The Tipping Point
Saturday Night Live gave voice this weekend to what I think a lot of Americans, even (and perhaps especially) Obama supporters, have been thinking—that hope is rapidly dwindling.
We endowed our elected officials with a pretty clear mandate on various issues, and nothing has been done on much of any of them. Some of that is the fault of Congress, but the Chief Executive’s job is to find a way to lead them on issues that matter. My personal issue, for example, was Climate Change, and I can’t begin to tell you how disappointed I am at his feeble actions on that matter.
Of course, some issues are just plain hard. The economy has been kept from collapsing and that’s no small matter. The Saturday Night Live piece was a bit unfair in characterizing that as having no result. It could be a lot worse by now—we aren’t in a depression, for example. But it’s also not over, and it could still turn worse.
What I think is really bugging people is this business of incessant compromise from the outset. It’s as if we were trying to bargain for a position between $0 and $2, and everyone knows it should come out $1. But the Republicans bid $0 and Obama replies with $1, out of a spirit of compromise, and then we bargain down to $0.50. All this while having a voting majority on the outcome!
And speaking of that, there are many who have called for the President to simply call the Republicans’ bluff on the filibuster. It’s been suggested that even if some Democrats might vote yes on cloture (to stop a filibuster) even though they want to vote no on the bill itself. That means that we don’t have to have 60 votes to get something passed, just a simple majority.
For that matter, even if we don’t have 60 votes, it could well be that on many issues, the Republicans won’t actually risk a real filibuster. They’re perhaps hoping the procedural threat is enough. But if they had to really use silly-looking procedural means to stop something that most people want, it could play very badly for them.
But one way or another, and there seem to be several techniques in play, Obama is leading from a position of weakness. As Bill Maher is fond of observing, when Bush was in office he simply used the office to get what he wanted and claimed, in effect, that the people had elected a temporary king. Well, either Obama doesn’t really want what he says he wants, or he doesn’t have the will to get it, or he doesn’t have the competence to get it. But either way, he’s not serving us right now in the way we need him to do. We elected him to correct certain wrongs, and he’s not doing it. He’s not even visibly trying.
At this point, unless something drastically changes, he’s a walking lame duck. There is zero chance he will be re-elected as things stand now. If he would just see that, it occurs to me, it could give him finally the freedom to do the one good thing one can do as a lame duck: act your conscience. At the point where you finally think you’re not protecting your position, you might as well do what you really think is right. Demand not just a Public Option but Universal Health Care. Admit there’s no problem with gays serving in the military. If he can’t do it because it’s what we sent him to office with a gigantic mandate to do, at least let him do it because he thinks he’s got nothing left to lose. Who knows? It might just get him re-elected after all.
But I frankly am no longer willing to bet on it. So that brings me to my last observation. It’s been the goal of the Republicans to bring Obama down, and it seems they might get their wish—not because of anything they did, but because Obama committed political suicide from the outset by not even seriously pushing any of the causes he ran on. It begs the question:
Who will replace Obama in 2012?
The assumption on the Republican side is that the heir apparent to Obama’s failure will be a Republican. That could easily be if the rest of the Democrats play nice and insist on being deferent to their sitting President in the way loyal party members often do. No one wants to undermine a successful President. But the rest of the field better take notice soon of the fact that this President is failing and some candidates better step forward soon to challenge him or there will not be time. The Republicans are naturally gearing up and the Democrats need to be in a strong position, too.
Perhaps if he sees Democrats rally to overthrow him, Obama’a concern about this will be enough to show him the matter is more severe than he perceives. Perhaps he still has time to turn around his own Presidency. I doubt it. But I just don’t see how it can hurt. He supposedly doesn’t shy away from honesty and wants to hear it like it is. So let’s not sugar-coat it.
The honest truth is that Saturday Night Live hit too close to home. Barring a miracle, it’s time for others to run.
Please don’t tell me the only choice is Hillary. Many people like her but she comes with an awful lot of baggage. If she wants to run, that’s fine, but let’s field some alternatives, too. Besides, in her present position, she can’t really be out campaigning without getting fired, so she’s crippled in her ability to come up to speed at the right time.
I’d personally like to see Howard Dean run. He’s shown himself effective. He understands the issues. I never understood why once yelling "yeehah" was enough to disqualify one for office. I understand he didn’t run this last time because he had committed for a time to run the DNC. But he’s done that now, and done it well. He’s shown himself to be competent and statesmanlike. Let’s see him take another go.
But whether it’s Dean or Hillary or someone else, now is the time for the Democrats to offer the public a credible option—both in Health Care and in the Presidency.
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