If you want to identify the most unpopular political entity in modern American history, then you need look no further than the current Republican Party. As of today’s date, according to a new Gallup poll, the GOP’s approval numbers are hovering at an anemic 23% with 71% of Americans disapproving of the Party’s policies. That number is five points lower than the record set by the GOP in October 2013, when a government shutdown -- led by conservative senator Ted Cruz – changed the political landscape.
Just 28 percent of Americans have a favorable impression of the Republican Party, down 10 percentage points from last month, according to a Gallup poll. The polling firm called it a "record low," noting that "this is the lowest favorable rating measured for either party since Gallup began asking this question in 1992." (emphasis mine)And today, according to Gallup, only 23% of Americans list their political affiliation as Republican, suggesting the number of people who hold a positive view of the Republican Party goes no deeper than the Party’s membership.
Even worse news for the GOP, the Tea Party, which makes up the ultra-conservative wing of the Republican Party, is viewed unfavorably by 28% of Republicans.
Given those staggeringly low numbers, you would think Democrats were headed for a decisive victory in November, but according to new poll numbers, the scenario seems unlikely.
Starting to Look Ugly for Democrats – Political WireThe American electorate seems to be sending a very clear message to Democrats: Obama’s policies are not working. And it’s easy to believe that members of the Democratic leadership have failed to heed the message sent by progressives during the 2010-midterm elections.
Charlie Cook: "At this point, eight months before the Nov. 4 election, it's hard to see a lot of good news for congressional Democrats. No matter how you look at it, the House seems out of reach. Today, Republicans appear a bit more likely to gain than to lose seats; it would take a cataclysmic event for Democrats to score the net gain of the 17 seats they need to take the majority. What's changed is that Democrats' chances of holding onto their majority in the Senate is looking increasingly tenuous. There are now at least 10, and potentially as many as 13, Democratic-held seats in jeopardy. By contrast, only two GOP seats are in any meaningful danger, and that number hasn't changed in six months. Things are starting to look grisly for Senate Democrats."
So what have we missed? Why are we losing ground to the most unpopular political party in modern American history? The answers coming from the party faithful are not encouraging. The consensus seems to be:
Liberal ideas poll well, so it must be an anomaly in the polling data. And since Republican poll numbers have reached a nadir, voters will make the right choice because they know we represent the only good choice.And therein lies the crux of the problem. Liberal ideals might poll well, but they are not congruous with the policies implemented by the Obama White House.
But the real problem might be even more fundamental.
From an excellent article written by Gary Younge of the Guardian:
A few days after John F Kennedy's assassination, Lyndon Johnson sat in his kitchen with his key advisers working his first speech to Congress. It was the evening of Kennedy's funeral – Johnson was now president. The nation was still in grief and Johnson -- writes Robert Caro in The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power -- was not yet able to move into the White House because Kennedy's effects were still there.More than any other post-WWII president, I think Johnson understood the opportunities afforded to the person holding the most powerful office in the world, and he took advantage of the opening. According to Wikipedia, Lyndon Johnson:
He had been a hapless vice-president; now he had to both personify and project the transition from bereavement to business as usual. In the midst of the cold war, with Vietnam brewing, the Kennedy administration had been trying to get civil rights legislation and tax cuts through Congress. There was plenty of business to attend to. Johnson's advisers were keen that he introduced himself to the nation as a president who could get things done.
For that reason, writes Caro, they implored him not to push for civil rights in this first speech, since it had no chance of passing. "The presidency has only a certain amount of coinage to expend, and you oughtn't to expend it on this," said "one of the wise, practical people around the table". Johnson, who sat in silence at the table as his aides debated, interjected: "Well, what the hell's the presidency for."
…was responsible for designing the "Great Society" legislation that included laws that upheld civil rights, public broadcasting, Medicare, Medicaid, environmental protection, aid to education, aid to the arts, urban and rural development, and his "War on Poverty." Assisted in part by a growing economy, the War on Poverty helped millions of Americans rise above the poverty line during Johnson's presidency. Civil rights bills signed by Johnson banned racial discrimination in public facilities, interstate commerce, the workplace, and housing, and a powerful voting rights act guaranteed full voting rights for citizens of all races. With the passage of the sweeping Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, the country's immigration system was reformed and all national origins quotas were removed."Well, what the hell's the presidency for?”
If Barack Obama ever knew the answer to that question, then he failed to capitalize on the opportunities afforded him, or he failed to understand the significance of the question. No politician in recent history was given a clearer mandate before entering office, and no other candidate defined that mandate more eloquently than Barack Obama. But five years after taking office, his campaign rhetoric has become an indictment of his own policies.
While researching this article, I was astounded by the large number of progressive bloggers and journalists who have written articles/diaries built on the theme: campaign promises that Obama has broken.
As Peter Wehner said:
The sheer bandwidth of his broken promises and empty claims is quite extraordinary.An even more depressing endeavor was reading the comment sections attached to those diaries/articles. The consensus among his followers could be summarized as “who cares, so just shut up.”
Unfortunately for the Democratic Party, most voters, especially liberals who care, have been frustrated by the president’s intransigence. It now appears that a long trail of broken promises is coming back to haunt the Democrats.
