Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of the venerable leftist magazine The Nation, takes a look at what is likely to happen in the midterms and offers President Obama the worst possible advice on how to respond: go left, Mr. President.
The question isn’t how a new White House team will influence the Obama administration. The larger question is what conclusions the president will draw from the midterm elections and his first two years in office. Will he get over his frustration with the left and recognize that his political future depends on energizing progressives?
One can only hope that Obama starts paying more attention to the small-“d” democratic mobilization last Saturday in Washington than the media did. The One Nation march witnessed the activist base of the Democratic Party rousing itself — union members in their colors, activists from the NAACP, MoveOn, environmental and gay rights groups, the women’s movement. The marchers gloried in their diversity — the full rainbow of America in attendance, unlike the Wonder Bread crowd that Glenn Beck drew, shaming the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The 10-2-10 marchers committed to mobilize through 11-2-10, the day of the mid-term election, and they returned home armed with voter contact lists.
Full rainbow of America?
It would take a Katrina vanden Heuvel not to realize how out of touch these groups are with ordinary voters, the ones whose income is heavily taxed to meet the big government demands of these lobbies. And-just for the record-the One Nation gang looked like more a bunch of tired folks mired in sameness than a brightly colored rainbow. Ms. vanden Heuvel is counting on women and minorities to bail out the big spending party–but for the first time in many years, women don’t appear as enthusiastic for big government as in the past.
Ms. vanden Heuvel is even more clueless about the independent voters:
True “independents” reflect less an ideology than a lack of clarity. They tend to be attracted by the intensity of the passionate. In this election, of course, the lousy economy hurts the governing party. In addition, Obama’s election and his reform agenda inspired an intense — if often dangerously kooky — reaction on the right. At the same time, the president’s failure to more boldly challenge those standing in the way of authentic reform and his eagerness to demonstrate his “independence” from his organized supporters — taxing union health-care plans, scorning teacher unions, doubling down on Afghanistan, deferring action on don’t ask, don’t tell, punting on immigration reform and accepting unsavory backroom deals — sapped enthusiasm on the left. Not surprisingly, in an off-year election, polls show an “enthusiasm gap,” suggesting not only that Republicans are more engaged in the election but that independents are trending Republican.
Here’s the deal, Katrina: Independents know very clearly what they want in this election. Lack of clarity is not on the plate. According to the much-written about poll of independent voters conducted for Independent Women’s Voice, by Doug Schoen, the Democratic pollster, this group, which helped put the president in office, is leaning towards a free-market approach to our economic woes, feels it is losing personal freedom (can you believe Ms. Vanden Heuvel thinks that a government that passed massive takeover of the health care system had made “modest” reform?), and is alarmed about overspending. She is right that independents tend not to be ideological (otherwise they wouldn’t be independents, right?) but there is no lack of clarity this year.