Obama didn't push hard enough on healthcare and Wall Street reform -- and paid the price for it
Stephanie Taylor is cofounder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a 600,000-member grassroots group.
Democrats lost because they didn't fight strongly enough for popular progressive change -- like a public health insurance option and a breakup of the big Wall Street banks that sunk our economy.
We commissioned a post-election national poll of those who voted.
It showed that the 2010 electorate was much more conservative than the 2008 electorate. Many Democrats didn't show up. Neither did many independents who voted in 2008 for President Obama. Why not?
Because many who voted for "change we can believe in" no longer believed that Democrats would fight for that change. Consider what happened during the healthcare debate. A June 2009 New York Times poll showed that 87 percent of Democrats, 73 percent of independents, and half of Republicans favored a public option. While the beltway pundits counseled Democrats to run away from "the left," the policy supported by progressives was clearly the "center" of the country. Those who opposed the public option were on the fringe, out of touch with the mainstream.
Public option opponents included GOP Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, and independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. Obama won those states by about 20 points in 2008, and voters there supported the public option by more than 2 to 1. Obama could have used his bully pulpit to pressure these senators -- by flying to Maine and Connecticut to command local media attention, rally voters, and ask people to contact their senators. He could have fought, but he didn't. Lieberman later boasted that even in private meetings, Obama and administration officials never brought up the issue.
By refusing to fight for the public option, Obama demoralized and disappointed the base -- including independents. And it's happening again as he refuses to fight for Social Security and toys with breaking his promise to "repeal the temporary Bush tax cut for the wealthiest taxpayers."
Our poll asked those who voted how to reduce the deficit. Even among this Republican-skewed electorate, 43 percent said we should tax the wealthy, 22 percent said cut military spending, and only 12 percent said cut Social Security. Yet Blue Dogs and corporate-funded think tanks like Third Way urge Democrats to do the opposite of what is popular and right.
During our election work this year -- in which we raised millions for progressives and partnered with Democracy for America to call over one million voters -- we heard from people like the Virginia woman frustrated that her Democratic congressman voted for the anti-choice Stupak amendment; the unemployed Florida father who wanted Democrats to create more jobs; the New Hampshire small-business owner who didn't think Democrats did enough to hold Wall Street accountable. Folks like these voted Democratic in the past but didn't feel motivated to do so in 2010.
We live in a center-left country, which isn't reflected in our government or in the timid, conservative elements of the Democratic Party. In poll after poll, most Americans support programs like Medicare and Social Security. They worry about the economy and banks on foreclosure binges. They want their kids to go to good schools and breathe clean air. They want more democracy and less corporate control.
But when Democrats don't govern courageously, boldly, and progressively, they alienate their base and don't even start to make an argument to self-identified moderates and conservatives for their support. It's the tragedy of the Democratic Party, and it will go on and on, cycle after cycle, unless the party as a whole starts acting and legislating differently. And that must start at the top.
Available at Amazon.com:
Read the latest political news.
- Sarah Palin's Economy
- In a Giving Mood But Only Toward Rich
- Congress Must Help Struggling Families Not Millionaires
- Will Obama Fight or Fold on Tax Cuts?
- Obama, Democrats Must Worry About the Center, Not the Left
- Selling the Economic Recovery
- Democrats Lost Because They Didn't Fight for Popular Progressive Policies
- Next Tea Party Target: Corporate America
- George Bush's Campaign to Repair His Image May Not Get Far
- A Modest (Book) Proposal for George W. Bush
- Bipartisanship? Waste of Time!
- 2012 Presidential Hopefuls Pour Cash Into Iowa
- New GOP Members Praise John Boehner's Style
- Abraham Lincoln and the Election of 1860
- The Religious Ties of the Republican Party
- GOP Pushes for Healthcare Reform Repeal
- Redistricting Likely to Help GOP
- A 'Never Mind' Energy Policy
- Adventures in Polspeak, Or: Barack Obama Talks the Talk
- When Washington Regulated Wall Street
- Danger of a Global Double Dip Recession Is Real
- The Bashing of American Exceptionalism
- Coercive Diplomacy That Went Wrong
- Dubya's Worst Moment
- The Party of Organized Money
- Time to Decide What Congress Is For
- Throw Nancy Pelosi Overboard!
- Obama's Blind Side
- Comparisons Between Obama and Dictators Horribly Misguided
- Democratic Finger-Pointing and Obama's 2012 Comeback
- 10 Reasons Obama Is Floundering
- Trouble Ahead for Obama's Presidency
- Obama Cannot Play Center
- America's Love Affair With Obama Is Over
- Both Parties Need to Wise Up
- 2010 Elections: After the Fall
- Political Reporters Look Ahead to 2012 Presidential Election
- Is Sarah Palin's Alaska a 2012 Campaign Ad?
- Support for Sarah Palin Declines
- Groups Prep for Pricey 2012 Presidential Campaign
- The George W. Bush Fixation
- Bush Tax Cuts: How Washington is Making the Rich Richer
- Flood of Campaign Spending Was Good for 2010 Elections
- 4 Billion in Election Spending a Drop in the Bucket
- America Checks Into Rehab
- Jefferson and Madison's Constitution and Modern Gridlock
- GOP Stars to Take Over Congressional Committees
- Obama's First Stand
- Using the Lame Duck Session
- The Right Way to Reform Healthcare
- The Coming 'Monstrosity' Battle
- The Politics of Budget-Cutting
- Michele Bachmann's Plan to Fix the Economy
- Time Machine
- Battle Over Earmarks: Much Ado About Nothing
- Achieve Balanced Federal Budget Through Spending Restraint
- Unemployment Trumps the Budget Deficit
- America's Two Economies: Why One Is Recovering and the Other Isn't
Democrats Lost Because They Didn't Fight for Popular Progressive Policies | Politics
(c) 2010 U.S. News & World Report