Sunday, July 11, 2010

After The Summer, Comes The "Fall"

I took a month-long departure from U.S. politics to try to understand a bit about European politics. I thought I might miss something of the former in seeking the latter, but on my return, I discover almost nothing has changed in the prospects of the U.S. mid-term elections, now only four months away.

This is particularly bad news for the Democrats who have been facing an historic reversal in their electoral fortunes.

Like many others, I have been confused by President Obama’s refusal to change at least part of his political course. I have NOT been confused by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate majority Leader Harry Reid in their stubborn political death wishes in the form of radical and unpopular legislation. The latter, combined with President Obama’s amazingly weak performance as chief executive, has fueled the unpopularity and disapproval of the new administration. Pelosi and Reid, as Newt Gingrich has pointed out, are psychic prisoners of their political generation. They are old and inflexible. They are not going to change course. They are also not going to remain in the kind of power they have held for the past two years. In fact, Mr. Reid is unlikely to return to the senate next year following a probable defeat in his Nevada senate race. But a much younger President Obama faces re-election in 2012, as well as renomination, and one would think he has very high motivation to recover his popularity.

Some pundits have suggested that Mr. Obama and his coterie want to lose the 2010 election, that is, lose control of both houses, and then run in 2012 against the GOP “blockade” that results. That is, on the face of it, superficially rational, but, looking more closely, politically absurd.

First, the Republicans will make dramatic gains, but are still quite some distance from control of both houses. Second, Mr. Obama is no Bill Clinton (who did, after reversing field, pull off a comeback in 1996). Third, the Democratic program, perceived widely, according to Democratic strategist James Carville, as “socialist” has virtually zero chance of appealing to an anxious and generally conservative electorate.

We are now halfway into July. The state fairs of August aren’t far away, and the election cycle is now in high gear. The Republican Party, through Tea Party participation, is generally strengthening its electoral appeal. At same time, the Obama administration continues to fail so far in its economic measures, and the negative financial impact of Obamacare begins to be revealed.

I don’t want to suggest there is no hope for the Democrats and President Obama. They are still in control, and they still hold the pulpit. Four months, contrary to some platitudes, is not that long a time, even in politics, but it is long enough to allow for electoral reversal if the political actors do something to make their prospects better. Of course, events and history could intervene, but I don’t know how one can bet one’s political fortunes on something unpredictable, and win the bet, when predictable action so clearly improves the odds.

Summer will become autumn soon enough. As a writer, I prefer to use the word “autumn,” but this year the only appropriate word might be “fall.”

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