The only word to describe the dozens of Democrats that are sprinting from President Barack Obama in Olympic record sprint times is “gutless.” They have taken out ads loudly protesting that they voted against health care and immigration reform, the stimulus, and extending the Bush tax cuts to the rich, are hawkish on the wars, and that they are their own political man or woman and don’t take any orders from the White House.
Now bear in mind these are the same Democrats that in 2008 clung to Obama’s coattail as if it was the Holy Grail. They blitzed voters in their districts with stagey photo-op shots of them with a smiling Obama, splashy videos with his image and mug shots of Obama on virtually every page of their campaign toss outs.
But that was then. The GOP sniffing political blood in the Democrat’s gutless desertion from the president has plowed nearly $40 million into 300 ads ramming the defecting Democrats to Obama. The White House, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a legion of democratic campaign officials shrug this off as just politics. This is the kind of thing they say that Democrats and Republicans have to do to get elected and re-elected. They distance themselves from the policies and even persons of an unpopular president.
Republicans did it with Bush, they say. Many candidates and incumbents that were locked in tight races with democrats flatly said and even more strongly hinted that Bush was persona non grata in their district during the campaign.
But there’s a big difference between their nose thumb at Bush and the Democrat’s shove away from Obama. Bush was both discredited and loathed. The public blamed him and the GOP for two failed, flawed, costly wars, for making a shambles of an economy, the endless chain of sex and corruption scandals, and an unprecedented giveaway to Wall Street. It took nearly eight years and two terms for Republicans up for re-election to figure out that Bush was a political plague to be avoided at all costs.
Obama has not even reached the midpoint of his first term before the gutless Democrats decided that he’s damaged goods. And unlike Bush, Obama has a string of impressive legislative and foreign policy initiative accomplishments that Democrats could beam about and point with pride to. But they do just the opposite and cut and run from them.
This says less about Obama’s political worth than theirs, and even less about the party. Take health care reform, the issue that seems to cause them to dash the fastest from Obama. The timid incumbents could easily tick off the ways that health care reform could help poor, working class and middle class by the elimination of pre-existing conditions, subsidies for the poor, broader coverage options, and coverage for millions of children into adulthood, and cost containment measures.
Or take the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. The spineless Democrats could easily tick off the ways that it will benefit a handful of taxpayers that hardly need the savings, don’t spend it anyway and that it’s a deficit sinker. They could also say a tax giveaway to the wealthy elite will not appreciably boost demand, business or job expansion. That it’s a gigantic GOP political sop to the rich to the horrid detriment of the economy.
The even more galling thing about this is that the Democrats have the cash, lots of it, to make their case. The Democratic Congressional and Senatorial campaign committees hold a commanding bulge over their GOP campaign spending counterparts in money in the bank, and ironically much of the fund raising dollars and momentum the Democrats have came from the health care reform battle. In April, House Democrats were in virtual ecstasy at the passage of the health care legislation and openly claimed that Democrats were energized by its approval. But again, that was then.
It’s charitable to chalk the Democrats cut and run from the president up to politics, or that Democrat’s jitters at looking at poll numbers that show a wide body of voters rage at Congress and the White House. They can’t be faulted for that.
But when you have a party that has consistently cowered at, and conciliated the GOP, repeatedly second guessed the White House and party leaders, and many of whose members have been GOP lite on economic and social issues, then it’s no small wonder that so many Democrats are willing to backstab their own party and president.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst.