The politics of change

(Reuters Photo)

Change. Change. Change.

A demand for change propelled Democrats to power in Congress in 2006, and then put Barack Obama in the White House two years later. Either the change wasn’t what a restive public wanted or it didn’t come fast enough. Now voters are looking toward a Republican change.

“2008 wasn’t the end goal. It was to keep building a movement for change,” Obama said near the finish of a turbulent campaign, pleading for a surly electorate to give his Democrats more time to put in place their version of change.

He’s counting on voters still seeing Democrats as change agents even though they are in power — and liking the type of change he and his party have delivered in his first two years.

Huge assumptions.

Yes, Obama and his Democrats stabilized the economy. But their solution was to pump huge sums of money into it as people fretted about all the government borrowing and federal debt burden stacked on their children and grandchildren. The unemployment rate rose; it’s stuck near 10 percent. Foreclosures and bankruptcies continued.

Yes, they passed a health care overhaul to remake a patchwork and costly system. But the public was divided over it and cringed at how the White House and Democrats pushed it through Congress. Deals with special interests. Virtually no Republican support. Why now? asked people crying out for jobs and losing their homes.

Yes, they reined in Wall Street with new rules for big financial institutions whose instability is blamed for the recession. But Main Street still feels left out, ignoring tax cuts they got under Obama and focusing on bailouts that went to banks, an insurance company and automakers. People questioned whether government was getting too intrusive.

Bipartisanship and compromise? A different approach to governing? A more civil Washington? Not so much.

Says Obama: “Delivering change isn’t easy.”

Certainly, Republicans who opposed Obama and his Democrats at every turn bear some responsibility. But Democrats are the party in power and, therefore, likely to carry more of the blame come Tuesday.

“There was a misunderstanding of the kind of change people wanted,” says Howard Dean, the former Democratic Party chairman and ex-governor of Vermont. “Democrats wanted policy change. Independents and Republicans wanted to change the way business was done in Washington, and that really hasn’t happened.”

This is still a city of red-hot polarization, gridlock the norm, with partisan rancor from the Capitol to the White House. Neither party is giving the country what it wants; people dislike Democrats roughly as much as they do Republicans. Congress’ popularity is stuck at basement levels.

Perhaps most illuminating, trust in government is near a record low.

“People think the system is broken, and no one’s addressing it,” says former Missouri Sen. Jim Talent, who says the viewpoint spans Republican rule, too. “The voters feel that there are big obvious things that the government should be dealing with but that it’s not dealing with, that the politicians aren’t dealing with and should be. And they’re right.”

Not to be discounted is just how much the country’s angst is being fueled by the remnants of the recession.

Beneath the economic woes, the explanation for a restlessness that spans at least four years may be more complex: Could this be a nation in transformation, struggling to figure out what it wants and who, if anyone, can deliver?

History shows that may be the case.

A president’s party usually loses House and Senate seats in the first midterm election. Enormous losses caused a Capitol Hill power shift three times in the past three decades — 1982 under Ronald Reagan, 1994 under Bill Clinton and 2006 under George W. Bush.

Republicans could gain the 40 seats they need for House control, following Democratic gains of 55 seats over 2006 and 2008.

If the GOP succeeds, it would mark only the fourth time in nearly a century that either the Democrats or Republicans won 20 or more House seats in three straight cycles. The other periods of political volatility came in the 1920s after World War I, during the Great Depression, and over the course of World War II.

The U.S. has been at war nearly a decade and is recovering from the recession. The nation is becoming far more diverse. Seemingly everything about how people live has changed in just a few years ago.

“It’s about fear,” said Michael Ford, the founding director of Xavier University’s Institute for Politics and the American Dream. “When you ask people about the American Dream, they all worry about whether it’s lost for their children. What they’ve lost confidence in is every institution that’s supposed to safeguard that, the government, church, business, even sports.”

“It’s not going to come back simply by changing a couple of players on the chess board,” he added. “The election is a quick fix. It’s psychological, it’s not real.”

____

Liz Sidoti has covered national politics for The Associated Press since 2003.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press

Enhanced by Zemanta

13 Responses to "The politics of change"

  1. eve  November 1, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    Real change?
    Term limits, and the repealing of unfair trade agreements and the bills which have harmed our liberties in the name of “safety.”

    This gentlemen proposes actions which will bring about real “change.”
    Read this gentleman’s ideas and decide for yourselves:
    http://www.lewrockwell.com/vance/vance213.html

    911 is no excuse to give up all of our freedoms.
    These programs are invasive and extremely costly both in terms of financial freedom and freedom in general.

