Rep. Zoe Lofgren’s (D-Calif.) invitation to comedian Stephen Colbert to testify before a House subcommittee on immigration was particularly tone-deaf – but it doesn’t come as a surprise.
Perhaps the biggest problem for Democrats this election season is not their legislative record, but their apparent disconnect from the values and primary concerns of the American public.
A survey commissioned by the Independent Women’s Voice and conducted by Democratic pollster Douglas Schoen in mid-September found that 81 percent of independents say the federal government and Washington lawmakers are out of touch with Americans like themselves.
And the recent episode with Colbert was a spectacular confirmation of that opinion. Inviting a comedian to poke fun at a critically important policy concern – one that affects our national and economic security – was not only inappropriate but also insulting to those whose lives are affected by immigration reform.
Time after time, President Obama has shown he is out of step with the American public: His decision to send his daughters to an elite private school, while cutting the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program; his embrace of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez; his fumbling of the Henry Louis Gates debacle last summer; first lady Michelle Obama’s lavish trip to Spain; his stumbling response to the Ground Zero Mosque controversy. The White House continually misreads the feelings and concerns of the public.
And this disconnect and sense of elitism has been no less apparent in Congress, whose big-spending, big-government legislative agenda runs counter to the interests of the people they represent. The debate over healthcare reform is a prime example. Despite the fact that more than two-thirds of Americans rejected the Democratic plan to overhaul the nation’s healthcare system, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Democratic lawmakers rammed through a bloated, faulty piece of legislation.
According to the IWV survey, independents have an unfavorable (57 percent) view of the Democratic Party. Sixty-eight percent share an unfavorable view of the Democratic congressional leadership. And President Obama’s job approval has dropped to an appalling 38 percent. Some of this decline in public opinion has to do with a government that voters think is getting too big and too intrusive. But it’s bolstered by the fact that Democratic lawmakers in Congress and in the White House seem incapable of understanding the people they’re in office to represent.
It seems that’s at least part of what Velma Hart meant when she told the president she’s exhausted and tired of defending him. She and millions of other Americans don’t feel the connection they once thought they had with Obama. They probably never felt much of a connection to Congress, but the imperial leadership of Pelosi and Reid has taken the public’s alienation to a whole new level.
More and more Democrats are finding it hard to hit the right note. But in politics, you just can’t afford to be tone-deaf.