But on the other hand, I never felt like Obama gave us something to truly rally around. Had he sent his 13 million-strong list after one thing--it could be just about anything as long as it was something we could accomplish and take ownership of--during those first six months in office, I think he would have had a much better position to bargain from. It would have energized his supporters, and proved that he still had political capital. Indeed, it would have given him additional capital. He could have taken that to the healthcare fight, and it would have been a better bludgeon than anything the Republicans could cook up, with or without Glenn Beck.
But I don't feel like I've seen enough of Obama during the past year. And so it was good to see him come out swinging last night. I'm not a partisan. I don't care about the Democrats, but I do think the Republicans are bad for America. It seems like, even when they were in power, their only tactic was to divide us and make us hate each other. To split people apart and drive a wedge between us. That's unsustainable. But it's working right now. I was glad to hear Obama directly confront them on being the Party of No last night, but on the other hand, being the party of no is working very well for them. Why would they stop? This is what Jason wrote in response. I thought it was dead on, and so I asked him if I could post it here.
It is just so much easier for Republicans. All they have to do is play into the public’s natural cynicism and low expectations, and convince them that government does not and cannot work. So in a perverse way, the Bush years work well for them because they’re such a stellar example of why you can’t trust government.
The Dems historically, and O now, have such a tougher job, which is to appeal to everyone’s hope and better angels and ask for the benefit of the doubt to prove that government CAN work and do things that the private market can’t. Of course they have to do this while the other side is sewing as much distrust and bad faith as possible. It leaves like ZERO margin for error, because the slightest misstep will be seen as proof that the Repubs are right and government is terrible. At the very least, it requires constant tending to message and process so people have a constant sense that their government is working for them and doing productive things. The way healthcare was managed just totally destroyed this. On the one hand you had crazy right-wing nutjobs saying the govt wanted to kill old people, which did two things: 1) convinced some losers that they were right, but more importantly, 2) made the whole health-care discussion so distasteful and ludicrous that it made a lot of reasonable people not want to engage with it at all. We needed a strong counterbalance, a constant messaging campaign that, every step of the way, laid out the stakes and appealed to our optimism and sense of purpose and feeling that we were on the cusp of accomplishing something amazing. Instead, we got Max Baucus and Joe Lieberman.
In other words, US politics’ default setting is with the GOP, because it’s always easy to assume that things won’t work. It’s much more daring and difficult to get people to believe that government can actually pull something off that makes citizens’ lives better. When O wants to, he can make that case better than anyone. Like you, I don’t know why he hasn’t been doing it this whole time.