photo by Michael Cantor
Woke up this morning to the headlines about last night’s elections. Republican wins for Governor in New Jersey and Virginia, gay marriage overturned in Maine and the much ballyhooed battle over the 23rd New York Congressional District was a lesson about the future of Republican conservatism.
The elections in NJ and Virgina should be a wake up call to the Obama White House and Democratic leadership. I fear they won’t be. American voters put Obama into office because they had real hope that it was not going to be politics as usual. Many feel their hopes are being dashed.
In Virginia, enough of a portion of Obama’s base among progressives, young people and African Americans stayed home to hand a defeat to an uninspiring and lackluster Democratic candidate and campaign.
In New Jersey, a Democratic Governor with deep ties to Goldman Sachs and Wall Street (much like Obama’s inner circle) went down to defeat in a failing economy, unemployment, distrust of corporate capitalists, and disappointment in the hopes that he was a reformer.
In New York City, Bloomberg barely won for the exact same reasons that Corzine lost.
It is interesting that even though most Americans say they are satisfied with their health insurance, a majority of Americans, 56% at the least, want a strong public option. A majority of Americans are upset or very angry at a bail out and stimulus that seems to be going to the financial industry and not touching the lives of ordinary people. Citizens are worried about their jobs, paying for the needs of their children, the rising cost and intensity of just living normal lives day to day. The economic issues, not health care, are the issue gripping America.
The defeat in New York shows that, even in Republican districts, the harsh, mean spirited, hate-filled, conservative, Fox-fueled, Limbaugh, crippled point of view is an anathema to most Americans.
What Obama and the Democrats need to learn from this is that many Americans are upset that he has come into office and conducted things as his predecessors would have done. He is surrounded by Wall Street and the financial industry interests seem to be cleaning up with our money, killing new regulations to safeguard people, and none of the stimulus money is going to jobs or saving our homes from foreclosures.
What they need do have done is to have fought for a public option to counter the interest of insurance and pharmaceuticals. A very simple, straight forward message of health reform that would have inspired Obama’s millions to back him and force Congress to respond.
I fear the message they will hear from this is to play the same conciliatory game even harder than they have done before. The uninspired will not inspire us to support them.
We have come a long way since we thought sweet Uncle Harry was a little light in his loafers and spinster Aunt Peggy was just a little different than the rest of us. A majority of Americans have come to accept an open gay and lesbian world and support equal rights for gays and lesbian. But most of our citizens are not ready for gay marriage. It might have passed in Vermont, or San Francisco, or New York City, or Eugene, Oregon, even in Salt Lake City. The young and the urban cosmopolitan worlds are there. The battle will continue, it just might take a little longer.