it becomes divorced from reality, it ceases to be any use and becomes an incumbrance.” – Traitor’s Gate, Anne Perry, 1995
I believe these two quotes. I am a realist, who at times, I’m sure, has pissed off the idealists in my Party.
I am watching the pre-election polls and am often met with the mantra, “I don’t pay attention to polls.” Well, why not? They check the political pulse of the nation, and right now the pulse of the Democratic Party is pretty weak.
Three days ago, I read an assessment of all the important races across the U.S., written by Mark Preston, CNN’s senior political editor. Its doomsday headline: “Democrats prepare for the worst.” Whether his predicted looming Democratic defeat is a media-generated reality will soon become clear.
This morning in a semi-serendipity moment I stumbled across an analysis on the liberal Reader Supported News, written by POLITICO’s chief political columnist, Roger Simon. Its title, “Obama vs. the loonies” caught my eye. Is this really what it’s come down to in one of the most important mid-term elections facing our country?
As a realist I agree with Mr. Simon’s analysis of “what went wrong?” if the Republicans once more gain control of the House and possibly the Senate.
Stay with it.
Obama vs. the loonies
By: Roger Simon, POLITICO
October 19, 2010
First fix the problem, and then fix the blame. So say the Japanese. But you know what? This ain’t Japan.
We play the blame game here, and we play it early and often. It is now generally recognized that two weeks from now, Democrats will suffer a disaster at the polls.
I know no member of Team Obama who truly believes Democrats will hold onto the House of Representatives. The only question is whether the defeat will be moderate and manageable or a calamity of biblical proportions.
So far, the smart money is on biblical. But why? Upon whom do we fix the blame?
There is President Barack Obama, of course. While his name will not be on the ballot, it is on everybody’s lips. He should have done more and better things in his first two years, Democrats say. Or at least he should have sold his accomplishments better.
The president does not entirely disagree. He told Peter Baker of The New York Times that it is not enough to do good things for the country; you also “can’t be neglecting ... marketing and PR and public opinion.”
He knew he was going to have trouble with this. Everyone close to him knew he was going to have trouble. I have described it before. In February 2007, about a week before he announced for the presidency, he attended a “cattle call” in a suburban hotel outside Washington for potential Democratic candidates. The room was packed to bursting with pols and press, and those locked out by the fire marshal pounded on the doors. Back then, Democrats had the enthusiasm and Republicans had the gap.
When Obama’s turn to speak came, he looked out at the room and said: “You know, if you look at all the cameras gathered around and the clicking of the photographers, the pundits who are collected, sometimes you feel like you are part of a reality TV show. I feel like this is ‘American Idol’ or ‘Survivor,’ and you’ve got to figure out if you’re going to go to Hollywood or you’re going to be voted off the island. But that’s not why I’m here.”
He has not changed. He has little patience with the “inevitable theatrics of Washington,” says Valerie Jarrett, his senior adviser.
But theatrics are how a president sells himself and his policies, and if he fails to master those theatrics, or finds those theatrics too demeaning, then he and his party really will be voted off the island. And quickly.
The issue is not just how Obama has stage-managed his achievements, however. Some in his party’s left wing have abandoned him because he would not fight for the public health care option and has not closed Guantanamo Bay.
And then there are the mainstream Democrats who are merely weary. Velma Hart, a solid, middle-class Democratic voter, stood up at a town hall in September and said she was “exhausted” by defending Obama and his administration. A few weeks later, Gov. Ed Rendell, Democrat of Pennsylvania, said, “A tepid vote counts the same as a wildly enthusiastic vote.” Which is true, but it is a whole lot easier to get a wildly enthusiastic voter than a tepid voter to the polling place.
But even if Obama had pleased his entire party, that still would have left Republicans, the tea partiers and the wackos.
How can one blame Obama for the shocking numbers of people who erroneously believe he is a Muslim or was not born in the United States or is a socialist-communist-fascist (take your pick or take all three)?
Nobody in the White House, including Obama, expected the degree of sheer hatred that has been directed against him. They knew Obama’s approval ratings would fall — how could they not when, in his first 100 days in office, he hit 69 percent, the highest approval rating for any president at that point in 20 years?
But tensions, fears and suspicions bubbled just beneath the surface. Certain facts had been overlooked in the wave of pride and good feeling that followed Obama’s election. While Obama had won the popular vote by a solid 7 percentage points, he had lost the white vote by a landslide, 12 percentage points. And when he made a world tour, in which his messianic image got amplified and his halo got polished by huge and adoring crowds, the clouds back home began to gather.
He cannot be blamed for the demons who demonize him. In a fine story by Sandhya Somashekhar in The Washington Post on Sunday, under the headline “Hope Isn’t What It Used to Be,” a little doozy appeared in the 25th paragraph about how a volunteer was manning the Democratic Party table at the Arkansas State Fair “when a man walks over wearing a green T-shirt that says, ‘Either he dies, or the country dies.’”
Either he dies, or the country dies? Do we really live in a country where a man would go out on the street wearing such a thing? If I had seen it, I think I would have called the Secret Service. (I Googled the phrase to see if I could find the manufacturer of the T-shirt, but I found no hits. Does the person print them up in a basement?)
If Democrats get swamped on Nov. 2, sure, some of it will be the fault of the enthusiasm gap and some of it will be the fault of the president, but some of it will be the fault of those loonies who have crept into American politics like bedbugs and grown bloated on their own hatreds.
If this worst case scenario become reality, can we really blame it on the loonies, or is it not more realistic to blame it on those voters - or non-voters - who do not choose to inform themselves of what’s happening right under their noses? I suspect the latter.