Typically I would take with a grain of salt the consensus analysis of the midterm elections: that the voters repudiated President Obama. But it’s hard to come to any different conclusion when you dig into statewide and local initiatives, which show a landslide for social and economic progressives. From medical marijuana to gun control to higher minimum hourly wages, the left side of the issue won most of the votes.
Thus many people in a sense “split the ticket” by voting with Democrats on particular issues but against the President.
Obama has certainly had a bad year, some of it of his own making. Saying that the Administration had no plan to combat ISIS was a big PR mistake—a Romneyesque (Romneytic?) moment from which he never recovered. He should have just shut up until he had a plan. Not having a plan is how we roll. In the 21st century: not having a plan didn’t stop the United States in Iraq or in Afghanistan. Most Americans don’t realize yet that U.S. foreign and military policy is going to be the same no matter who is president—we’re going to keep having these small wars so we can keep paying the defense contractors. No one who isn’t with that program will ever have a chance to become president, given the current structure of both parties and the election finance laws.
But the head of the Center for Disease Control had no business apologizing because one hospital in Texas screwed up treating an Ebola patient. What did he hope to gain, unless he is a secret Republican who wanted to throw more gas on the editorial flames? The CDC and all health institutions have been doing a wonderful job keeping Ebola out of the population. The news media keeps us scared, but the government health agencies have kept us healthy. So why apologize?
I’m not saying Obama has been a great president, but he doesn’t deserve the disapprobation he received in the news media and among politicians before the election, and I don’t think he would have gotten it if he were white. Over the years in Pittsburgh I watched several African-Americans do average work in highly visible jobs and get fired after replacing whites who had done average jobs for decades. The most egregious case was the Pittsburgh Board of Education who fired an African-American superintendent for his plan to downsize the schools and then praised his successor—a white—for taking the same plan and implementing it. I have to think that the same standard applies in many if not most regions across the country.
It wasn’t just an insidious kind of racism that swung the mid-term elections to the Republicans: most of the key races were close, and in many states such as Wisconsin there were new laws restricting the right to vote. Even where court decisions had stopped enforcement of these laws, the publicity must have discouraged many citizens from voting.
Let’s also not forget the power of money. Large corporate interests and the Republican Party hammered voters for weeks with anti-Obama nonsense. ISIS and Ebola. Ebola and ISIS. You saw it in rightwing news coverage. You saw it in political ads. You saw it reported as part of the centrist balance of mainstream news media. Ebola and ISIS.
What’s next has been a subject of great speculation in the mainstream news media. Everyone seems to be rooting for a true coming together of the President and the Republicans, but it’s what I fear the most. The President has shown himself ready to capitulate just to get a deal. I could see him go for Social Security reform that cuts benefits, raises the retirement age and allows people to privatize their Social Security investment, while not lifting the cap on the income that’s assessed the Social Security tax. I could also see him agreeing to a deal that lowered corporate taxes and cut more social welfare, education or infrastructure programs.
What’s so odd about this election is that even though it signified a resounding repudiation of President Obama, Democrats still received more votes than Republicans nationwide. That bodes well for whoever the Democrats nominate for President in 2016. Of course by that time, the team of Republicans and Obama may have done a lot of damage that it will take the country years from which to recover.
Let’s hope that the Republicans and Obama can’t agree on anything and that gridlock continues—at least until 2016.