At long last, we have arrived at the midterm elections. It seems like just yesterday that the Presidential election ended and people started immediately campaigning for the midterms, and the culmination of two years of political maneuvering and jockeying for position is here, just in time for everyone to get started with gearing up for the next Presidential election.
Midterms are often treated as a referendum on the Presidency. In this case, I feel like it’s really not fair to blame President Obama for the outcome of today’s elections, either way. The President is one man, and he has been facing an impressive campaign of obstructionism and, honestly, abuse of the political system. I’ve been among those angry about the lack of action on the government’s part on a lot of issues, and the character of actions taken on other matters, but President Obama and his administration are not entirely to blame for it. The man has been trying to lead this country while hogtied, and it takes a lot to rise above that.
The behaviour of the Republicans in recent months has been appalling, and the completely apathetic response on the part of the Democrats has been simply pathetic. It makes me glad I’ve always been a nonpartisan voter, because I’d have a tough time lining up with a party like the Democrats, at this point; their string of failures and ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory must be seen to be believed, and I’m always amused when I interact with starryeyed Democrats singing the hope and change song. I don’t know where they’ve been, but if the Republicans are the party of no, the Democrats are the party of fail.
What I think is amazing here is that the Democrats have had scores of opportunities to stick it to the Republicans, and they haven’t done it. Take the monumental ridiculousness that occurred in September over the Defense Appropriations Act. Let’s be clear. This is a routine piece of legislation that has been successfully passed since 1952. It allocates funding for defense and a wide variety of other matters. This is the kind of bill that makes people look really, really bad when they vote against it. Democrats voting against it would be berated for harming United States troops by depriving them of needed support and resources. When the Republicans threw a shit fit and filibustered it to keep debate about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the DREAM Act off the floor, the Democratic response was tepid, to say the least.
The Republicans wrap themselves up in US flags and trumpet their love for this country while pulling ridiculously juvenile maneuvers, and they get away with it. Over and over again. Even when their obstructionism runs contrary to the values they claim to care about, they get away with it. Their constituencies don’t hold them accountable, and neither do the Democrats. People treat things like DADT as wedge issues, well, ok, then why aren’t the Democrats wedging them more effectively? How many QUILTBAG voters as well as immigrants and people working in solidarity with them saw the Democratic response to this and were just completely disgusted?
It bears noting that while there was heavy media focus on the DADT amendment, the bill also contained over 3,500 provisions, some of which were very progressive. When the Republicans filibustered, they blocked things like improvements to the welfare of service members, improved disaster response, and even things they added, like a demand that no funds be used to give Miranda warnings to detained Al Qaeda terrorists (yes, really).
The Democrats could have come out swinging as soon as the filibuster hit the floor. They could have plastered the airwaves with discussions about what the Republicans were doing and they could have suggested that voters call their representatives and push them to end the filibuster. They could have played both sides in this case. The conservative base could have been appealed to with questions about why Republicans were trying to block passage of legislation including things like improved veterans’ benefits, and the liberals could have been appealed to with promises like no permanent military bases in Afghanistan, another provision in the bill (though, let’s be clear, there are many liberals who care about veterans’ affairs and many conservatives who want the US out of Afghanistan, we are speaking in generalisations here). All that grassroots organising power everyone clamours on about could have been harnessed to try and break the filibuster, and shame the Republicans.
Instead, no one moved a muscle, because they wanted to wait until after the elections. ‘After the elections’ is a refrain the Democrats have been singing for a very long time. We’re promised all kinds of things, just as soon as the elections are over. We are told that our issues are ‘too political’ to discuss before the elections, but someone will get to them real soon, they just promise. Well, Democrats, today’s election day. That means tomorrow is ‘after the elections.’ So, are we going to see some action?
I think not, because we’re going to have to wait until after the elections. There’s always another election. There’s always another reason to put off complicated and sometimes controversial discussions that need to happen in the US legislature. There’s always going to be a reason, and as long as people sit quietly for it, the Democrats will keep milking that reason. As long as people go ‘oh, it’s fine to set our cause aside until after the elections,’ by gum, that’s just what the Democrats will do.
People talk about ‘wedge issues’ and ‘distractions’ but what they don’t talk about is the real impact these things have on real lives, right now. There are people who cannot wait until ‘after the elections.’ What about them? And why in the heck are they still voting for the Democrats?