Time to Go for the Jugular
Above the Fold
I don’t think the losses are going to be bad at all. I think we’re going to shock the heck out of everybody.
– Vice President Joe Biden, July 18, 2010
The Act was passed by Democratic votes but it was over the opposition of the Republican leaders. And just to name a few, the following Republican leaders, among many others, voted against the Act: Senators McNary, Vandenberg, Nye and Johnson; now wait, a perfectly beautiful rhythm — Congressmen Martin, Barton and Fish.
– Franklin Delano Roosevelt, October 28, 1940
Martin, Barton and Fish became the punchline of FDR’s stump speech in the fall of 1940, when he cruised to victory over Wendell Willkie to win an unprecedented third term as president. Joseph Martin, Jr., Bruce Barton and Hamilton Fish were intractable Republican obstructionists – just like our own Mitch McConnell, Joe Barton and John Boehner. If Joe Biden’s predication is going to come true, Barack Obama needs to find a way to sound a lot more like FDR.
In fact there are signs that the inspirational Obama of the 2008 campaign is finally stirring again. Earlier this month, he did take a page from FDR’s speech book – although Obama’s version didn’t quite match the punch of Roosevelt’s: “Barton and Boehner and Blunt,” said the president, including Congressman Roy Blunt, the Republican Senate candidate in Missouri. “Sometimes I wonder if that ‘no’ button is just stuck in Congress so they can’t do what’s right for the American people.” And yesterday he gave an effective speech in the Rose Garden, attacking Republicans for repeatedly blocking an extension of unemployment benefits. That battle was finally won Tuesday afternoon – right after Carte Goodwin was sworn in as the new Democratic senator from West Virginia, giving the Demcorats the 60 votes they needed to end a Republican filibuster.
The unchanging unemployment number is the big gun pointed at the head of every Democrat this fall, and the still-sluggish economy is what Republican candidates will use to continuously beat up on their opponents.
The blatant embrace of BP by the Republicans – Barton was “embarrassed” by the $20 billion squeezed out of the oil giant by the president – should give the Democrats an opening, as well as the broader Republican promise to repeal financial reform, since it’s so unfair to beat up on the industry that drove the company’s economy off a cliff to begin with. Barton’s gaffe (and the Republicans who echoed him) is the subject of an effective web ad quickly produced by the Democratic National Committee.
But Democratic spokesmen will have to be much more convincing than Rahm Emanuel was during an appearance on the NewsHour, where here he got bogged down bragging about the 50 workers whose employment was made possible by a federal grant to a Michigan company that will make alternative batteries for trucks. And White House spokesman Robert Gibbs wasted several news cycles by acknowledging the obvious – that it is possible that the Republicans will retake the House in the fall. Clearly, Joe Biden had learned from Gibbs’s mistake before he made his Sunday chat show appearance a couple of days ago.
The problem the Democrats face is the same one they’ve faced in almost every election cycle in the last 40 years – except for 2008. Most of the visible energy (which the media is obsessed with) is once again coming from the right, this time from the multiple organizations making up the Tea Party movement.
While liberals are understandably wringing their hands over various Obama disappointments – the absence of a public option in health care reform, the idiotic surge in Afghanistan, and the continuation of several of the Bush administration’s more heinous anti-terrorist policies – they tend to forget one essential fact: most of us are not likely to see a more liberal president or a more progressive Congress in our own lifetimes.
It will be catastrophic for the country if the Republicans re-take either chamber in Washington. And, despite everything you may have read to the contrary, the odds are still against that happening. For example, a Wall Street Journal piece this week trumpeted the fact that “Democrats for the first time are acknowledging that Republicans could retake the Senate this November.” But then it went on to describe all the reasons that outcome is unlikely, including the fact that Republicans would have to prevail in California, Wisconsin and Washington to win control of the upper house.
The key factor for Democrats will be the willingness of all the under-30 voters who voted for Obama two years ago to make the enormous effort of voting for progressives for two election cycles in a row. To try to make that happen, the Democratic National Committee is spending $50 million to go after those newer voters. “Much about its ‘Vote 2010’ effort has that way-back feel of two years ago,” The Washington Post reported. “Legions of canvassers going door-to-door, a stream of inspirational videos, an e-mail list of more than 13 million, and ads on Web sites including Latina.com, BlackPlanet.com, YELP.com and DailyCandy.”
There will also be a massive new program to register college students, many of whom voted for the first time for Obama when they were still in high school.
MSNBC’s political experts listed these additional reasons for Democratic optimism:
* Unlike 1994, the Republican Party has a favorable/unfavorable score that’s no better (and sometimes even worse) than the Democrats.
* The GOP isn’t running on new ideas – or any ideas really, except for deficit reduction, which they say they will achieve through more tax cuts!
* The National Republican Congressional Committee has a huge financial disadvantage compared with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
* Winning 39 seats is a very tall order. When Democrats won back the House in 2006, during the height of violence in Iraq and after Hurricane Katrina – they picked up 30 House seats. The GOP will need almost 10 more than that.
And then there are those special gifts to the Democrats from the Tea Party, like wacko Sharron Angle in Nevada and Rand Paul in Kentucky, both of whom have sharply improved the chances of the Democrats in those races.
But in order to convince voters how disastrous it would be to return power to those who “drove us into the ditch” in the first place, the Democrats will have to sound more like FDR and less like Jimmy Carter.
Republicans go for the jugular all the time, using lies ranging from Democratic plans for “death panels” to Obama’s desire to confiscate guns across the nation.
Now the Democrats must go for the jugular – and all they need to do is to tell the truth.