Barack Obama met with the Senate Democratic caucus for the first time since six of their membership got their 2011 access canceled, and they wasted no time putting the blame squarely on the President’s shoulders. Even the supposedly mild-mannered Bill Nelson of Florida got angry, according to Politico, over Obama’s sagging popularity and inability to sell the Democratic agenda Obama demanded they follow. But the message sounds a little incoherent after that:
Senate Democrats – including typically mild-mannered Bill Nelson of Florida – lit into President Barack Obama during an unusually tense air-clearing caucus session on Thursday, senators and staffers told POLITICO.
Nelson told colleagues Obama’s unpopularity has become a serious liability for Democrats in his state and blamed the president for creating a toxic political environment for Democrats nationwide, according to two Democrats familiar with his remarks. …
Several senators expressed the opinion that Obama needed to show more passion, while party liberals renewed their complaint that Obama should abandon the pretense of bipartisanship in the face of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s intransigence and what they consider the Kentucky Republican’s blatantly political tactics aimed at making Obama a one-term president.
Others said Democratic leaders need to clearly spell out what they believe are the motivations behind the Republicans’ positions: that they are beholden to special interests, who bankroll their campaigns.
That should be as effective as the strategy adopted by Democrats in this midterm cycle of running against George W. Bush. In fact, Democrats did put a lot of effort into painting the GOP as the party of fat cats, along with other boogeymen like Karl Rove, John Boehner, Dick Cheney, and George W. Bush. It worked about as well as any of the other attacks on the Republicans, which is to say, not at all, in part because Democrats get bankrolled pretty heavily by unions, trial lawyers, and other special interests. They wound up with more money on the air than did the GOP in this cycle, and it didn’t do them much good in the end.
Why? Because American voters don’t really buy a purity claim from either party. Both parties have monied interests, and besides, Democrats who mined Wall Street for contribution gold in 2008 didn’t seem to think that the lucre was all that filthy in that cycle. Griping about business leaders suddenly shifting from Democrats to Republicans sounds more like sour-grapes whining than an argument on policy, and only the true believers buy into it.
Barack Obama became an albatross around Democratic necks because of the economy. His economic agenda has led to stagnation, chronically high unemployment, and no respite on the horizon for at least another year under the circumstances. Obama’s stimulus package hasn’t stimulated anything other than debt, and the health-care bill has introduced so much uncertainty into employment costs that Obama and Democrats have actively made the situation worse.
But Senate Democrats can’t just blame this all on Obama. After all, they all voted for these bills. None of them stood up to the White House while Obama demanded and got spending levels that jumped more than 20% in two years in the FY2010 budget. They all participated in the “reconciliation” dodge that got ObamaCare passed into law.
Nor is their advice going to make the situation better. After two years of seeing total Democratic control in Washington, voters threw out more of the governing party in both chambers than any other midterm election since 1938. If Senate Democrats take that message to mean that Obama should be less accommodating to Republicans and that liberals in the Senate Democratic majority should push their hard-left agenda with more “passion,” then a whole lot of them will be hitting the exits in 2012, along with their President.