by Denis Campbell
Welcome to the toughest 1st year in the loneliest job in the world. Good that you have a dog and you’re not in Kansas anymore Mr. President. You approached the utter disaster left by the previous occupant with a determination, grit, grace and pragmatism that has long been missing.
Now sir you have to lead from the front. You let Congress have the ball for a year. You gave them their chance. They did nothing but load the health bill with watered-down pork. They are ruled by their special interests masters who shout the loudest. This partisan bickering would make Emperor Nero proud.
The Democrats need a party dictator. It may be the country’s only hope too. The country needs tough, courageous leadership. It’s Man-up time yet again. Time to kick some tails into line or Republicans will Party like its 1994.
Love them or hate them, Republicans get members to toe the line. Democrats need to placate EVERYONE within many constituencies. That bogs them down and they end up pleasing no one. Republicans say sit down, shut up and do as you are told. Democrats beg, cajole, plead and, even with this huge electoral majority, cower in the corner chanting the mantra “please don’t hurt me.”
And it would be wrong to underestimate this President. Losing stinks. It’s a damned if you do/damned if you don’t 10-months coming. It’s time, sir, to go back to the ’08 campaign playbook. Every time you took it on the chin that year, you came back stronger. The voters demanded change. You tried working the edges of an existing broken system.
You need to listen. Losing unpopular governorships in New Jersey and Virginia could be dismissed as outliers. Blue state Massachusetts, a state you won by 25-points a year ago, is a harbinger. Ignore it at your peril. Listen to your staff and just stay the course and life becomes even more difficult.
Yes, I blew the call in MA. To borrow from the former President, I, and a lot of pundits “misunderestimated” the attitude of the people in my old home state. The echo chambers of New York and Washington blocked out what none of us heard. People are tired, angry, hungry, jobless and scared. That is a dangerous combination for any incumbent.
Yes, Martha Coakley ran a terrible campaign and tried to mail it in. Maybe Joe Kennedy would have fared better and at the end of the day a 37-point voter swing cannot be ignored. In a bad environment, bad candidates cannot win. The fiercely independent voters in blue state Massachusetts sent a very loud message.
The US economy is badly broken. Wall Street is back. And this is a place that drives stock prices up when companies lay-off people. How can you allow Citigroup to pay back TARP funds and lose $7.6 bn so they can pay bonuses? That is what makes people ask if nothing was learned?
2 in 5 people in the USA are jobless or massively under-employed and the US economy has shifted from the factory as its symbol of power to gleaming bank office towers? Nothing is physically made or created in this economy, people earn money by selling services and trading paper, bankers laugh all the way to the cashier’s desk with multi-million dollar cheques, the haves have more while the safety net no longer exists and the USA is more politically polarised than ever.
All politicians would rather BE right than DO right. Scott Brown’s victory party mob celebrated angrily on telly. The 100th Senator is now Republican. While the math is still 59-41, in the broken house that is the US Senate, Republicans will feel emboldened.
If you think the lack of cooperation was bad before, the next 10-months will be very difficult. When you awaken in a few hours it will sink in. Change was what people voted for in 2008. You failed to change the system, rather chose to work it.
Now a year of healthcare debate is going down the drain. Bank and healthcare company stocks will soar in the morning (they hit 52-week highs yesterday) because the US will still spend 17% (soon to be 20%) for horrid care. Millions of Americans will die and nobody seems to care about anything in any legislative body in any country about anything but preserving their job.
Next Wednesday all eyes will be on you as you deliver your 1st State of the Union Address. You have 1-week sir to steady the ship. In a crisis very few rise to the occasion. Most, rise to the level of their training.
Looking back over the last 25-years of American (and indeed global) politics, it is the loss of anything resembling a middle ground that is most dangerous to our mutual global survival.
Maybe last night, as bitter a pill as it was, will be the opportunity to really get something done. You were a good politician during this 1st year. That clearly did not work.
Now you need to lead.