Elections Sent Democrats – and President Obama – a Message

Barack Obama captured the national imagination back in 2004 when he proclaimed:

There is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there is the United States of America.

And since his inauguration, he has consistently followed policies that indicate he believes every word of it. But I wonder if last night’s elections jolted him out of his daydream?

If proof were still needed that there is, indeed, a liberal America and a conservative America, a Black America, a White America, a Latino America and an Asian America, last night’s elections provided it – in spades.

bipartisanshipThis nation is fragmented, and the divisions are widening, not closing. By tacking to the center, by courting political opponents, by continuing the Bush bailout of rotten financial institutions, and by a steadfast commitment to “bipartisanship” in the face of disdainful rejection from Republicans, President Obama and the governing Democratic Party have alienated their base without attracting support from conservatives.

In Jamaica, the old people used to say, “Between two stools you fall to the ground.” And that’s just what is happening to Democrats in America. By expanding their “tent” to gain seats in Congress, the Democrats let a Trojan horse into their party. Inside were “Blue Dog” saboteurs like Nebraska’s Ben Nelson, Indiana’s Evan Bayh, Arkansas’ Blanche Lincoln, Montana’s Max Baucus and dozens of others, who turned on the party when it needed them most. Encouraged by the President, the Democrats even invited turncoat Joe Lieberman back into their caucus. And now, Lieberman is set to filibuster the pathetic excuse for a health care reform bill that’s wriggling out of the Senate.

Disgusted by these betrayals and disillusioned by the President’s wishy-washy handling of issues he addressed so forcefully in his campaign, the voters who swept him into the White House last November stayed home last night. Young people and African Americans, for example, were conspicuously absent from the polls.

Meanwhile, it’s the conservatives who are “fired up and ready to go.” Old, white folks turned out in droves, voting to take “their America” back. And remember the vast majority of America’s voters (about 80 percent) are white. Also, 40 percent of Americans describe themselves as “conservatives,” while only 20 percent call themselves liberals.

So it should be no surprise that Conservative Republican Bob McDonnell scored a landslide victory in the Virginia governor’s race over lukewarm Democrat R. Creigh Deeds and another Republican, Chris Christie, ousted New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine.

Another sign of growing conservative influence came from – of all places – the state of Maine, where voters threw out a state law allowing same-sex couples to wed. And in upstate New York, conservative Doug Hoffman gained so much support that the moderate Republican candidate dropped out. That race went to Democrat Bill Owens by default, but it was more of a moral victory for conservatives than for Democrats.

In the real America,  progress will come only from resolute resistance to the forces of regression and oppression. To pretend that Americans all share common goals and everything will be fine if they could just get along together is to abandon the struggle that generations of oppressed Americans have fought and generations of progressives have supported.

To embark on a hopeless quest for bipartisanship is to desert the supporters who made it possible for America to have its first black President. And the Democrats are going to need those supporters again if they hope to remain in power.

That’s the message last night’s elections sent to Congress and the White House. I just hope they’re listening.