    I would love to get CHB’s readers take on this.

    • griff  November 1, 2010 at 5:40 pm

      It’s a good start, but they should start with the last on the list.

      “The ideal tyranny is that which is ignorantly self-administered by its victims. The most perfect slaves are, therefore, those which blissfully and unawaredly enslave themselves. A truth’s initial commotion is directly proportional to how deeply the lie was believed. It wasn’t the world being round that agitated people, but that the world wasn’t flat. When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly preposterous and its speaker a raving lunatic.” – Dresden James

    • woody188  November 1, 2010 at 6:44 pm

      I’d call it a good start, though I admit I’ve taken advantage of FHA and Ginnie Mae programs in purchasing my first home about a decade ago. This was due to not having much credit due to my age and paying for vehicles with cash over the years and no one willing to extend any without a credit history.

      Note however that he also doesn’t say anything about taxes. I’d assume we’d get a huge cut, but I’ve learned never to assume anything in politics. Also, he does not say what he would do with the millions of out of work bureaucrats these cuts would create. Let’s face it, they aren’t qualified to work real jobs or they wouldn’t have been in government in the first place. :)

      • Almandine  November 1, 2010 at 8:27 pm

        Not qualified?

        Tell it to the Marines, Pilots, Air traffic controllers, Nuclear workers, Research scientists, Engineers, Health care workers, secretaries…

        Punching bags, for sure, but not worthless… and not all making twice what everybody else makes.

        Liars, damn liars, statisticians, and disgruntled citizens – Burp.

        • woody188  November 2, 2010 at 12:03 am

          Hey, I said bureaucrats. It’s not like millions of management positions are going to just magically appear for them. Of course it would be fun to suggest they retrain in another field such as computers and then watch them cry as those jobs are off-shored, just like they’ve done to us.

          Don’t get me started on research scientists like those pesky climatologists that have abandoned scientific method for outright propaganda. If it were up to me they would be stripped of their PhD’s and charged with fraud.

          No, not everyone working in government is worthless. But it does not matter because there are no jobs available even for highly qualified people.

          • Almandine  November 2, 2010 at 9:04 am

            Not to belabor… but “bureaucrat” covers them all. Janitors to Jet mechanics to Managers to Astronauts… they work for the “bureau”.

            If it’s a govt job you want – including IT… so’s you can make “your” govt work better… the USAJobs website is full of openings. Highly / lowly qualified – pick one. (But given the way things are going, those jobs won’t be there too much longer either.)

            It’s those Executive branch “appointees” – the connected, non-career, swinging-door, party types – who make the propaganda and not the science. Politicians, they could also be called… advancing “policy” as it were.

            I know quite a few bureaucrats – at every level, and they’re mostly a pretty hard working bunch that get tired of taking it on the chin because they found their job in govt. “Public service” is their self-described job description.

  2. Carl Nemo  November 1, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    Hi Eve,

    Our government crossed the Rubicon in 1913 with the creation of the Federal Reserve and the Income Tax.

    During the past 100 years evermore byantine, freedom destroying laws have been added, layer upon layer.

    Laurence Vance’s libertarian pledge laundry list although attractive to many readers is not practical or realistic without a total collapse of our modern ‘great’ society.

    The most recent one’s the Patriot Act and Obamacare could and should be either repealed or rolled back to that which is necessary for iimproved national security without impinging on our freedoms, what few are left, with O-care repealed and replaced by simply enhancing Medicare to include all citizens as a function of a payroll tax regardless of income status. The Federal Reserve needs to either be replaced or severly modified as to how it’s administering the banking system and the income tax too needs either replacement or a major overhaul for the purposes of simplification of the tax code. So from the most recent laws to the earliest that had the greatest impact on the 20th century and beyond need to be reworked. No doubt many others between these two extremes need close scrutiny and modification too.

    Will it happen? The chances are slim because for a bill to make into law, including a repeal is a lengthy, circuitous path with most dying in committee never reaching a vote on the floor of the House or Senate.

    So it seems we are all captive on the USS America headed for an iceberg field of unpayable debts and irreversible nation-destroying policies, dooming us all to a one way trip to the bottom, seemingly the fate of all past empires having run amok.

    Carl Nemo **==

    • griff  November 2, 2010 at 12:02 pm

      You misspelled Amerika, Carl.

