Sunday, November 16, 2014

Let the Underestimation Begin...Again

We've seen so many patterns develop over the course or Barack Obama's presidency, from the rise of the Tea Party and their attendant obstinacy and insistence that the president is an illegal alien who's usurped the office and ruled illegally, to foreign leaders who see Obama as weak and unable to guarantee that efforts to change world events will pass muster in the US Congress, to liberals who are disturbed that he hasn't closed Guantanamo and continues to try and negotiate or compromise with a Republican party that will not do either, and then will turn around and accuse him of not negotiating or compromising. (That was all one sentence. Breathe.)

But now both right and left will make their third, and final, mistake, when it comes to the Obama presidency: underestimating him.

The GOP has made underestimating the president, and overestimating its own power and influence, an industry worthy of investment by the one-percent. They didn't think he'd be able to get things done in his first two years, then they thought that health reform was dead when Scott Brown was elected Senator. They then believed that they could stall his agenda long enough to stall the economy, then defeat him in 2012. Finally, they thought that the results of the elections two weeks ago would mean the effective end of his term, and that he would suddenly respect their power so much that he will now support the XL pipeline, slash taxes to the wealthy, militarize the southern border, and convince two Supreme Court justices to resign so he could appoint both Koch brothers to the bench.

So what does the president do? Signs a major climate agreement with China. Signs a trade agreement with China. Talks about sending more military reinforcements to Syria. And this week he will sign executive orders that will give up to 5 million immigrants the ability to obtain Social Security cards, driver's licenses and the peace of mind to know that families with illegal or undocumented parents will not be broken up. Meanwhile, people who try to cross the border will be stopped and deported, and not one immigrant will get legal status or citizenship, despite the GOP's interpretation.

Looks like this lame duck is roaring like a lion and stalking like a tiger.

Let the final underestimation begin.

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Left Lost. It's Temporary. Move On.

Democratic hand-wringing continues over last week's election results, but really, I don't understand the angst. The party ran a message-less campaign, didn't allow it's most valuable asset, the president, to defend his record, ran away from its soul  and against better GOP candidates, and was fighting ages-old historical tides that pointed to losses as far back as the spring. The polls were way off in terms of victory margins and many Democrats practiced what Republicans perfected in 2012: fiddling with the numbers until they said what they wanted them to say.

I, for one, am not surprised at the outcome, nor am I devastated by the turn of power in the Senate and the loss of more House seats. This was going to happen. The point now is to figure out how to regroup for 2016.

The Republicans made great strides in their technology and that helped them this fall. They also ran candidates who were slightly less conservative than the Tea Party folk who stuck large shoes in their mouths in 2010 and 2014. And their voters showed up at the polls. How can you beat that?

Voter turnout for this election was abysmal in many states, so the real issue for me is how to get more people to become engaged in the political process. People who vote are more likely to be active in their communities and to care more about issues. Young people came out in better numbers in 2008 and 2012, but they stayed home this year. It's up to all of us to try and get them, and other constituencies, to vote in all elections.

There is some talk about younger people not supporting Democrats as they did in the past, but mostly because these youngsters believe that the culture wars are over and the Republicans lost. That means they can vote for GOP candidates based on their free-market values. We'll see how long that lasts, especially if the Republicans continue to deny climate change and support anti-choice legislation.

As for the president, he is clearly moving at his own pace, and the climate deal with China, along with his promised executive orders on immigration are the latest signs that he's not going to back down. This clearly bothers Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, but I think they're bothered simply because Barack Obama is president. Anything he does just produces bonus disgust.

Reason enough for me to feel better.

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Post-Modern Mortem

The days after elections are so much fun. Sort of like the day after Thanksgiving when the turkey and fixin's get a chance to mature and mellow and the remembrance of a holiday is still fresh in the memory.

Well, at least it's like that for the Republicans. They get a chance to gloat and tell the country just how much they're loved and how the voters want them to change the tenor and direction of the debate in Washington and how the war on women didn't work and Hispanics are more interested in the economy than immigration and that the president is not relevant any more and other things that, take a breath please, just aren't true.

Democrats did a terrific job with those rose-tinted political spectacles on their noses hoping that the poll numbers were under-counting the young and African-American and female voters who were poised to spring out of their homes and rescue the party one final time before Obama takes his techno-laden GOTV effort back to... well, wherever he's going come January 20, 2017.

What this election will be remembered for is that the South went all Republican, completing a 150 year flip from solidly Democratic and segregationist to solidly Republican and conservative. We can talk all we want about how diverse the country is becoming; the South is having none of it, even in Georgia where the left left its heart in the not very capable hands of the descendants of Carters and Nunns. What, none of the Mondales or McGoverns wanted to run? And who's up next? A Clinton? We might need to rethink this one.

This election will also be remembered for how ordinary it turned out to be. The unpopular president's party took a beating in his sixth year. Yawn.

The Republicans had better candidates who mentioned rape not once and found that they could win more votes than the Democrats who ran Usain Bolt-like from Obama. Yawn, roll over.

The right finally learned how to use the new media and mobile landscape to close the techno gap that the Democrats owned for two election cycles. Bound to happen. Yawn, toll over, hit the snooze button.

We also got the day-after sermons from the pulpit about how Boehner, McConnell and Obama will now learn to work with one another for the good of the country and find common ground on the major issues that concern Americans in their daily lives. And they said all of these things with straight faces.

What will really happen is that the Republicans will take out their pent-up frustrations with Harry Reid with laser-like precision, using their slim majority to pass as many bills as they can using reconciliation, which only requires 51 votes, rather than submitting legislation that could be filibustered. There will be no climate change regulations or carbon taxes, but we will get the XL Pipeline. There will be no immigration bill with a path to at least being able to stay in the country, but we will get a bigger, thicker, more secure fence in Arizona and New Mexico, ensuring that fruit prices will skyrocket because it will be rotting on the vines and in the fields for lack of pickers. We might even get some modifications to the ACA, but just enough to mess the law up for those who need it most. And we won't get any judicial nominees through the Senate. Period.

The country will muddle through for the next two years with the economy continuing its slow $8.25 per hour recovery, states will continue to lead on marriage equality and legalization of marijuana, lower gas prices will help squeezed households, and technology will wow us anew with its ability to make us more productive and efficient.

Big change, though will need to wait.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest