After failing test in midterms, Prez takes the ‘professional left’ to school.

By mw | Related entries in Barack, Budget, Economy, Fiscal Responsibility, Obama


Frequently heard conventional wisdom on the left attributes the poor Democratic election performance to a bad economy and disenchanted liberal voters staying home. The logical inference of that wisdom is that an improving economy and a “stay the course” liberal agenda for this administration is all that is needed to restore the Obama coalition to its 2008 glory. Last week, Anne Kim and Stefan Hawkin of Third Way and Lincoln Park Strategies released a post-election survey that tested the conventional wisdom and found it wanting:

Politico - Who really abandoned Dems?

The Obama voters who stayed home this year (the “droppers”) or who switched their vote to Republican (the “switchers”) are neither disgruntled and de-motivated liberals. Nor are they raging tea partiers. Rather, they are overwhelmingly moderate to moderate conservative. Bipartisanship is what they demand. And the role of government, deficits and the economy are their major concerns. In a post-election survey by Third Way and Lincoln Park Strategies, we polled 500 droppers and 500 switchers. Our findings make one point clear: The path to regaining or retaining power for both parties isn’t toward the right or left. It’s from the center out…

Switchers are unhappy about deficits. The top-ranked reason cited by switchers for voting Republican was “too much government spending” (66 percent cited this). And while 64 percent of switchers say deficits are a “serious problem that are weakening the economy,” three in four don’t think Democrats are either “serious about reducing the deficit” or “responsible with taxpayer dollars.”

The surveyDroppers” and “Switchers”: The Fraying Obama Coalition

66% of switchers say “too much government spending” was a major reason for their decision not to vote Democratic this year. This is the number-one ranked factor switchers gave in our poll.

  • 64% of switchers say deficits are a “serious problem that are weakening the economy” (versus 32% who say “deficits are a concern but we have more pressing priorities”).
  • 76% don’t think Democrats are “serious about reducing the deficit.”
  • 78% don’t think Democrats are “responsible with taxpayer dollars.”

In fact, 68% of switchers say they would be more likely to support President Obama in 2012 if he offered a serious proposal to reduce the deficit.

Apparently President Obama and his political brain trust were diligently taking notes while getting schooled in the midterms. On Monday President Obama announced a federal employee pay freeze for non-military employees. On Tuesday he met with congressional leadership and assured the American people that he heard the voice of the voters:

The American people did not vote for gridlock. They didn’t vote for unyielding partisanship. They’re demanding cooperation and they’re demanding progress. And they’ll hold all of us –- and I mean all of us –- accountable for it. And I was very encouraged by the fact that there was broad recognition of that fact in the room. I just want to say I thought it was a productive meeting. I thought that people came to it with a spirit of trying to work together. And I think it’s a good start as we move forward. I think everybody understands that the American people want us to focus on their jobs, not ours. They want us to come together around strategies to accelerate the recovery and get Americans back to work. They want us to confront the long-term deficits that cloud our future.

I have one quibble with the President’s statement. While technically true that the American people may not have voted specifically for gridlock, and while he is also correct they would prefer bipartisan cooperation controlling spending, they did make it clear they’ll happily take gridlock over the kind of crappy and stupidly expensive steamrolled partisan legislation that passed in the last Congress. But, in the bipartisan spirit of taking a bipartisan hatchet to a slashed bipartisan budget, we’ll overlook that nit.

Minutes after the President’s statement, the co-chairs of his National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform had a press conference to announce that their final report on a deficit cutting plan will be delivered on Wednesday and voted on Friday. Regarding the vote, the Democratic co-chair Erskine Bowles said

“… whatever happens, the commission will have achieved “victory” by starting a national conversation about the federal debt. ‘The era of deficit denial in Washington is over,’ the North Carolinian and former Clinton White House chief of staff drawled.”

I agree.

Wednesday, the President’s bipartisan deficit commission delivered their final report. In three days, the top three stories out of Washington were all about fiscal responsibility, controlling spending and deficits. President Obama and the President’s commission are leading the charge. Real, meaty, substantial proposals are being put on the table. If it were not for wikileaks, this is all we would be talking about, and that is a very good thing.

