Friday, October 1, 2010

Election Day Pep Talk

Election Day is Nov. 2, with a number of seats in the U.S. Senate up for grabs -- as well as the entire House of Representatives (this is what happens when your term is only two years long). Conventional wisdom, for a number of reasons, points to the Republican Party making huge gains in a month's time -- maybe even enough to win back a majority in at least one chamber.

If you think President Obama has a hard time getting his agenda through Congress now ...

Washington thinking is that the party in the White House always suffers in the first midterm election. There's also the reality of the GOP base always coming out to vote, regardless of the election -- an enthusiasm aided by the rise of the vitriolic and free-from-reality Tea Party. Then there's the thought that young voters -- so pivotal in President Obama's win in 2008 -- don't show up for midterms.

There's also the thinking that the Democratic base is disappointed in the Obama administration, thinking the reforms passed don't go far enough and the base might just stay home. Low Democratic turnout, combined with an energized Republican base ... well, you get the idea.

Who knows, all of that thinking might be true ... if we let it. I'll be the first to admit, a lot of what the administration has accomplished didn't go as far as I liked. I thought the stimulus should've gone farther. I wish health care reform had contained a public option, or at the very least a lowering of the eligibility age for Medicare.

And there are Democrats who should pay the price for watering down legislation time and again -- looking at you, Max Baucus (Mont.), Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Joe Lieberman (Conn.). I've said before I don't largely blame President Obama for the relative failings of Congress (though one could make the argument that he's gotten anything done, given how dysfunctional the Senate is), but it would've been nice to see him placate his base more than trying to reach across the aisle to satisfy the immature corporatists.

Still, if we let the Democrats lose next month ... is that something we really want? Do you want to see the likes of Rand Paul (who rails against the Civil Rights Act), Sharron Angle (who talks of "Second Amendment remedies") or Christine O'Donnell (take your pick) in the Senate? These are people who oppose abortion (even in cases of rape or incest), want to privatize Social Security and Medicare and, in some cases, abolish the entire Department of Education.

Because really, who needs school? Not the GOP!

The Democrats have proven ineffective on a number of fronts (not even bothering to vote on the Bush tax cuts before the election?! That's a winner right there! The polls say so!), but their hands are somewhat tied since the GOP is saying "No!" to literally everything -- and in the Senate, a simple majority is no longer enough. The Republicans are using arcane Senate rules to force every bill or administration appointment to break a filibuster -- so everything in the Senate needs 60 votes instead of the simple majority of 51.

Hundreds of bills have passed the House, only to die waiting for the Senate. You think that's gonna get better if the Republicans pick up seats in November?

I want to address the first-time voters from 2008 specifically for a moment: I know you were excited to vote for President Obama and the Democrats' agenda, and I'm glad you did. Being involved in the political process is important, because of the impact decisions in Washington can have. I don't know how many of you thought things were magically going to be okay when Barack Obama won two years ago, but it doesn't work that way.

Change is difficult in Washington, one might argue impossible. This country's problems, vast as they are, were never going to be fixed in two years' time -- particularly with the obstruction the president faces. This is a lengthy, difficult process, and if you back out now, a lot of the changes that have been made could be in jeopardy.

I agree the health care bill doesn't go far enough, but it does a lot of good things. Same with the Wall Street reform bill -- it establishes a Consumer Protection Agency that will be run by Elizabeth Warren -- one of the greatest advocates the middle class can ask for. The stimulus, small as it was, succeeded, and under President Obama, private-sector jobs have grown for eight straight months.

The recovery is underway. It's moving at a glacial pace, but it is underway. Don't stay home on Nov. 2 and risk losing everything the administration has achieved. The GOP wants to go back to the same policies that got us into this mess in the first place; their "Pledge to America" is more of the same, and it would gut nearly 1 million jobs from this country -- not to mention slash funding for such things as education, cancer research and firefighters.

If it doesn't serve corporate interests, the GOP wants nothing to do with it.

Yes, getting things done is almost impossible even with vast majorities in both houses of Congress. But just think ... if the Republicans win control back, if we start calling John Boehner "Speaker of the House," how much do you think is going to get done?

Under that scenario, I see President Obama using the veto pen. A lot. I also see potential impeachment hearings on the horizon, because let's face it, considering the level of obstruction the GOP has displayed since President Obama took office, would you really put it past them to try that?

Especially considering Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) is currently blocking a bill that would provide nearly $1 billion of promised aid to Haiti. That's right, Sen. Coburn, by himself, is keeping aid money from earthquake-ravaged Haiti because he thinks he can score political points by fighting "big government."

If we let the Republicans back in control, that's the sort of thing we'll be getting. Stay home at your own peril ...

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