Leading up to last week’s elections, both parties were trying to set the framework for Wednesday’s talking points with two competing explanations for the Republican resurgence that we ended up seeing. The Republicans would have us all believe that the nation took to the ballot boxes this year to reject the liberal overreach of the Obama administration, proving once again that the United States is a center-right country. The Democrats would have you believe that it had nothing to do with the policy objectives that were or were not achieved over the last few years, it was all about the economy. Democrats lost seats because they were the party in charge and the economy wasn’t doing well.
I’m not buying the Republican claim, because I think that Obama moved pretty significantly toward the center after his election. Looking back at his campaign, he made clear that health care reform would be a priority, and even expressed support for a public option at times. He talked about shutting down Guantanamo and investigating detainee treatment under the Bush administration. And yet, two years into his presidency, Guantanamo remains open and we have been told that “we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.” I’m just not seeing the liberal overreach there.
But for the Democrats to argue that it was a foregone conclusion because of the economy is to fail to take a valuable lesson from the last two years: the people want stuff to get done.
This is not to say that Obama and the Democrats did not accomplish anything over the last two years. Though I wish the health care bill had included a public option, I recognize that where many have tried to make meaningful progress on the health care problem in America, Obama actually succeeded. I think that the stimulus bill has lessened (though clearly not eliminated) the severity of the recession. He’s done a bunch of other fucking stuff too. (Apologies to my mother for the harsh language, but I felt it appropriate given the link.)
But if you looked at this last election season, you would be hard pressed to find Democratic candidates that were touting these accomplishments. You could find plenty of people trying to distance themselves from Obama, Pelosi, and all of the legislative accomplishments of the last two years. Is it any surprise, then, that voters chose to give control to the party who wasn’t saying “yeah, we were in control, but we tried to do as little as possible!”
Unfortunately, I don’t think that the Democrats are taking the hint. Today, we get news that Democrats are discussing removing the DADT repeal from the Defense Spending bill, despite the fact that the American people want it repealed, Secretary of Defense Gates wants it repealed, and a judge in California ruled that it was unconstitutional. Even the report that everyone has been waiting for, the one that comes out in early December and assesses the impact that a DADT repeal would have on the armed forces, will supposedly show that the majority of servicemembers will act like mature adults if DADT is repealed. And yet . . . Democrats want to push it off until later, against the wishes of the White House.
So what’s it going to be, Democrats? There are two years left in Obama’s term, and there’s still a majority in the Senate. Are we going to see some fight? Or is the Republican majority in the House going to be enough for Democrats to start retreating even further, giving up on the causes that they championed to get elected and refusing to take credit for the things that they have done?