By Don Klein
When I was a teenager I attended dances hoping to meet the "right" girl. I never did and got to the point that I lowered my expectations because I knew nothing special would evolve.
Today’s politics reminds me of those feverish adolescent times. No matter which party is in power it would be wise to lower expectations.
Even though the Democrats triumphed in spectator form just two years ago, today they are on the ropes. Although it was a shellacking, as President Obama put it, it could have been much worse if the Republicans had been diligent and selected more sober candidates instead of the ill-natured Tea Party prospects.
It was not necessarily an election the Republican won as it was an election the Democrats lost – through no fault other than their own. No matter who gets the credit or blame, the fact is the power in Washington has changed.
The mystery to me is why had the Democrats, who accomplished quite a bit in a short period of time, failed to act as if they were proud of their handiwork. Not one Democrat to my knowledge (who was running for office) ever mentioned the centerpiece of their success – the national health bill.
Neither did they talk openly about the new financial regulations they passed, nor any of the environment efforts, nor the tax cuts for working people that were made, nor such attractive matters as the children’s health bill.
Much of the good they did was ridiculed and mocked by the Republicans as viciously as the swift boat veterans attacked Sen. John Kerry in the 2004 presidential campaign, with the same result. No competent response from the Democrats. They took blow on the chin after blow and expected the voters to figure out the whole complicated subject matter by themselves.
The Democrats were not nearly as aggressive as the GOP in standing up against wild claims of legislative excesses. Obama was as much to blame as the rest of the party essentially because he did not wake up to the facts of the failing campaign until much too late.
I cannot understand the outrage over national health care since the public was clearly misled. The law would reduce, not increase, medical costs, and would include millions more Americans than are now covered. Anyone would think it a win-win situation except those committed to partisan contention.
The worst factor in the law was the lack of a public option to force insurance companies to play straight with clients. Then the delay of full implementation until 2014 made its impact hardly noticeable today. These were factors the Democratic leadership in the Senate conceded in hopes of getting bipartisan support.
The Republicans outsmarted the timid leadership and after squeezing out these concessions refused to vote for the bill anyway. Mark that as an early GOP victory.
That may be considered water under the bridge but it is an indication of how superficial was the Democrats support for the issue. They gave health care much lip service, never in campaigns oddly, and applied little intestinal fortitude to the subject and sowed the seeds of their eventual defeat at the polls.
Many youthful Obama voters who stayed home would have voted were they not disgusted by the lack of fight put up by the administration and Senate Democrats during the heath care and other debates. Add to this to the scarce effort to solve joblessness, and there is a prescription for defeat.
They acted in similar wishy-washy ways in everything they did, claiming they were seeking bipartisanship, which never materialized. They rejected advice to shift into high gear and force the whole package and not try to compromise with people who vowed not to work with them.
The definition of stupidity is to continuously expect different results from the same failed policy. If you keep knocking your head against a wall you will soon suffer more than just a severe headache.
It would be just if only the Democrats were the ones with the headache but unfortunately the headache will spread to all of us with the possible except of the wealthy. Now we have a GOP controlled House of Representatives, a Senate still under Democratic rein although with less of a majority, and a Democrat in the White House.
Despite all the talk about working together, do not believe it. The 2012 presidential campaign has already started and little comity can be expected from the two parties.
The Republicans want to retake the White House and will do everything they can to upset the Obama applecart. The next two years will witness the House passing bills that the Senate will kill. If a House bill should somehow make itself past the Senate, the president will veto it and the GOP will not have enough votes to override it.
It will mean more gridlock. More ineffective government. More citizen dissatisfaction with Washington. And all those who voted the incumbents out this year because of lack of progress will be beside themselves trying to figure out how to get Congress to work for the people again.
Meanwhile the environment will worsen, China and India will be strengthened economically, the US will go into deeper debt, unemployment will eventually ease up but millions will be forever damaged by job loss, and attempts will be tried to restrict our personal freedoms. And everyone in Washington will blame the other guy.
Eventually we will all lower our expectations as I did many years ago and government will drone along like an aloof sleepwalker. Our children will grow up to leave the country to find work in Africa and Asia because most American businesses will be outsourced.
The American century of dominance will end with a whimper like the British Empire expired almost a century ago.
Have a good day.