Once upon a time, I used to write at least one political post per week. Recently, I’ve been writing more on other subjects. I’ve been burying my head in TV series, articles on technology (mostly iPhone 6), and books.
I guess I’ve been wanting to forget that the midterms are coming and that most pundits are predicting that the GOP will take over the Senate. If this happens, it will be a shame. It will be a shame because today the House of Representatives does not represent the will of the American people, just the gerrymandering that the Republican Party so deftly managed after the 2010 midterms, in order to have a “lock on the House at least through 2022, when the next census would bring redistricting.” If the GOP takes over the Senate, it will be a shame not only because of what the Republicans will do (and not do) with a majority in both chambers of Congress, but because they, who have committed political malpractice, will be rewarded.
It is no consolation to read that a GOP Senate win will be less about the electorate voting for Republicans and more due to the absence of Democratic voters at the polls. The end result is that despite their obstruction and extremism, they will have won. The message that they will incorporate is that extremism works. What a shame. What they really need is a lesson so well and so loudly taught that they would never again dare to do what they’ve been doing since President Obama won in 2008. A midterm win will embolden them even more. What will they do next? Not even God knows.
I guess that in order to be able to face this upcoming fiasco, I needed to go back to a recent victorious past. So, I bought Jonathan Alder’s The Center Holds: Obama And His Enemies. The book is an extensive coverage of the 2012 election starting from the 2010 midterm elections to President Obama’s second term inauguration in 2013. Even though Alter is a liberal and the book could have been a one-sided defense of the President and his administration, his writing is objective. He describes the flaws and virtues, accomplishments and mistakes of both, President Obama and Mitt Romney.
Why I Despaired Reading The Book
It has been my opinion, for many years, that one of the biggest mistakes of the Obama presidency is in the area of communication. I am convinced that Democrats would be in a better position today if the White House and the Democratic Party would have been better at communicating with the American people, communicating about the policies and the accomplishments on one side and showing the obstruction and the lies coming from the right. This was well illustrated in the book.
Alter also demonstrates the immense opposition faced by President Obama and includes several examples of what he calls “Obama Derangement Syndrome.” I was familiar with many but was still shocked to read how extreme some conservatives have been in their language and actions against the President. I spent one day in a funk after reading the salient role that racism has played in all of this.
But my funk became even bluer after reading, once again, how the majority of Americans just doesn’t care about politics.
Around 125 million Americans would end up voting in 2012, but only 10 to 20 million of them paid much attention to politics until shortly before the election. That was the aggregate number of all cable news viewers, readers of political coverage in major newspapers and magazines, talk radio listeners, visitors to political websites, and fans of fake news programs like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Everyone else was visiting popular sites for other kinds of information (mostly about entertainment)…[Chapter 5: Fox Nation]
I could understand this in normal times. But, I just don’t get how most Americans were not more drawn into politics by the extreme behavior shown by the GOP these past years, in order to fight it. I understand less how disappointment in President Obama could be stronger than disgust for the GOP. As Barney Frank’s bumper so aptly explains, “We’re not perfect, but they’re nuts!”
Why I Rejoiced Reading The Book
Yet, despite voters’ disinterest in politics, focus groups conducted by the Democratic re-election team were giving surprising results. For example,
Obama’s poll numbers on the deficit weren’t as bad as some imagined. Voters thought the two biggest causes of the deficit were the wars and the bailouts. The stimulus and health care reform were far behind as culprits. Benenson and Binder were impressed by how well respondents could contextualize recent history. Almost all of them understood that it was Bush who landed the country in this mess.”
No matter how extreme, no matter how many millions of dollars were spent maligning the President, voters were able to see through the lies and the negative spin. It was Abraham Lincoln who famously said, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the
people all the time.”
Voters also reacted strongly to GOP tactics to suppress the vote of minorities and the young. According to Alter, the backlash against voter suppression was key in the re-election of President Obama.
Why I’m Now Much More Philosophical
The influence of money in politics and the media, right-wing extremism, voter suppression tactics by the GOP, and voter apathy during the midterms, is a lethal combination eating away at our democracy and most Americans are not even aware of it. After reading this book, I should be depressed, but I’m not.
If the Republicans win the Senate, I will also not be as affected as I would have been had I not read Alter’s book even though I suspect that the GOP will continue to push towards the extreme right. Mitch McConnell is already being accused of being “insufficiently committed to repealing Obamacare.” There is little doubt in my mind that we will be facing two more years of even more gridlock and obstruction from the GOP.
So be it. There’s a reason for everything. The more extreme the GOP turns, the higher the chances that voters will begin to understand the importance of all elections, not just presidential ones, and the higher the chances we will elect a Democratic president in 2016. If George W. Bush’s presidency had not been so disastrous, perhaps there wouldn’t have been a place for Barack Obama. We wouldn’t have elected the first black president in 2008 and be on our way to electing the first female president in 2016.
There is a reason for everything, even though not everything is reasonable, especially in politics. But, after reading this book, I have hope. You should read it too.