Why the Obama coalition collapsed--it abandoned its foundation
Topic: Political and economic
It's not hard to answer the question the press has been raising in recent weeks about why the Obama coalition collapsed. It collapsed because it abandoned its foundation of actually trying to collaborate WITH the public.
During the campaign and the transition, the emphasis was on networks of small, local groups that asked for input on major public issues and gave the appearance (false, as it turned out) of actually tring to listen to public input. The form of the campaign and transition got large nmbers of people to work for the President by giving the foot soldiers an effective illusion of real influence. It appeared the candidate, later the President-elect, was actually listening.
But something went wrong shortly after the inauguration. The President stopped listening, even to the public input he had appeared to receive so well before the inauguration. On issue after issue, once Congress was in session, he preferred politics as usual--though with a Democratic majority that hasn't been seen in some years--over the real change in the very way of doing things in Washington he had previously seemed to promise. Admittedly, he was aided in reneging on his apparent promise by a Senate which could not do ANYTHING without 60 votes, where the President's party only had 59. Nevertheless, he stopped listening.
This is not to say that the local groups were disbanded. No, they were preserved, to the extent they could be held together, and the individuals who had enrolled in them to this day continue to receive several e-mails per week urging them to contribute money or contact members of Congress to implement the President's program. (I know. I receive these e-mails!) But the President has quit listening to the small groups, and now focuses on his party's corporate benefactors.
One result of this has been an economic recovery program that very quickly stopped trying to help distressed individuals in favor of an application of the Democratic version of trickle-down economics. The underlying theory of the Democratic version of trickle-down is the same as the Republican version--if we give enough money to our big corporate friends, eventually they will let some of it trickle down to create some jobs. Only the list of big corporate friends and the preferred means of making the gift differ, a little bit, between the two parties. (Republicans tend to favor relieving their friends of taxes others pay, whereas Democrats tend to favor taxing everyone and giving the money back to their friends directly). The problem with trickle-down, in either partisan form, is that the bigh corporate friends of those in power are only too happy to use the money to create jobs in other countries, where labor is cheaper. So the effort to build employment through trickle-down is doomed to failure until American labor "catches down" with labor in the Third World. This is not what the President's supporters wanted, if he had really been listening two years ago.
Another result of this was the health care reform package that was actually enacted. While it has many good aspects, fundamentally it is designed not to provide affordable health care to normal people but to guarantee the profits of the health insurance industry. Its centerpiece is its requirement that everyone buy the health insurance industry's product after 2013. The industry, meanwhile, is to be left free to collusively set the price of that product. (The indutry kept its anitrust law exemption). This also is not exactly what most of the President's supporters expected two years ago.
These are only two examples of politics as usual winning out, and the President not listening to the people who elected him. It is not hard to see why his defunct coalition is not helping him keep control of Congress this year.
Posted by ian_j_site2
at 11:43 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 19 October 2010 8:29 AM EDT