First Read noted something that was obvious to me watching the President's town hall:
What was captivating about yesterday’s CNBC town hall with President Obama is that it gave voice -- from real people -- to the reason why his party faces the possibility of big losses on Election Day, which is now exactly six weeks away. That reason: His supporters aren’t fired up right now. “Quite frankly, I'm exhausted,” said one questioner. “Exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the man for change I voted for, and deeply disappointed with where we are right now.”
That "deeply disappointed" person is one Ms. Velma Hart, who is an executive at the veterans service organization AMVETS. Ms. Hart is from what what most of us would say is the most loyal demographic of the base Obama voter: A middle class African-American mother of two, military veteran, wife, mainline protestant from the metropolitan East Coast.
Here she is at the town hall:
At the end, she said:
Quite frankly, Mr. President, I need you to answer this honestly: Is this my new reality?
If I may paraphrase, "is this as good as we're gonna get from you?"
"As I said before, times are tough for everybody. So, I understand your frustration."
The President then went on note a "whole host of things that do make your life better."
Wrong answer, sir.
Don't go telling Ms. Hart all what you've done for her when she is telling you "I can't feel it." Instead, you need to assert strongly where all these things you are doing are going to take the country. Ms. Hart wants strong action that makes a real, and immediate difference. And by action, she means action that is going to restore her faith in the American Dream: that you can work hard (direct federal hiring), play by the rules (regulate Wall Street), do right by your family (fix the housing market), be proud of your work and America (fair trade), and retire with dignity and respect (no catfood commission).
She said to The New York Post:
"You can have all the hope in the world, but it has to be backed by action. It's been a long time since I had to make decisions about grocery purchases," she said.
Her oldest daughter, Christa, is preparing to go to college next fall and the $50,000 a year in expenses are deeply worrying her.
Hart said the accomplishments Obama rattled off don't help her with a home that has lost half its value, diminished retirement savings, a rising cost of living and stagnant wages.
Make no mistake, Ms. Hart isn't about to go and vote Republican. She remains, and I join her in this, a strong supporter of the President:
Ms. Hart, I think, personifies the enthusiasm gap. Base Democratic voters like her, and I'm sure many Democratic leaning independents, aren't teabaggers. They are people who simply expect this President to tackle the short term as well as the long term problems. If it isn't going to happen, or if they don't believe in the hope of it happening, they're going to stay home this November.
Pushing hard for a middle class tax cut (sigh), is nice. Getting a Christmas card from someone at work is also nice. What would really fire up the base is coming out swinging with an aggressive agenda for next year that includes direct, immediate action on the housing crisis, unemployment, and retirement. Bread and butter Democratic stuff. Tell America where this country is headed and how we are going to get there. That is how you put the GOP on the spot. Tell the story of what they are for (as this front page has advocated all year), and contrast it with where Democratic government will take us. Paint a picture of two American futures, and make sure ours is better. That how to get people like Ms. Hart fired up to win this damn election.
Ms. Hart said it best:
Quite frankly, I thought that my question would set the platform for a response that would almost be, I don't know, whimsical, magical, very powerful. On the fact that he does believe he's made progress, I know he's made progress. The issue for me is that I'm not certain that the progress is being felt deeply enough. And that is where I'm looking for the bang for the buck.
I couldn't agree more.
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