Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Political Somnabulism in September

There is an unprecedented dream-like quality to this year’s mid-term national elections. Normally, regardless of political conditions, the two sides engage in a comprehensible back-and-forth competition for votes. On some occasions this produces a one-sided result, but there is at least some kind of debate about issues and the record of those in power, as well as some level of enthusiasm on each side.

In 2010, President Obama and his Democratic leadership in Congress, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are campaigning, and are defending their record and policies, but in the face of unambiguous and steadily declining unpopularity and rejection of their agenda, they are making no response to the electoral landscape, no adjustment as has been the case of all those in their position in recent decades. They appear, in fact, to be behaving as if they and their policies are enormously popular and successful.

For Republican candidates, who have to be constantly pinching themselves to make sure it is not just a wonderful political dream, there is the consequent political advantage of just saying “No!” and “No thanks” to the Democratic agenda that has featured gigantic bailouts, radical and unpopular healthcare reform, and repeated foreign policy failures. Mr. Obama, Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Reid seem to be doing the heavy work for them!

For Democratic candidates, it is a nightmare that does not stop, as they watch not only competitive house, senate and gubernatorial races slip away, but usually considered “safe” ones as well. Recent reports that Democratic house leaders and strategists are prepared to “abandon” many of their own (and marginal) candidates to create a “firewall” that will salvage their control, makes it a nightmare-within-a- nightmare for those candidates, already struggling for political air.

This dream-nightmare landscape up to and including September cannot continue without dire consequences for the Democratic Party and the Obama administration. If it does, the political slaughter of the Democratic Party will be of such historical dimensions that the presidential election of 2012, barring some titanic unforeseen international occurrence, will only be a charade. The only question then will be who the Republicans choose for their nominee. In a dream-nightmare, there are no laws of gravity. In the so-called real world, gravity is still operative.

Increasingly, as President Obama campaigns across the nation, as he is doing now, he will be spurned and avoided by his own party’s candidates. It has already begun. Those Democrats who stand at the president’s side will only become the dream wish fulfilled of GOP political admakers.

I do realize that the Obama administration is staking a great deal in the current negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. With its enormous economic leverage, the U.S. can always force these matters and even make the Israeli and Palestinian leaders say hopeful things to the media. But with powerful and hostile Iran and Hamas in the background, and their allies, any Middle East agreement made today isn’t worth the paper it’s signed on. Besides, the primary issue fueling voter dissatisfaction with the Democrats today is the state of domestic economy and the very high unemployment throughout the nation. The “suspicious” timing of these Middle East negotiations are clearly an attempt to divert public attention from our domestic woes.

So there will almost certainly be an attempt at an “October surprise” this year, as Democrats further wake up to the urgency of their situation. I don’t know what it will be, but there will be one. Watch for it.

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