To be honest, I am irrationally exuberant over these developments and in danger of losing my cynicism. I suspect hope that we going to make real progress on federal spending and the deficit this time. Let me hasten to add that I am not completely delusional. If done correctly, this process will be contentious, noisy, the air will be filled with partisan cries, lamentations and the bellowing of gored oxen. Undoubtedly I will be among those gnashing teeth, tearing hair, and complaining bitterly about whatever makes it out of the sausage grinder. But at least we appear to be starting down a path to some semblance of what passes for fiscal responsibility in Washington D.C.

I have one simple reason for my optimism: The President and his political advisers understand his re-election in 2012 depends on restraining spending and the deficit. Republicans in Congress understand their re-election and majorities in the House and Senate in 2012 depend on restraining spending and the deficit. Even some Democrats in Congress understand their re-election in 2012 depends on restraining spending and the deficit. David Axelrod thinks it important enough to ramp up the Audacity of Astroturf troops mere days after the mid-term.

Even as small a step as the President’s initative on the pay freeze has many on the left up in arms. Obiously still in denial, they found the President’s initiative to be vexing, a capitulation, an ineffectual ploy, bad negotiations, symbolic, doublespeak, blasphemy, stupid, gutless, cretinous, anti-union, pointless, a sellout and a blunder (among other things).

OTOH, those that “get it” understand exactly how damaging this chart was to Obama and the Democratic Party in the midterms. Private sector jobs were lost by the millions, but under this administration public sector jobs (that pay better with greater security than the private sector) were protected. Given the close relationship and massive financial support the Democrats and Obama received from public sector unions like SEIU, it just did not look good. Voters were angry. With the help of letter from a reader, even Ezra Klein gets it now (almost).

Republicans will predictably say that it is weak gruel, and does not go far enough. But, it is a start. Given the depth of the hole our representatives and leaders dug for us over the last ten years, this may be exactly the start we need now.

Thank you Mr. President. If you stay on this path you may even get re-elected, and we can keep our happily divided government.

Cross posted from Divided We Stand United We Fall.

Edited to correct typos.


This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 1st, 2010 and is filed under Barack, Budget, Economy, Fiscal Responsibility, Obama. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

16 Responses to “After failing test in midterms, Prez takes the ‘professional left’ to school.”

  1. Thomas Says:

    The voting public does not actually care about the federal budget, about deficit spending; they don’t really care about taxes.

    If they did care about these things, neither Reagan nor Bush 2 would have been re-elected and the Democrats would have held onto their congressional majority in this past election. In the last thirty years, contrary to popular understanding, the Republicans have consistently overspent. The average American has seen his or her taxes reduced since President Obama assumed office.

  2. Tweets that mention Donklephant » Blog Archive » After failing test in midterms, Prez takes the ‘professional left’ to school. -- Topsy.com Says:

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Justin Gardner, Donklephant. Donklephant said: DONKLEPHANT: After failing test in midterms, Prez takes the ‘professional left’ to school. http://ow.ly/1afW1B [...]

  3. mw Says:

    “The voting public does not actually care about the federal budget, about deficit spending; they don’t really care about taxes.” – Tommy

    If you read any post-election polls about how and why the voting public voted the way they did in 2010, you would know that your statement is absolutely, breathtakingly, monumentally false for the election just passed. It may or may not be true in other elections. It is unarguably wrong in 2010.

    “If they did care about these things, neither Reagan nor Bush 2 would have been re-elected… “ – Tommy

    Ummm. This is the year 2010.

    “…and the Democrats would have held onto their congressional majority in this past election.” – Tommy

    You might have a problem with numbers.

    In the last thirty years, contrary to popular understanding, the Republicans have consistently overspent.” – Tommy

    Actually, that is pretty common knowledge and well understood by anyone paying even a minor amount of attention. It was hard to miss. What you apparently missed, is that Obama and One Party Democratic rule managed to be more than 3 times worse than Bush and the Republicans (who were really really bad) and did it in one quarter of the time it took Bush.

    Bush and the Republicans committed a venal spending sin. Obama and the Democrats committed a mortal spending sin.

    “The average American has seen his or her taxes reduced since President Obama assumed office.” – Tommy

    Good. If the Dems hadn’t spent like a drunken sailor, they’d probably still have the majority in the House right now.

    My apologies to any drunken sailors out there for the unfair comparison.

