A far-right Republican friend was dancing around at how the election shows how much the American public hated Barack Obama. While I understand his pleasure at the results, he was completely wrong with his reasoning.
Anyone who takes something complex and explains it because of One Reason has no idea what he's talking about. Anyone who takes almost anything and assigns just One Reason to it generally is wrong. But especially anything more detailed than why we like pizza (and even that has a lot of explanations) is going to have a lot of reasons behind it. The American Public does not "hate" the president. The far right hates Barack Obama. The majority of Americans might not approve of the job he is doing, but that's another world from "hate."
There are a lot of reasons why the Democrats did so badly on Tuesday. And Barack Obama is low on that list, to the point where it almost doesn't matter by the time you get to that. Among those reasons are --
The party that holds the White House traditionally loses seats in a mid-term election.
In the past 60 years, every president serving a second term has lost control of both houses of Congress during the mid-term election of his second term. Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, Bush II, and now Obama.
Despite the economy improving each year, it has not fully recovered yet, and that creates discomfort and voter unrest.
The Republicans in both houses of Congress did a masterful job blocking most action (including, of course, economic development...) while placing blame on Democrats as the party in power.
Democrats did a terrible job campaigning, seemingly unwilling to paint the Republicans Party for shutting down the government, or for repeatedly trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act (which polls show the public is actually pleased with their coverage). Let alone for blocking important and good legislation that the public likes. They seemed to run scared, and that's a recipe for losing in politics.
And the president did not do a strong job offsetting the concerns about the economy by making his case for what improvements have occurred, from the shrinking the deficit each year, to bringing the unemployment rate down drastically. And he never was able to maneuver around the blockades Republicans created, never took on immigration like he said he would, and therefore appeared to be ineffectual at times.
And more. And more.
The poor results do reflect on the president, there is no question. But that is deeply separate from hatred of him and his policies being The Reason. The reasons were many. And most were far more important in defining the results. From most polls and local election results I've seen over the years, I think most Americans actually liked most of his policies, but were bothered that he didn't get more accomplished. (Never mind that it was Republicans who blocked them.)
Since the day he was inaugurated, literally, Republicans are on record as saying their number one priority was to make sure Barack Obama didn't get a second term as president. That didn't work out for them. But those efforts did guarantee that very little got done in America, and help create an environment where they had a very successful night on Tuesday.
And now, I suspect the Republicans will legislate with hubris, like they've tended to do in the past, thinking that they have A Mandate, thinking that the public supports a far-right agenda, not recognizing that most of their wins were razor thin, not recognizing that even though they won the Senate in Colorado, a far-right ballot measure for "Personhood" got crushed. And not only do they risk frightening the public, which is much more centrist than edges on either side, but the GOP will now be on the line for responsibility for a Congress that they fully control, yet will likely accomplish nothing. Which brings us to 2016. And wondering even further who in that party will lead it, other than someone on the radical right?
And recognizing that Democrats can't take any of this for granted, the traditional GOP intractable hubris for shooting themselves in the foot at the height of success, and need to retrench aggressively and make the case for what they believe in that got them elected in the first place.
And all this raises the specter of a dream Republicans having been bubbling about for six years. And my one hope is that they follow-up on the threat making its way through right-wing talk radio even louder these days to impeach the president. I dearly hope for that.
First, there is an ignorance that just because you have control of the Senate, you can them convict the president. But it takes a two-thirds vote, 67. Bill Clinton couldn’t be convicted, and he had upset a lot of Democratic Senators, was caught up in a sex scandal, and had lied under oath. None of that holds with Barack Obama – there’s no scandal, no lying in court, no angry Democrats. There is no earthly way he would get convicted. His “impeachable offenses” are only in the minds of the far-right who hate a black man in the White House. And second, if Republicans do vote to impeach the president, and there’s a trial, it would SO piss off the vast majority of Americans. Definitely Democrats and most Independents, and even some Republicans. When Bill Clinton got impeached – even with the sex scandal – his approval rating skyrocketed. And Democrats did great in the next election. A GOP impeachment of Barack Obama would be insane, and the best thing that could happen for Democrats. I’m not even concerned with how it will bring Congress to a standstill – because Congress won’t be doing anything for the next two years. I don’t believe an impeachment will remotely happen, but just talk of it would probably help Democrats.
And now, we buckle up for the next two years for a wild ride in which nothing will happen. Republicans will require the same 60 votes they forced upon Democrats, so little will get passed. And anything draconian that is able to make it through will get vetoed.
Oh, and one other thing: Massachusetts Democrats should finally stop nominating Martha Coakley for anything. Not that I think that will be much of an issue at this point...
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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