The old cliche about demise from a thousand cuts comes
from an ancient Chinese torture. What is happening to the
Democratic Party today, defeat by a million failures,
is caused by their own torture of public policies.
Initially it was thought that the 2014 midterm elections might
go badly for the current ruling party because a major policy
failure such as Obamacare alone would turn voters against it,
as happened in 2010. If that were so, the Democrats might have
repaired their position by compromising on healthcare reform
and accepting some Republican changes to the law so
preemptively passed by the Democratic Congress in 2010, and
signed by the president. With the U.S. house of representatives
controlled by the Republicans (since 2011), this could have
indeed happened, but I’m not so sure it would have substantially
changed the growing voter mood against the president and his
party. In any event, this president does not seem to have
"compromise" in his political vocabulary.
It is now very clear that Barack Obama and those around him
had in mind some very radical changes in public policy when
they took office in January, 2009, and began to implement them.
With a Republican U.S. house and public opinion resisting them,
however, they have been blocked from many of their changes.
At the same time, using executive orders, they put into effect
many others, particularly a steady stream of regulations, some
of which are choking small businesses across the nation.
The U.S. supreme court has already ruled that one of Mr.
Obama’s executive presumptions was unconstitutional, and
it’s quite possible it will do the same for others, including an
unprecedented suit against him by Speaker of the House John
The point is that voters voted against Obamacare in 2010 as
an abstraction, that is, as something they intuitively felt could
not work. In 2014, Obamacare is a reality, and touches millions
of Americans. It is true that the reform benefits some Americans
without any previous health insurance, but at the same time
many more Americans are observing the cost of their health
insurance going up, their benefits reduced, their healthcare
access limited, the inability of the program to pay for itself
without a massive taxpayer subsidy, and the whole
medical/hospital industry in worrisome turmoil.
Raising the minimum wage does benefit some workers. But the
impact on American business is already becoming evident, as
prices rise where possible, workers lose their jobs when raising
prices is not feasible, and in cases where neither can be done,
enterprises are simply going out of business. More serious than
this one policy is the myriad of new regulations cascading out of
Washington. Not all of these regulations are bad ones, but many
of them are punitive, unnecessary, and unmanageable. Many
more Americans feel the negative aspects of these policies
than realize their so-called benefits.
Raising taxes does, in the short term, raise revenue, especially
revenue for increased government intrusion in the market place.
In the long term, however, raising taxes inhibits growth and
healthy infusion of revenue into the economic system. Moreover,
those in the middle class (where most independent voters are) feel
the brunt of higher taxes, and are forced to reduce their spending
(which in turn, deflates the economy).
Centralized and bureaucratic government is a mainstay of
liberal politics. The rationale is that government is a better
steward of the public good. In reality, this has rarely proven to
be true, particularly as democratic societies mature. Built into
the U.S. constitution is a balance between the rights and duties
of states and those of the federal government. At the turn of the
20th century, particularly just after World War I, a series of major
problems and public projects were resolved by substantially
increasing the federal role (e.g. Hoover Dam in the far west,
the Great Flood of 1927 in the midwest), and this only increased
significantly during the Great Depression. American society has
changed much since then, however, and the rationale for so
much centralized government, it can be persuasively argued,
Today, millions of Americans living in rural areas, small towns,
exurbs and suburbs feel the intrusion of Washington, DC
first hand. It does not matter which political party they have
felt part of in the past. In fact, I think it is fair to say that a great
many who make up the great recent rise in the number of
independent voters are those who live in these places.
Most of these independents voted for Barack Obama in 2008,
and many (but less) of them voted for him again in 2012.
The polls indicate that they would not vote for him again, nor
for his party. These voters are not happy. They are not happy
at all. They don’t have to admit publicly, however, that they
made a mistake in 2008 and 2012. All they have to do is vote
against Democrats in 2014.
And that is what they seem increasingly likely to do.
Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.