Bad timing. Obama
Photo: Reuters

Will Obama change course?

Op-ed: Midterm election defeat result of president’s failure to heed feelings of American public

WASHINGTON – The writing was on the wall. A year ago, conservative Scott brown won the special vote for late Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat. A Republican victory in the liberal Massachusetts, the Kennedy and Democratic Party stronghold, was akin to an earthquake that shook the whole of America; yet surprisingly, the shockwaves did not reach Washington. The result was the scathing Democratic defeat in Congress.


The White House spin in the race a year ago was that it was a local failure by Democratic candidate Martha Coakley who was vacationing in the Caribbean while the attractive Republican candidate worked hard to connect with the voters. It’s hard to understand how the people who led Obama to the spectacular victory in 2008 lost touch with the public the moment they entered the White House. Officials in Washington failed to grasp the message conveyed by the public: Grave concerns not only about their livelihood and pensions, but also about the future of their sons and grandsons, sailing aboard the Titanic towards oblivion.


When America was licking the wounds of the economic crisis, White House officials were formulating the healthcare legislation, instead of focusing on unemployment. History will be kind to Barack Obama, as this is a noble law that America had to legislate in order to assist the tens of millions of Americans, including many children, who were lacking any medical protection. However, this law was pushed to Capitol Hill at the worst political timing.


When people are anxious about their livelihood and their and their children’s basic needs, they are not available to help others who lack health insurance. People have lost their livelihood, homes, cars, and ability to pay for their children’s college education. It’s hard to appease such people with altruistic gestures to the weak.


Those who pushed for the legislation were members of the Democratic Party’s leftist camp, who said: This is our finest our, with a liberal president and control of both houses of Congress. The tone was set by the president and his associates, who ran on a social platform in 2008, as well as Congress members from liberal districts, headed by Nancy Pelosi, the house speaker from America’s most liberal district, San Francisco.


Congress members in more moderate states attempted to stay away from this legislation. They knew it threatened their political future. They hesitated, protested, hid, and eventually were trapped in the web of pressure exerted by Obama, Rahm Emanuel, and Pelosi. Last night, they paid the price for it.


Obama had been stunningly successful in his 22 months in office: He passed the healthcare legislation, which the Democrats have been dreaming about for 60 years. He passed the law regularizing the monitoring of Wall Street, in the hopes of averting another economic crisis. However, Democratic candidates shunned these issues like the plague instead of boasting them. These achievements were not at all mentioned during the election campaign. Many Democrats attempted to prove that they object to Obama, but in such cases it made sense to just vote Republican, and that’s what happened.


Americans hate taxes

Obama will be remembered in the annals of US history as the man behind the healthcare legislation, just like Franklin Roosevelt was renowned for passing the Social Security Act in 1935. Yet following this great social achievement, Roosevelt sustained a blow when the Democrats lost 80 seats in Congress. Obama only lost about 60 seats. The lesson is that Americans hate a big government in Washington, and more than that they hate to pay taxes. That’s what happened then, and now.


The public bitterness wave swept over America yesterday. It was a referendum on Obama’s policy, and the message conveyed to Washington was clear. Now we need to see what Obama will be doing: Will he ignore the message, or will he decide to turn a new leaf?


His chances of recovery are better than what many think or hope for. Despite the low approval rating for his presidency, Obama continues to enjoy great public sympathy on the personal level. Despite the grim results of the midterm elections, the public does not blame Obama for the economic crisis. A CNN poll among voters showed that the main culprit in the view of Americans are the bankers (35%), followed by former President George W. Bush (29%). Only 24% blame Obama.


In order to overcome the defeat, Obama needs to take decisions of the type taken by Bill Clinton after he lost the Democratic majority in both houses of Congress after two years at the White House. Obama must put ideology aside and start running America pragmatically. He must seek issues where he can find the common denominator with the Republications in Congress – moves that would achieve budgetary balance and focus on unemployment.


The change required of Obama is not only ideological, but also personal. The president will have to replace some of his close associates and bring into the White House people who are not connected to him personally or ideologically.


Now that the American public spoke, we shall see the emergence of Republican presidential candidates. The Republican establishment is making an effort to undermine Sarah Palin’s undeclared plan to get the nomination. Barack Obama’s White House is crossing its fingers for her, believing that the former Alaska governor is Obama’s insurance policy for another four years at the White House.



פרסום ראשון: 11.03.10, 18:25
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