  4. Alistair Says:

    mw:

    I find this piece from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette about President Obama being a Blue Dog very interesting.

    http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10334/1107314-84.stm

  5. Chris Says:

    MW the voting public doesn’t know shit beyond what the media tells them. Thomas is absolutely right about that, they just parrot back what they’ve heard, not what they know. If people could still buy their new cars, and flat screen tvs and not worry about unemployment, no one would give 2 shits about federal spending and the deficit.

  6. Tillyosu Says:

    MW the voting public doesn’t know shit beyond what the media tells them.

    Sounds like someone’s projecting. The fact of the matter is that Republican voters are better informed than most Democrat voters… or were in the last election anyway.

    But I tire of this assumption about the public in general that all liberals seem to share, namely, that everyone else is just stupid. It’s the basic premise behind every nanny state, patronizing initiative that the left (and a few assholes on the right) seem to cook up from time to time. “We need to limit fast food advertising.” Why? Because it’s forcing people to eat too much fast food. “We need to control spending in elections.” Why? Because people are so dumb that they invariably vote for the guy with the most commercials. “We need to pull Fox News off the air.” Why? Because people are too stupid to tell the difference between fact and opinion.

    In every case the formula is the same. I’m smarter than you, I know what’s best for you, so I need more control, and you need less freedom.

    Please excuse the rant, but some things just set me off…

  7. mw Says:

    Tillyosu,
    We have to show Chris some empathy. He has been going through a tough time since the election, as he bitterly clings to a progressive quasi-religious belief system that not even President Obama buys into anymore.

    He needs our understanding.

    Yes, he is an interesting psychological study, but as I’ve noted before – “Projection” is just the tip of the iceberg. He is working through the stages of grief, and appears to be mostly past denial, but cannot seem to get beyond stage 2 -Anger. Look for signs of Bargaining and Depression as indicators that he is making progress toward Acceptance.

  8. blackout Says:

    I think you wanted to write “gored oxen”, the plural, mw.

  9. mw Says:

    sigh. thanks.

    I wrote “oxen” first and thought it didn’t sound right, so I changed it – intending to look it up – then forgot. Anyway – fixed now.

  10. Chris Says:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-10-29/poll-shows-americans-don-t-know-economy-expanded-with-tax-cuts.html

    Sure they know what’s going on. Lol Your pathetic attempts to justify a broken government are amusing MW. You are a broken fiddle playing the same tune over and over, every blog post is this masturbatory fantasy about divided government.

  11. Chris Says:

    Tilly you post up an opinion piece to prove some kind of point? Ironically that proves my point more than it proves whatever you’re going for.

  12. Tillyosu Says:

    Actually Chris, if you had bothered to read the opinion piece I linked to, you would have noticed that it’s based on an actual poll.

  13. michael mcEachran Says:

    I think the economic meltdown gave Dems a Keynesian excuse to spend as much as they wanted in the form of stimulus. No mighter how right-headed the spending was, no matter how much it saved us from catastrophy, the Dems were destined to pay for it politically. They were NOT Nixon in China, unfortunately. The real nail in the coffin was a black president seemingly giving away free health care to the underclass – read black folks. The white middle class’s great fear that blacks with power would give away the store to their lazy brethren was realized. Again no matter how right-headed the plan was – read Romney’s plan for Massachusetts – Obama was just the wrong face to do it. The Dems paid the price for being Dems being seen doing what Dems like to do – spend – no matter that it was – all of it – the right thing.

  14. Chris Says:

    which is why obama is a fool for trying to work with the republicans. He’s going to be punished no matter what he has done, or tries to do in the next two years.

  15. blackout Says:

    I wrote “oxen” first and thought it didn’t sound right, so I changed it – intending to look it up – then forgot.

    I live to serve, mw. An enjoyable post from your corner of the room as always.

  16. Donklephant » Blog Archive » It’s unsustainable, stupid. Says:

    […] In every election since, campaign strategists, analysts, pundits and bloggers have attempted to reprise Carville’s insight with a similar construct for the election at hand. Your loyal blogger is no exception.  In 2006 and 2008 I was convinced the election was about one thing:  “It’s the war, stupid.”   True enough in 2006. Not so much in 2008.  In 2008 “It’s George Bush, stupid.” was enough to win the election for Barack Obama. Even though GWB was not running, it was sufficient to tar McCain with that brush. The public sentiment was to punish GWB and the Party he rode in on.  2010 was a different story.  In 2010 – “It’s the spending, stupid.” carried the day. […]

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