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President Obama, on Democratic difficulties in midterm elections:

President Obama complained Thursday that Democrats “get clobbered” in midterm elections, blaming a “toxic” atmosphere in Washington for suppressing key Democratic constituencies.

“The challenge is that our politics in Washington have become so toxic that people just lose faith,” Obama told a group of top Democratic donors gathered at the home of former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning. “They say, ‘Y’know what, it doesn’t matter, I’m not that interested, I’m not gonna vote.’ And that’s especially true during the midterms.”

Obama noted that young, female, black and Hispanic voters were more likely to vote in elections with a presidential contest.
“Suddenly a more representative cross section of America gets out there, and we do pretty well in presidential elections,” Obama said.

“But in midterms, we get clobbered, either because we don’t think it’s important or because we get so discouraged about what’s happening in Washington that we think it’s not worth our while. And the reason today is so important, and the reason that I’m so appreciative for all of you being here is because we’re going to have to get over that. This is a top priority.”

It's not that he's exactly wrong. He isn't. But he's missing the point.

Yes, the environment in Congress is "toxic." But that's a vague and meaningless term. It's certainly acrimonious on Capitol Hill. But the problem isn't that voters are frustrated that nothing gets done in Washington. Voters are frustrated that nothing good is possible in Washington. Those are two very different things.

Right now the conversation on healthcare is between one side that wants slightly less expensive corporate healthcare, and one side that wants much more expensive corporate healthcare. It's between one side that wants to cut Social Security and Medicare just a little bit, and another that wants to cut it a lot. It's between one side that wants to implement some very gradual climate change policies that won't stop us from crossing runaway greenhouse barriers, and another side that doesn't believe in climate change at all. It's between one side that wants a very slow, painful set of immigration reforms, and another side that wants no reforms at all. It's between one side that wants to raise the minimum wage to something that still doesn't meet what it was back in the 1970s, and another side that wants to eliminate it.

For a young voter or voter of color, voting for Democrats isn't a matter of hope for a better future. It's basically a defensive crouch to prevent the insane sociopaths from taking over. To provide real hope, Democrats would have to start pushing for a $15 minimum wage, for basic universal income, for single-payer healthcare, for a green jobs Apollo Program, for student loan forgiveness, and similar policies.

As it is, there's no real reason for an infrequent Democratic voter to come to the polls. Sure, it's important to stop the likes of Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney from sitting in the White House, and appointing decent judges to the Supreme Court is nice.

But there's no way Democrats are going to solve their midterm problem without providing a real, positive vision for the country. If even hardcore activists like me see voting as a defensive rather than an offensive weapon, it's no surprise that many more apolitical people can scarcely be bothered to care.

Cross-posted from Digby's Hullabaloo

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