      A few from Thomas Jefferson…

      “For the emolument of a small proportion of our society, who prefer those demoralizing pursuits (banking and commerce) to labors useful to the whole, the peace of the whole is endangered, and all our present difficulties produced.” – 1810

      “The evils they (the banks) have engendered are now upon us, and the question is how are we to get out of them? Shall we build an altar to the old paper money of the Revolution, which ruined individuals but saved the Republic, and burn on that all the bank charters, present and future, and their notes with them? For these are to ruin both republic and individuals. This cannot be done. The mania is too strong. It has seized by its delusions and corruptions, all the members of our governments, general, special and individual.” – 1814

      “I am too desirous of tranquility to bring such a nest of hornets on me as the fraternity of banking companies.” – 1814

      “Everything predicted by the enemies of banks, in the begining, is now coming to pass. We are to be ruined now by the deluge of bank paper, as we were formerly by the old Continental paper.

      It is cruel that such revolutions in private fortunes should be at the mercy of avaricious adventurers, who, instead of employing their capital, if they have any, in manufactures, commerce, and other useful pursuits, make it an instrument to burden all the interchanges of property with their swindling profits, profits which are the price of no useful industry of theirs.

      Prudent men must be on their guard in this game of ‘Robins alive,’ and take care that the spark does not extinguish in their hands. I am an enemy to all banks discounting bills or notes for anything but coin. But our whole country is fascinated by this Jack-lantern wealth, that they will not stop short of its total and fatal explosion.” – 1814

      “I see that this infatuation of banks must take its course, until actual ruin shall awaken us from its delusions.” – 1814

      “The evils of this deluge of paper money are not to be removed until our citizens are generally and radically instructed in their cause and consequences, and silenced by their authority the interested clamors and sophistry of speculating, shaving, and banking institutions.” – 1819

      If not for the dates that these quotes were made, I would think that they could have been made yesterday.

      For more than 200 years we have been warned of the dangers of paper money and banking greed, this “fraternity of banking institutions.”

      • Carl Nemo  November 2, 2010 at 12:52 pm

        What’s interesting Griff is that I first spelled it “AmeriKa” as I usually do in my writings, but I thought I’d honor the vessel and our last journey to the bottom with the correct spelling. It’s unfortunate that within 60 years post WWII our nation has devolved into this nightmare; ie., oligarchical collectivism, a blend of fascism and communism. They win, “We the People” always lose…period!

        I think the so-called “greatest generation” referring to those that defended freedom against the fascist tide during WWII fell asleep at the wheel of life by simply voting for slick-talking pols soon to become entrenched, many term incumbents who’ve relentlessly sold this nation out all for “a few dollars more”. : |

        Carl Nemo **==

        • griff  November 2, 2010 at 1:39 pm

          Well Carl, in light of that I think we’ll have to start referring to the generation of middle eighteenth-century America as the Greatest Generation, and relegate the WWII generation to back-of-the-bus status in terms of greatness, although still slightly ahead of the “anti-war, anti-establishment” generation of the sixties.

          How both generations have made peace with the Establishment.

          We fought the “fascist threat” in WWII, only to allow its incremental, peaceful, quiet invasion onto our own shores while we fought the “communist threat” in the fifties and sixties, only to allow its totalitarian tentacles to wrap itself around our national throat.

          Indeed a homogenous version of the two “greatest threats” we fought and died to “rid the world of” last century.

      • Almandine  November 2, 2010 at 3:12 pm

        Jefrerson was truly in tune with ALL times…

        Interesting follow-up article by Jesus Huerta de Soto for our time:

        http://mises.org/daily/4817

  3. DejaVuAllOver  November 2, 2010 at 11:14 am

    A+ once again, Carl. We’re slaves to the financial mob who has spent most of the last 4,000 years figuring out how to avoid any productive enterprise, get a free ride, (or much more) and have us lowly serfs fight their never-ending wars. Maybe people are finally figuring out that if we vote GOP, we get the neocon mafia. If we vote Democratic, we get the banksters and their neoliberal enablers in the government. If ANYONE gets elected, we get military spending through the ionosphere, a zionist police state and nonstop propaganda in their media brainwashing machine. Now, of course, the last phase is almost accomplished; the so-called “austerity” measures designed to starve the working man and general public under the guise of limiting government spending, of course, after the mob has already robbed us blind.

    My prediction is that this will be a near-record-low voter turnout election. Sane people have given up and it’s not hard to see why.

    • Carl Nemo  November 2, 2010 at 12:42 pm

      Thanks for the A+ grade concerning my thoughts DejaVuAllOver. : ) I always enjoy your succinct comparison to “mob” activities concerning our government. The Dems and Rethugs are just two different crime families both reporting to the same head capo’s; ie., the shadowy billionaire oligarchs via their consiglieres known as lobbyists most of them lawyers by profession. / : |

      Carl Nemo **==

Comments are closed.