The public is evenly divided on whether President Obama and the Democrats share the concerns of average Americans. The fact that neither could muster a clear majority is one sign of the public’s unhappiness with elected officials.And if we are seen as uncaring or unresponsive to voter’s concerns, then the struggle has been lost from the outset.
Consider how much damage the 2008 recession inflicted on the world economy. Now try to imagine the effect of those crimes through the eyes of European citizens, especially those living in Greece, Ireland, or Italy.
The economic downturn that has shaken Europe for the last three years has also swept away the foundations of once-sturdy lives, leading to an alarming spike in suicide rates. Especially in the most fragile nations like Greece, Ireland and Italy, small-business owners and entrepreneurs are increasingly taking their own lives in a phenomenon some European newspapers have started calling “suicide by economic crisis.”When Obama gave the bankers and the Wall Street criminals who caused the global collapse a free pass from prosecution, he thwarted justice for its global victims. And what did the president’s followers say: who cares.
In Greece, the suicide rate among men increased more than 24 percent from 2007 to 2009, government statistics show. In Ireland during the same period, suicides among men rose more than 16 percent. In Italy, suicides motivated by economic difficulties have increased 52 percent, to 187 in 2010 — the most recent year for which statistics were available — from 123 in 2005.)
Or how about the damage the great recession caused to American lives?
An out-of-work money manager in California loses a fortune and wipes out his family in a murder-suicide. A 90-year-old Ohio widow shoots herself in the chest as authorities arrive to evict her from the modest house she called home for 38 years.Alternet January 28, 2009
In Massachusetts, a housewife who had hidden her family's mounting financial crisis from her husband sends a note to the mortgage company warning: "By the time you foreclose on my house, I'll be dead."
Then Carlene Balderrama shot herself to death, leaving an insurance policy and a suicide note on a table.
Across the country, authorities are becoming concerned that the nation's financial woes could turn increasingly violent, and they are urging people to get help. In some places, mental-health hot lines are jammed, counseling services are in high demand and domestic-violence shelters are full.
The body count is still rising. For months on end, marked by bankruptcies, foreclosures, evictions, and layoffs, the economic meltdown has taken a heavy toll on Americans. In response, a range of extreme acts including suicide, self-inflicted injury, murder, and arson have hit the local news. By October 2008, an analysis of press reports nationwide indicated that an epidemic of tragedies spurred by the financial crisis had already spread from Pasadena, California, to Taunton, Massachusetts, from Roseville, Minnesota, to Ocala, Florida.Once again, the response from the Democratic Party was: no prosecutions, and who cares.
The truth is the Democratic Party has lost its way. We are more concerned about single-agenda social issues than we are about protecting the well being of people who are suffering.
Several days ago, Richard Eskow wrote an excellent article titled: Has the Left Surrendered? The Overdue Conversation We Need
In the article he made the following point:
The relationship between the left and the Democratic Party is central to Reed’s argument, which might be summarized as follows:If, like me, you followed Hillary Clinton’s career during Bill Clinton’s tenure, and if you read the statement she made to Wall Street executives during a recent fund raising event, it’s easy to see that she is the wrong person to be leading the Democratic Party at this time.
1. The Democratic Party has shifted dramatically to the right.
2. The left – or what remains of it – has come to identify itself with the success of the Democratic Party.
3. This has led to a rise in social issues and identity politics at the expense of the economic questions, which are (or should be) central to any genuinely left-wing movement.
As if to underscore these points, new poll results say that an increasing number of Americans describe themselves as “liberal” while, simultaneously, 80 percent of Democratic voters reportedly want Hillary Clinton to run for president – despite the fact that she has yet to state her position on many critical issues of the day, from regulatory reform to tax policy to education, and despite the fact that she’s closely associated with the regressive economic policies of the first Clinton administration.
But Clinton offered a message that the collected plutocrats found reassuring, according to accounts offered by several attendees, declaring that the banker-bashing so popular within both political parties was unproductive and indeed foolish. Striking a soothing note on the global financial crisis, she told the audience, in effect: We all got into this mess together, and we’re all going to have to work together to get out of it. What the bankers heard her to say was just what they would hope for from a prospective presidential candidate: Beating up the finance industry isn’t going to improve the economy—it needs to stop. And indeed Goldman’s Tim O’Neill, who heads the bank’s asset management business, introduced Clinton by saying how courageous she was for speaking at the bank. (Brave, perhaps, but also well-compensated: Clinton’s minimum fee for paid remarks is $200,000).If you can read that bit of information and can’t see the writing on the wall, then you are playing catch-up. As Kshama Sawant said:
“We need a break from the policies of Wall Street and corporate America.”Even more damning, was this statement by Stephen Pizzo:
It's time to start calling this what it is: political corruption ... rampant, open, widespread, growing, insidiously entrenched and self-staining political corruption.And we, the Democratic faithful, are the enablers.
