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A Contrarian Musing: Will Democrats lose big in tomorrow’s elections?

Posted on the November 1st, 2010

For an informed perspective on tomorrow’s USA midterm elections, I asked my political scientist friend back home, who occasionally writes posts for me under the nom de plume of A Contrarian Musing, to offer some of his thoughts about what may happen with the voters and why. For round-ups of pollsters’ predictions of tomorrow’s outcome, see here and here.

Tomorrow is the day of the 2010 midterm election in the U.S., and there is widespread opinion among pollsters and pundits that the Democratic Party will suffer substantial losses to the Republicans. If this proves to be true, much of the failure of the Democrats can be attributed to the poor performance of the economy and the general public’s impression that President Obama has delayed acting on policy changes that his supporters in the 2008 election expected from him.  When this is combined with the tendency of mid-term elections to go against the political party holding the Presidency, the result is an anti-Democrat popularity problem that demands extraordinary political competency to overcome.

It is understandable, and necessary, that the Democrats have fought back in their own defense with a long list of compelling reasons why they are not the cause of the economic problems, and why the President has delayed action on expected policy changes. Excuses, however, have only a limited power in countering public disapproval of a Party’s failure to overcome obstacles to its success.

The one thing the President and the Democrat leaders in the House and Senate could have done to counter the public’s disappointment in them (thereby giving their excuses more justification) would have been to persuade the American public that bringing down unemployment was, by far, their number one interest. Instead, the Democrats allowed health care reform and the rescue of the financial system to dominate the public’s perception of their agenda and policy priorities.

The Democrats have convincing excuses why this situation prevailed. One thing they can’t explain, however, is the President’s failure (unlike President Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression of the 1930s) to emotionally connect in a more dramatic, visible, and vigorous way with the emotional angst the public reportedly is feeling. The causes for the anxiety are high unemployment and the hardships that attend it, the lack of financing available to small businesses, and the drag on all things in the economy that this creates.

In the end, the Democrats’ popularity problems could have been greatly reversed by the President. He could have done this, firstly, by demonizing the big financial interests who oppose him or who have contributed to the recession, and, secondly, he could have seemed fully engaged, with all of his emotional and policy advocacy energies focused on reduction of unemployment through jobs’ creation.

Instead, the President has presented himself as the patient, policy plodder, and as the defender of the wealthy as the great hope for the country’s economic recovery. He may well be correct in the reasonableness of his actions. The middle class and poor, however, feel that he has somewhat emotionally deserted them. This perception has opened the door for the rise of the weird, the radical, and the scapegoating opposition candidates.

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