Eskow was right; this is a conversation we need. And if you believe that mentioning the mistakes made by our leaders eight months before the midterm election is an act of betrayal and will give fodder to the opposing Party, consider the current poll numbers, and then read this excerpt from an article written by Digby, which proves the liberal base isn’t the problem, it’s the Democratic leaders who have betrayed the Party:
It's almost beyond belief that he would actually tell people this, but apparently he (Andrew Cuomo) has:Evidence that the Democratic Party has become dysfunctional is overwhelming, but the party’s faithful have chosen to cope with the problem by collectively sticking their fingers in their ears. They just don’t want to hear that the party has been derailed and currently is on the wrong track. While it’s true that we have made significant social gains, our record on protecting the most vulnerable people in our nation is abysmal.
A number of people who have spoken to Mr. Cuomo say he also has expressed his desire to ensure that his eventual opponent is not far to the right on social issues. This, he has argued, could alienate moderate Republicans and other voters so much that Republican candidates for the State Senate could suffer too, potentially costing Republicans control of the chamber.
Why, you may ask, would a Democratic Governor be worried about the Republicans losing control of the State Senate?
I don't think I've ever seen a more perfect example of the "dysfunction" of the Democratic Party elite. It's bad enough that a leader with presidential ambitions even thinks this way. But to go so far as to publicly stab his own party in the back so that he can enact a conservative economic agenda says everything you need to know about where the center of the Democratic Party is today.
And there's every reason to believe that he is not the only one ...
When you view Obama’s presidency in its entirety – his words, his actions, and the fruits of his policies -- you can see a pattern that is blatantly anti-progressive and pro-corporate. The free market that Obama champions – in the eyes of big business leaders -- simply means freedom from accountability, and no one has been more steadfast in standing between the criminals and the pitchforks than Barack Obama.
His administration is devoid of any meaningful progressive representation, reflecting rather a pro-corporatist, neo-liberal agenda, which has created the largest increase in income inequality in our nation’s history.
And prepare yourself; the republicans are going to use that dynamic to defeat us in the upcoming elections:
From Forbes:And who will bear the brunt of the blame for Obama’s neo-liberal policy failures?
Inequality is measured by a statistic called the “Gini Index,” named after an Italian statistician who first wrote about measuring inequality in 1912. The Gini Index for the U.S. is officially published by the Census Bureau. The Index as published by the Census shows inequality sharply accelerating under President Obama, in contrast to greater stability under President Bush.
This follows automatically from the discussion above, with real incomes of the middle class and the poor declining under Obama. In fact, real incomes of the entire bottom 80% have been declining consistently under Obama, because of his poor record of generating economic growth, and any normal recovery from the 2008-2009 recession. Only the incomes of the top 20% have been rising under Obama, as the Fed’s loose monetary policies have juiced the stock market and corporate profits.
Those skyrocketing electricity prices are another loss for the poor too. Under the ultraliberal Barack Obama, and his “progressive” Democrats, poverty has soared while he has been President to nearly 50 million Americans, more than at any other time in the more than 50 years that the Census Bureau has been tracking poverty.Pat Buchanan
It is destroying I think or damaging severely the fundamental progressive idea, the philosophy of the Democratic Party that government can really do great and good things and can do them well, given enough time and effort. I’ve never seen such damage to the liberal idea, I think, since 1968 when Lyndon Johnson’s presidency was broken.”From Americablog
Are Democrats “stupid” — or something else — when they risk election by promoting anti-populist messages?It’s not too late to begin reversing damage done to the Democratic brand, but we must first face reality and then admit our mistakes before the wrong can be rectified.
It’s clear that reducing Social Security benefits, like other anti-populist (and unpopular) proposals, poses a risk to election outcomes. Just look at the case of Ms. Sink, who might lose her bid in Florida. Or, in fact, President Obama, who tried all through his first term to grand-bargain his way to a set of benefit cuts. That could have cost him big in 2012.
So why do they make these proposals, these benefit-cutting Democrats? And while we’re asking, why do they keep offering these NAFTA-style trade agreements, when in fact, the whole country now knows how bad they are for us ordinary people?
Once again, Richard Eskow:
The leftist educator Paolo Freire used the term “internalizing the oppressor consciousness” to describe what happens when people identify so deeply with their rulers that they deny themselves the permission to work toward, or even to dream about, a better future for themselves.If progressives sit out the upcoming election to protest Obama’s policies, then the Democratic leaders will blame us for a midterm loss; that’s a given because they blamed liberals in 2010. And it’s easy to see the Republicans are relishing the thought of hanging the blame on “liberals” for any damage that Obama and the neo-liberals have caused to the economy.
For too long, the American left has done exactly that. It needs to remove those self-imposed limitations William Blake called “mind-forg’d manacles” so that it can unleash its own imagination and courage. It must broaden its vision of what is possible so that it can break the bonds of impossibility. If Mr. Reed’s essay provokes a discussion, which helps achieve that, he will have performed an invaluable service.
We need to clearly define the differences between traditional Democratic values and the destructive policies adopted by the neo-liberals, and the sooner we have that discussion, the better for progressives.
It’s time to wake up.
We’re forfeiting an easy victory to the worst political entity in modern American history.
7:11 AM PT: I have changed the title to ease the concerns of those who believe it is too defeatist in tone.